The New Focus Group

This article about how online networks are the new focus group written last January is one of the virtual clippings that helped validate a lot of what we’ve been working on in our analytics / BI tool: Harvest.

image There are lots of great analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, to help you understand where people are going in your site, but few to help you understand what they are doing. It’s analogous to having a party and at the end being able to say: 100 people came to the party because 100 people knocked on my door. Of those 100 people 60 went to the living room and then the kitchen, etc.

So what traditional BI tools don’t address is: who were those 100 people, what did they talk about, how many of them do you know, did they have a good time at the party, etc.

If we carry this example a little deeper and use a store as the analogy instead of a party all of a sudden you really start caring a lot of what they are saying and doing.

Harvest fills in those gaps for Community Server customers.

Version 1 provided the basics. In version 2 we’re adding some incredible new capabilities such as forecasting and sentiment.

Forecasting helps predict where things are headed. For example, based on data from a date range you could forecast whether you can expect an increase or decrease in support questions in your community. If you are a large Enterprise organization deploying Community Server, such as Dell, and you want to lower 1:1 call volume and send more traffic to your 1:many support community, then seeing a forecast that trends may be viewed positively. More importantly forecasting can help the organization better plan the resources required to support the community.

What I’m most excited about in Harvest 2.0 though is sentiment.

Companies spend billions of dollars a year to get a better understanding of how customers perceive their products or services. While surveys clearly have a lot of value, not all users participate. Communities, as described in the WSJ article referenced above, contain an invaluable trove of data about customers perceptions, actions, and more. Harvest’s new sentiment engine scans all Community Server content as well as external content through RSS against words or phrases and visually maps out perceptions.

This is incredibly powerful. By better understanding what customers think, you can make much better decisions.

I’ll post more details about Harvest 2.0 in the coming weeks, if you are interested in learning more now don’t hesitate to drop me a note: