Aaron Gray // Greater Returns

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Musings on Web Analytics, product strategy + other stuff.

Here’s to the Future

I recently moved on from Webtrends, where I’ve been for the last four and a half years, the last year as Director of Business Development.  In the spirit of change, I’m moving my Blogger blog to WordPress, and starting over.

In the mean time, here’s my story (you’ll also find this content on the About Me page)…

I’m an entrepreneur and web analytics guru, a product strategy & partner guy. I’m visionary – I see things others don’t and I start things.  Sometimes I start things inside other people’s companies, sometimes I start companies.

I’ve been in interactive product development, internet marketing and analytics for 15 years.  My first business, in college, though, was a lawn and odd job service launched with just a used lawn mower and a motorcycle + tiny trailer to haul us around.  The other key piece of equipment was a Mac Plus with HP Deskwriter – key for keeping customer records and printing invoices and business forms on the fly. I spent evenings dialed up to discussion forums on one of the University of Michigan’s machines.

I did lawns for two years before moving across country for my last two years of college, and set up shop changing oil for other college students.  It was grimy, but it paid for my mocha habit.  By the end of college, I was making websites for people.  I coded up a mean HTML table.

In 2000, after a starting a digital media design and production group inside another film/video production company, I started Tweak Interactive.  We were a small UCD-oriented (User Centered Design) strategy/design/production shop and we landed several big projects.  The timing was off, though – in 2001 the bottom fell out of the economy, our projects stopped dead in their tracks, and I went to work for WebCriteria.

Thus began a multi-year focus on web analytics.  WebCriteria was eventually acquired by Coremetrics and I eventually left Coremetrics for Webtrends – a company that needed my help more than Coremetrics did at that time.  At both WebCriteria and Coremetrics, I was a consultant in the services organization helping customers to optimize site conversion performance using analytics data to focus design analysis, which was based on my user-centered design expertise.  This was before the days when optimization algorithms were commercially viable.  At both companies, I had significant input into product functional design and the prioritization of features.

I started at Webtrends similarly as a consultant, but quickly shifted to the management track, helping the company to solve some of the problems that occur when you’re an “old” company in young market.   Most of my time at Webtrends was spent building new processes, new teams and new ways of doing things, shaking off the old ways along the way.  Some of these changes were successful, others less so, but all were required.

Some of the things I changed or started along the way:

  • Created the solution design group, changing the focus of the consulting arm of the company from “configuration” to “solution delivery”
  • Created the services engineering team whose role is to harvest knowledge, practices, and solutions from the field and turn them into repeatable offerings and best practices
  • Established a cross-functional process and support team for the implementation of a new product with particularly complex consulting requirements
  • Established a cross-departmental process and core team for monitoring and responding to social media discussions about the company during a period of intense change and instability
  • Launched the company’s blog and Twitter presence and organized authors and an editorial calendar
  • Changed the focus of the company’s Open Exchange integration partner program from offering “integration capability” to offering discrete, partner-enabled solutions and applications to customers
  • Spearheaded the creation of a cross-departmental partner product integration design, development and 0n-boarding process

My last role at Webtrends was Director of Business Development.  I had a long-term focus on building value for the company, and for Webtrends customers, by growing the ecosystem of partners and developers creating solutions for the Webtrends platform.  The last project I spearheaded at Webtrends before my departure will have a significant impact both on the company’s ability to attract partners and developers, and on the company’s ability to capture the value of that ecosystem and deliver it to the customer.  I’m eagerly awaiting its launch.

I’m on the outside again, looking backward to see what I’ve accomplished, which is a lot, and looking forward to see what I might do.   If I can find the right role, at the right kind of company, I’ll gladly jump in, head long, in support of, and adding my voice to, the vision taking shape there.  But I’m also feeling the entrepreneurial tug…so I’m pushing forward on a concept that has been sitting on the sidelines for several years.  Along the way I’m sure I’ll take on a few consulting gigs, just to keep my chops sharp.

Here’s to the future…and everything it holds.

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11 Responses

  1. Awesome. Welcome to WordPress. I look forward to what’s next. I sure hope you stay in the web analytics space.

    • Aaron says:

      Great to hear from you Michael. Long term, analytics will always be a part of what I do. It’s so important. Short term, I’m looking to take on some consulting projects, so I’ll still be immersed.

      On a side note…WordPress rocks!

      -Aaron

  2. Chris G says:

    Hi Aaron, congratulations. I’ve always noticed you tended to describe yourself as an entrepreneur, so I’m expecting to see some really interesting things happening with you. It’s a mentality that is harder to find than one would think. I’ll miss the interesting conversations we’ve had at WT events and online!

    • Aaron says:

      Chris –

      The entrepreneurial bug is hard to shake. It doesn’t always mean having your own show…just as often it means simply being part of something that can take advantage of that passion and drive.

      It was great working with you while I was at Webtrends, and I’m sure we’ll cross paths again. Keep up the great work…you’re an incredible resource to the analytics community!

      -Aaron

      • Chris G says:

        Exactly. You can be entrepreneurial inside a bigger organization. That’s possibly the best of all worlds in some ways.

        I’d love to have the budget to hire you for a while on a project. I’ve love to have ANY budget, period! Maybe …

  3. Rick Turoczy says:

    Congrats! Can’t wait to hear more about your entrepreneurial bent. 😉

  4. Congrats! I enjoyed meeting you in Atlanta earlier this year and look forward to hearing about your future endeavors.

  5. Dylan Boyd says:

    Good luck in your next step man. You would be awesome anywhere you go or at anything you do.

  6. Colin says:

    Best of luck Aaron – let’s definitely keep in touch and would love to hear more on my next trip to Portland. Let’s grab lunch or a beer. Be well…

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