Final Top Takeaways from Validate 2019

The data and analytics world is complex, competitive and complicated by definition. Analysts have to be prepared to constantly upgrade their tools, implementations and understanding in order to gain any type of competitive advantage for their companies. 

So how do you increase your understanding and know what tools to choose and what routes to take? 

Our opinion? Learn from industry experts and discuss strategies with other analysts to gain new ideas and insights. 

Validate is a conference that offers just that. And to help you get started, here are the key takeaways and insights from the industry experts and analysts who spoke at Validate 2019.



Rob Seolas

Co-Founder and CEO of ObservePoint

Session Title: A Better Digital World

“There are two kinds of companies, the ones who have data collection issues and the ones who know they have data collections issues.

The countless marketing technologies at our disposal have brought endless opportunity to analysts to revolutionize digital experiences creating a new internet. You as the analyst have that power. The power to change, create, and improve the internet in an informed way. You create better, more personal experiences in a safer environment for users, and that is compelling. The purpose of this conference, and of ObservePoint in general, is to further this mission, helping you create a better digital world.” 


Kevin Jorgeson

Co-Founder and CEO of Session Climbing

Session Title: What Are You Capable Of?

“While everyone asks me ‘what’s next,’ I encourage you to consider a more productive question: What am I capable of? 

As we all strive to answer this question, two facts are clear. First, hardship and challenge are inevitable. Second, how we respond is a choice.”


Adam Greco

Senior Partner at Analytics Demystified

Session Title: Getting Executive Buy-in For Data Quality

“If your digital analytics data isn't accurate, running reports and conducting analysis is done in vain. But often times, it is difficult for an organization to prioritize data quality over other ‘sexier’ initiatives. 

Many organizations have a hard time convincing executives that data governance is important. The trick is to get executives to see the connection between business objectives and data governance. 

[For example], have a list of business requirements that drive your analytics implementation and map each business requirement to the data points in your analytics implementation.” 


Colleen Berube 

Chief Information Officer at Zendesk

Session Title: From UX to User Loyalty: Using Data to Develop Relationships

“Often times, data professionals are so wrapped up in their day-to-day jobs that they forget why they’re ultimately collecting, cleansing, reporting, and analyzing analytics data—to create amazing experiences and connect with their audiences. 

“There is a lot of buzz in the industry about creating these amazing experiences, but that doesn't always quite close the gap. Brands have to connect—to create next-level experiences and develop a two-directional relationship with their audience in order to gain their loyalty, learn how to continue to serve their needs, and develop an ongoing relationship with them.”

Berube introduced four ways to create these relationships:

  1. Leveraging modern flexible architecture
  2. Being a change leader for customer centricity
  3. Combining data to deliver value
  4. Embracing AI/ML


Matt Crupe

Senior Technical Consultant at Adobe

Session Title: Leveraging ObservePoint During Your Adobe DTM to Launch Migration

“At the beginning of 2021, Adobe will officially sunset DTM in favor of their new tag management system, Launch by Adobe. As a result, all current DTM users will have to migrate to the new solution.

“Does the thought of migrating your tag management system make you cringe? Why not automate it? Migrating your Adobe DTM implementation to the new Adobe Experience Platform, Launch, doesn't haven't to be a daunting task. Adobe and ObservePoint work together to get you through the transition smoothly.”

Matt talked about a four phased process to executing the transition, sharing how ObservePoint can help automate the process:

  • Phase 1: Catalog
  • Phase 2: Strategize
  • Phase 3: Migrate
  • Phase 4: Test

For more information read the white paper here.


James McCormick

Principal Analyst at Forrester Research

Session Title: Thrive In the Age of The Customer With Data And Insights

“Truly insights-driven businesses have now emerged. They leverage data and analytics technologies at scale to deliver sustained market differentiation. Today they represent a growing proportion of enterprises whose numbers and influence on the market are accelerating. It is time to learn from them to start your journey towards becoming an insights-driven organization.”

James offered four thoughts on how to become a more insights-driven organization:

  1. No vendor can do it all. You have to have a best of breed approach and be good at managing the data flow between different technologies. 
  2. There is no time to waste. Early adopters are gaining significant advantage.
  3. Accelerate adoption with a services partner. 
  4. Start small and iterate. Iterate as you grow your program. There is no template for success; every firm is different.


Michele Kiss

Senior Partner at Analytics Demystified

Session Title: Digital Analytics Hacks for the Masses

“There are never enough hours in an analyst’s day! Start learning hacks and time-saving techniques to help you maximize your day. These can be anything that makes an analyst’s life easier, whether it’s a clever use of your analytics tool, spreadsheets, a data viz solution, automation, SQL, or even email, calendar or task management.”

