Dan Bricklin – Spreadsheet Godfather, Technology Royalty (2009 post updated)


Original Post Date; September 9, 2008 (Now we know who is responsible for Excel!)

Every day there’s a new invitation to a network here in NYC. Some groups are “out of the wrapper, still have styrofoam peanuts in the nooks and crannies” new, others have been laboring online for years. Few have hit the sweet spot combination like The New York Tech Meet Up. Started only a few years ago, the numbers of registrants increases every year. In June 2009, the Meet Up had over 10,000 members. Held in the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT — gotta love it!) Auditorium, attendees listen to speakers from every aspect of application development.

I was pleased to see the presentation by Dan Bricklin, founder of the first spreadsheet, VisiCalc. Now a spreadsheet does not sound sexy, but think about how much can not be achieved without a cell to hold important information (Update: Here is an All Analytics post “Don’t Toss Out Excel Yet” that notes how far Excel plug-in development has come). Zimana’s business, along with many other analytics tools, business firms, consultancies and organizations, rely on the ol’ spreadsheet as a starting point for data analysis.  This movement owes much to VisiCalc.

But Dan did not bore the audience with just column-and-row talk. His autobiographical book Bricklin On Technology covers the early days of his start up and serves as a window into the early days of the computer industry. Bricklin spoke to the New York Tech audience about entrepreneurship, how many people are looking for the pot of gold, but should just try to run a solid business. Says Bricklin, “You’ll end up in an nice home, just focus on what you love to do.” I personally like that statement!

You can  find Dan Bricklin site, including his book Bricklin on Technology here.

I also reviewed Bricklin on Technology at Small Business Trends – click here to read the review.


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Where to find e-commerce shopping cart providers with web analytics, Facebook, and bank integration

eCommerce Shopping Cart Comparison
Thinking of online retail? Use this Free eCommerce Shopping Cart Comparison to see what integrates with an analytics solution and payment gateway easily


Thinking of an eCommerce business? Select a cart that makes digital analytic measurement easy to plan first!

I’ve made this chart of eCommerce shopping cart solutions available. Each offer different capability to integrate an analytics solution. Although some coding effort is needed in general, some solutions provide a plug-and-play capability. The chart includes a consideration of which kinds of banking/payment options are available, whether the sites include Facebook commerce option, and if analytics integration is available.  Having these features in place makes sales easy to manage, and to permit an analytics tools to reveal when customers are dropping out of a cart…and not purchasing your product.

Click here for the full e-commerce shopping cart chart in pdf format.

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Avoid The Client Funk: How to work with clients — be it corporate, medium, or small biz

Having trouble trying to communicate a data-interpreted decision with the executive team? Or maybe a small business client is really resistant to understanding the need for adding analytics to a website?  Many professionals run into trouble managing the expectations of others.  The difficulty can be a particular pain when the situation applies to a client, be it corporate or small.  I call it “client funk”.  The following are sources of quick tips that can help analytics practitioners minimize “client funk”.

Michael Bierut at Pentagram presented before 300 creative design students and graduates at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn. The talk was sponsored by CreativeMornings, a designer forum based in New York City. His talk offered a balanced view of the client/designer relationship, stating the factors that make or break a designer’s success, as well as what makes a good (and bad) client. His intended audience are web designers, but the perspective is very sound for web analytics practitioners, and furthermore, any service providers who work intimately with a client.

For corporate environments, analytics practitioners must understand financial terms to convince managers and decision makers on analytics-related projects.  To sway and convince project skeptics, three metrics must be kept in mind with every argument of a project’s merit:

    1. The dollars needed for invest in the project
    2. The revenue that can be generated

The third is a metric based on the prior two — return on investment (ROI).

This post on creating an analytics corporate culture (by Top Rank’s  Jolina Pettice) offers more on how to convince executive management as well as best practices to establishing analytics as an integral part of a business.

You can also read Avinash Kaushik’s book Web Analytics 2.0. Much of his book addresses the challenges of working with various departments to create an analytics environment.  For those with broader analytics application, there is another book, called Analytics at Work, by Tom Davenport and Jeanne Harris.

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Thinking of Pay Per Click? Try an online coupon (and a li’l web analytics, too!)

[tweetmeme source=zimanablog]

An eMarketer report on online coupons provides various stats that indicate growing usage among retailers and marketers as a marketing strategy to drive website traffic and sales. The usage, which became more mainstream with consumers beginning with the 2008 holiday season, is expected to increase in the coming years.

The surging usage should also be a boon to analytics practitioners.

Why? With capability to track campaigns in an analytics solution, practitioners now have a new medium to convince managers the value that analytics can play in investigating the response to an online buzz. With the explosive growth in social media, along with consumer interest in value, coupon campaigns are becoming a great value for marketers. Furthermore, smartphones have made sharing online coupons a benefit for potentially engaging customers with new offers and events. While analytics still has a long way to go for covering the entire tagging activity from a coupon to a site, analytics solutions can still help to correlate site interest to coupon campaigns.

The online coupon growth may also be a benefit for small businesses. Many business owners are leery of PPC, having been burned by overspending on keywords that lead to little actual conversion. Yet these businesses need another driver to their e-commerce site. Coupon creation sites such as twtQpon can help ensure that small businesses can announce tantalizing offers as tempting as those from large corporations.

And a li’l web analytics can help ensure the best results.

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An idea through web analytics to prove your business concept to potential investors

Art Chang made a great quote at the December Ultra Light Start-up panel on Bootstrapping vs. Seeking Capital (You can view the Zimanablog post for the Ultra Light Start Up here, as well as a great video for the session at the Ultra Light Start Up site here).

The Times Online article explains how Twitter has justified its value through Google’s offering of Twitter updates in the results pages whenever Google users conduct a search (The same can be done on Bing). Twitter has yet to indicate a strong business despite its advertising potential through user acceptance of its real time subject search and its use to announce events immediately.

With discussion on the sour US economy and the limited lending by banks to small business, businesses are under more pressure to show cash flow and have a great monetization model. Cash is important in business, but showing how the idea is connecting with a target audience can be equally valuable. This is what Twitter has done, and small businesses have tools available to make this crucial link to the start to customer behavior.

If a website is involved for transactions — sign up or purchase — an analytics solution should be added to the site. Traffic data can provide an indicator of how well the concept is appealing to customers. Furthermore, more detailed data can be captured. In Google Analytics, for example, returning visitors can be captured, a means for stating how appealing the website — and consequently the concept — is. Benchmarking data is also available (although users should consider that the data may not neatly breakdown into a category that compares to their industry). Time on site, visitor recency, page views per visitor — all of these can confirm the story of customer interest, depending on the website content and its context. No one metric can capture the information, but a combination of metrics can show the trend.

The key is to show that your business concept has appeal, even if there are some capital concerns in place (That concern can be a separate conversation on how it will be addressed). If the data is showing gradual improvement in traffic and traffic quality over time, your business can then make a statement to its appeal to an audience (and retain if the returning visitor number is significant).

What other metrics can be used from analytics to aid an investment decision?