Winds of changes do not always come with a roar. In fact many come with a hush. One terrific hush that came in 2012 (and still going in 2013 – hey, tech never stands still!) was the refinement of analytic dashboards. These applications were meant to pull data from web analytic solutions, allowing analysts to quickly refine the data into charts or combine with other data queries to support business decisions. One of the earliest for Google Analytics has been Excellent Analytics, an open source plug in for Microsoft Excel for Windows.
A while back, I had the pleasure of exchanging an email Q and A with one of the EA original developers, Lars Johansson (@webanalyticsinfo). Based in Stockholm, Lars developed the plug-in as a necessity to pull and manage data. He explained some of the details behind the plug-in development that lead to the current team behind Excellent Analytics.
1. How did the team behind Excellent Analytics came to be? What attracted you to this open source development?
I came up with the idea while running an analytics consultancy, Mark Red. I had used Excel plugins for other web analytics tools previously and seen the benefits, but there was none for Google Analytics. My colleague Christoffer agreed that it was a great idea, so we brought in a student to work on EA as his project. The idea was to get the community involved in the development to ensure that Google Analytics would have the best Excel plugin of all web analytics tools. That’s why we made it open source.
2. You have spoken with a number of well-known analytics professionals, such as Stephane Hamel and Paras Chopas about analytics. Have you or the EA team encountered a professional audience broader than the analytics community since the launch of EA?
I would say so, yes. We count the users in tens of thousands. It’s not just used by web analyst. In fact, our main criteria when making Excellent Analytics was to make it easier to use than all other web analytics plugins for Excel. It should be so easy that anyone can understand how to use it after watching a short introductory video. As far as I can tell, we’ve succeeded with that. For Excellent Analytics Pro we are facing the challenge of adding more features without making it more complicated and scaring non-analysts off.
3. Can you share some success stories and examples of how businesses have improved their analytical modeling with Excellent Analytics?
The most common story we hear is how Excellent Analytics is saving them a lot of time on the tedious part of analysis: extracting and combining data for analysis. Just by saving your queries and reusing them again you save a lot of time. In Excel you can also use plugins for other types of tools and combine data from multiple sources in a single view. Basically Excellent Analytics is a tool that generates more time for actual analysis.
4. Many other open source developments, like the databases (MongoDB, Couch) have a community, which supports their development. With EA being an open team back an open source free product, do you find it difficult to find and add developers to assist with refinement and development?
We have had a number of developers sign up to help us out. To our surprise, however, they have not contributed anything to the project. Maybe it’s because they’re not that familiar with the technology used.
I and Christoffer left Mark Red (which in effect was just the two of us) in June 2010 to start inUse Insights, a web analytics consultancy. We also started the web analytics product company Ampliofy. We can’t put endless of hours into the open source project unless we have a different source of revenue. That’s why we also created Excellent Analytics Pro, which has been coded from scratch to allow for more automation and advanced features. We are making sure both versions of Excellent Analytics will live on through Ampliofy’s developers.
5. What inspirations or new developments in analytics have caught your interest? Where do you see the budding community of analytics plug-ins headed?
I’m impressed by Paras Chopra’s and Wingify’s fast, customer-centric, development of Visual Website Optimizer. I also enjoy following Dennis Mortensen’s latest venture, Visual Revenue. Different solutions aiming at making website tagging for web analytics, and other tools, simpler, faster, and less IT-demanding, have also caught my interest for some time.