Michele shared some of her favorite hacks including:

  • Using Google Sheets formulas to manipulate data (such as for detecting a language in page names and translating them into your own language)
  • Using spreadsheets to build repetitive SQL and avoid syntax errors
  • Using Adobe Analytics Calculated Metrics to fix bad data
  • Using Data Studio for Google Analytics Alerts
  • Using Data Studio to recreate Channel definitions
  • Using Sparklines for quick visuals

Click here to see her presentation.


Paul Murphy

Technical Alliance Manager, Strategic Partnerships at Adobe

Expert Panel

His comments on data privacy concerns in the wake of GDPR and CCPA:

“We have to be evangelists and say, ‘Is what we are doing ethical, is it right, is it even good for our business to gather these points of data?’”


Krista Seiden

Vice President, Product Marketing & Growth at Quantcast 

Expert Panel

Krista offered advice about how to help executives understand the importance of data and analytics:

“Be an evangelist within your organization for data and really sell that story at all levels. It can grow organically within your organization as you prove out your business cases, and absolutely, it should come from the top, but if it’s not there, be that evangelist so that the top can learn.”

She also offered comments on the effects of GDPR and other privacy regulations:

“The businesses that are going to win in the next several years are the ones that are really paying attention to privacy and the customer first. When you layer on the other privacy impacts such as ITP and ETP from Mozilla and all the other things that come about, I think we are only in the beginning of what this is going to look like. 

“The internet and how we use it is really changing, and we as analysts have to adapt and help our businesses really understand what that means. And it does mean that we are going to be more limited, and it does mean that we are going to have to get more creative and it does mean we are going to have to put our customers first, and understand what that really means in terms of that value exchange.”


Jordan Avalos 

Senior Analyst Analytic Technologies at Southwest Airlines

Session Title: Pixel Perfect Implementation

“Pixels are small things that can have a huge impact on privacy and data governance. To protect against unauthorized data collection, Southwest Airlines is utilizing ObservePoint Labs to create a whitelist of approved pixels and 3rd party code snippets for, along with the creation of scheduled audits and alerts to ensure on-going compliance and protect our customers’ data.”

Thompson introduced a process to ensuring compliance:

  • Step 1: Visit ObservePoint Labs
  • Step 2: Run an initial audit
  • Step 3: Define Whitelist
  • Step 4: Upload Whitelist
  • Step 5: Schedule Audits and Alerts


Seth Poplaski 

Analytics Architect at Texas Instruments

Session Title: Integrating ObservePoint into your Development Process

Poplaski offered several tips in his session for integrating automated analytics testing into your development process. Poplaski suggested how to organize your development process along three different dimensions: Technology, People and Process. 

  • Technology, which refers to your continuous integration platform (e.g. Jenkins) and your testing platform (ObservePoint). Make sure everyone is on the same page with these tools.
  • People. Assign different tests or types of tests to specific members of your team. Utilize others outside your team as well, like your ObservePoint consultant and the DevOps engineer in charge of the deployment process.
  • Processes. Figure out who is in charge of each role in the process and what their responsibilities are. Ask questions like “Who is going to make the API calls? Which team is going to validate the audit and make sure it’s clean?” Make sure to incorporate approval and reviewing processes. 


Ryan Storment 

Web Developer for REI

Nolan Cross

Program Manager, Digital Analytics and Optimization Platform for REI

Session Title: Quality Assurance: What Software Testing Can Teach Us About Data Integrity

“In 2019, a mature software lifecycle depends on ensuring that applications continually meet business requirements. You need to ask yourself questions like:

  • Does the application provide the right user experience? 
  • Is the content up to date and accurate? 
  • Can it handle errors and unusual circumstances gracefully? 

This level of quality assurance is accomplished by automatically testing every application change before allowing it to launch in production. 

In the world of data analytics, there is a similar set of business requirements: 

  • Does this data tell me what I think it's telling me? 
  • Is it up to date and accurate? 
  • Does it help me discover problems and measure unusual patterns?

So how is data governance like software development? Automated QA creates fast feedback loops that catch failures before production!”


Peter Symuleski

Head of Business Intelligence and Data Engineering

Jeremy Fletcher

Principal Software Engineer, Business Intelligence at NBCUniversal

Session Title: NBC News Digital's Transformation from an Analytics Team to a Technology Organization

“Organizational change is difficult. The growing consensus is that to make those changes a reality, you need buy-in from leadership. Accurate data is important, but sometimes that isn't enough.”

