I recently had the opportunity to ask 20 or so fellow web analytics practitioners what they're doing with respect to data integration. Although each answer was as unique as the person who spoke, there was a common theme: we want to do more in the future than we are doing today.
The few who are now farthest along in data integration efforts are all doing it in-house, with real data warehouses and technical teams who manage the underlying hardware and software and load processes. Others are struggling to get systems like this up and running, all the while wondering if there is a better way. The vast majority of us are sitting on the sidelines knowing data integration is something we want to do eventually but not knowing quite where to start.
Web analytics vendors have begun to address this common desire: see, for instance, WebTrends Visitor Intelligence and Omniture Genesis. As hosted services, such products could make data integration possible for those of us who are not willing or able to maintain our own technical infrastructure. If it's not the final answer, at least it's a step in the right direction.
Assuming we get our tool issues sorted out, we'll still have people issues to contend with. Data integration almost certainly involves the coordinated efforts of several groups within an organization. Sometimes our counterparts don't want to share - for political reasons, or privacy reasons, or who knows what. Getting everyone to work together may end up being the biggest challenge we'll face.
Yes, folks, that's what we're up against. And yet, it's something we all want and I believe it's something we'll manage to do in the months and years to come.