Symuleski and Fletcher gave several suggestions for accomplishing organizational change, including the following:

  • Take control of your data by centralizing ownership.
  • Reduce complexity and create parity within your analytics tools to generate trust in your data.
  • Build once and reuse. Extend this mentality across analytics and development teams to create operational efficiency.
  • Promote an open environment for your team, but give them guardrails to maintain organization.
  • Use your successes instead of your failures to make improvements in your organization. When things are going right ask, “How can we make it more right?”


Cindi Vickery 

eCommerce Manager/QA Lead at Marriott

Meenu Jakkula

Digital QA Automation Manager at Marriott

Session Title: Setting up for Success with ObservePoint

“If you set up your [ObservePoint] platform in a user-friendly manner, you will get much more out of the experience.”

Vickery and Jakkula shared several tips for setting up your ObservePoint platform for success including:

  • Establishing a standard naming convention for the titles of your audits and journeys, including information like path taken, language, starting page, etc. 
  • Establishing a standard naming convention for rules, including information like severity, page, type of information being tested, etc. 
  • Organizing your folders by environment, type of journey/audit, or what you are testing for.


Chris Mavromatis

Senior Systems Analyst at Mastercard

Session Title: Analyzing Approaches to Remediating Unapproved Tags Found on your Sites

“Learning how unapproved tags resolve on your digital properties can create tremendous insight into the inner workings of your digital ecosystem and help you discover tools you didn’t know were affecting your site.”

Mavromatis suggested four steps to begin remediating unapproved tags:

  • Start with an ObservePoint audit to know if you have unapproved tags on your site.
  • Go through the tagging rules in your tag manager
  • Utilize tag specific extensions such as ObservePoint’s TagDebugger to search through the code that renders on the site. 
  • Contact the development team of the site and task them to do a search through the code to determine if specific tags are being hard coded to resolve on the site. Hard coded tags may not show up in the reporting tools previously described. 


Julie Park

Privacy Manager at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Jordan Hammond

Associate Consultant at ObservePoint

Session Title: Beef Up Your Security: Privacy and Security Regulation Compliance

Julie presented several strategies for ensuring your company is compliant with new security regulations. Some of the strategies she shared are to:

  • Keep a record of all personal data collected, used, stored, and shared. 
    • Have an actionable plan to remove customer data held by your organization or shared with others. 
    • Manage consent when using cookies that collect, use, store, or share information about a person.
    • Audit your websites and have a clear understanding what data is collected and shared.  Eliminate the tags and cookies with “data leeches” (Julie’s term for piggybacking) 

Julie also talked about how RIVN, a company focused on compliance with GDPR and CCPA, can help with responding to requests for access and erasure about any data collected, used, stored, and/or shared about a person. 


David Gatdula

Adobe Analytics Business Consultant at Adobe

Session Title: Data Governance & Maturity

“Data governance and maturity is a foundational element in an organization's short and long-term success. 

“Unfortunately, [data governance] may only be addressed when pain points rise to the surface or when teams become aware of gaps in organizational processes or assets. As the incredible amounts of data being captured remains persistent and ever-growing, so too are the needs to address the stewardship, strategy for accountability, and clarity surrounding it.”


Ani Lopez 

Advisor, Data Architecture at Bancroft Digital

Session Title: Several Archetypes Walk into a Bar…

“So many conversations around governance are dominated by the difficulty of the politics and the horror stories of governance gone wrong. There aren't enough examples of governance going right, growing in influence, and providing value. And it can really be a story of success for you, if you can pull together as a team. Success in data governance is a cross-discipline story, with different people in different roles stepping up to take ownership over their piece.”


Jennifer Yacenda 

Senior Director, Strategic Consulting, North America at Digital IQ

Session Title: Justifying the Investment in Analytics

“With alignment between the analytics implementation and our customer journey, we can enable real-time monitoring for our customers across our digital experience and during the moments that matter.”

Some of the techniques Yacenda shared to justify the investment in analytics include:

  • Identifying power users within your organization to advocate for analytics 
  • Establishing benchmarks to minimize impact of bad data 
  • Moving analytics organization across maturity curve”


Aimee Bos

Director Analytics Strategy, at Blast Analytics & Marketing

Session Title: You have a CDP. Now What? Essential Use Cases for Success

“73% of people point to customer experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions, just behind price and product quality. Yet only 49% of U.S. consumers say companies provide a good customer experience today. 

“CDPs are key to bridging this gap, but the strategy and planning behind onboarding CDPs is lacking across organizations both large and small. A CDP’s ability to stitch customers across devices increases the likelihood that you’ll deliver a compelling message, providing an optimal user experience that your customer’s expect.”

Some of the use cases for a CDP that Bos shared include:

  • Unifying customer data
  • Matching customers across multiple devices
  • Understanding the customer journey
  • Understanding your customer personas
  • Complying with privacy and ethics


Matt Parisi

Senior Product Marketing Manager at Tealium

Session Title: “How Customer Data Maturity Powers the Modern Enterprise”

“Top performing companies are using customer data insights from across the organization to power better customer experiences—from awareness to renewals.

“For many companies, however, much of the necessary data remains locked away in departmental and technological silos. 

“Tealium recently commissioned the Forrester research report, ‘Customer Data Maturity Powers the Modern Enterprise’ to evaluate this challenge. The report found that even though almost 90% of organizations have some level of customer data strategy in place, many struggle to impact key business outcomes effectively.”

Click here to learn more about the report. 


Stockton Knotts

Data Governance Consultant at ObservePoint

Session Title: Centralizing and Standardizing Data Quality — An Organizational Endeavor

“Centralizing and enforcing data governance makes it possible for all departments to utilize these essential analytical tools, while still maintaining a baseline for accurate comparison. Additionally, the better you govern your data, the more accurate that data is, which means your data-driven decisions will be more effective in helping to achieve your business objectives.” 

“One of the best ways to jumpstart governance is by creating a data governance council. The objective of a data governance council is to:

  • Review quality assurance of marketing technology implementations 
  • Address any outstanding actions or concerns with an implementation
  • Apply the business requirements to projects and discuss potential additions 
  • Ensure the data is being sufficiently governed and producing accurate, secure, and actionable data for the organization”


Chris O’Neill

Solutions Engineer

Session Title: Perfecting Release Validation: Catch Errors Before They Destroy Your Data 

“Taking a proactive approach to governing your analytics and marketing tags can provide huge benefits for the accuracy of your implementation, which ultimately boosts your credibility. 

“Ideally you want to catch analytics errors before they happen. Some ways you can do that are by:

  • Addressing data quality issues before they reach a production environment with Release Validation through ObservePoint.
  • Focusing on implementing tag governance in early development environments, such as staging, dev, and QA.
  • Instilling a culture of proactive tag governance.”


Kyle Homolik

Associate Consultant at ObservePoint

Session Title: Governing Your Analytics and Marketing Tags at Scale

“With the right solutions and processes in place, governing your tags at scale is possible. As you do so, you’ll be able to trust your data, realize ROI on technology spend, and do it all more efficiently than ever before.”

In order to govern tags effectively, Maziarz and Homolik suggested that teams use ObservePoint to:

  • Create a tagging plan and align implementation with the tagging plan through user-defined rules. Then, create audits that regularly test against the plan.
  • Deploy and QA through remote file-mapping, audit and journey schedules, notifications, and integrations (webhooks).
  • Validate and monitor through recurring audits and journeys, alerts, query builder exports, custom reports, comparisons, and tag governance councils.


Jarrod Wilbur

Data Governance Consultant and Script Services Lead at ObservePoint

Session Title: “Yes, You Can Audit That: Using the ObservePoint Custom Tag”

The primary use case of ObservePoint—what ObservePoint was built to do—is to scan your website to verify that your analytics and marketing tags are firing as you expect them to. 

But on top of that, the ObservePoint Custom Tag allows you to take advantage of ObservePoint’s auditing capability to execute JavaScript on any page of your site, interact with DOM, and then push that data into ObservePoint. You can use the custom tag to do things like:

  • Verify basic SEO configurations
  • Compare data in your DOM to your data layer
  • Generate a video or PDF inventory
  • Verify your privacy policy is always present
  • Gather external links

The limits to what you can audit run as far as your ability to write JavaScript to run in the console. 


These are only a few of the many insights shared at Validate 2019 by these incredible speakers. Those that attended gained valuable action items to apply to their businesses, and we hope that all of you will be able to attend next year at Validate 2020!

Discover how ObservePoint can help provide valuable insights into your data. Click here to schedule a free website audit.



About the Author

Michael Fong

Mike is the Sr. Manager of Product Go To Market at ObservePoint and assists in aligning the Product, Marketing, and Revenue teams on product strategy, value propositions, and promotion. Previously a Senior Consultant and Solutions Engineer on ObservePoint’s EMEA team in London, Mike has been integral in ensuring ObservePoint users are obtaining the highest quality of data from their marketing technologies. With over 10 years of experience in the analytics world, Mike is an expert when it comes to data analytics, SQL, problem solving, and spreading good vibes.

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