SharePoint 2013 Analytics A Big Step Backward

Joel Oleson May 23, 2013 12
SharePoint 2013 Analytics A Big Step Backward

Analytics suck in SharePoint 2013. It’s been gutted. I know this happened because analytics moved into search, which was the right move, but don’t get me wrong… it’s bad the built in web analytics you’d get through the UI are more basic than you’d get in a simple WordPress blog.  Pretty useless other than to say, it’s being used and by how many something it calls users (browsers, machines. IP addresses, it’s unknown).  In fact it’s a huge step backward, and that’s what you’re going to see as I lay out the details. Let’s just admit that usage is not done in SharePoint.  It’s been ripped out of the UI.  Look for usage reports in site settings…  good luck!

First go to your site settings as Site Collection Admin and look in Site Collection Administration section for Popularity and Search Reports, then the next best bet is to look across your audit reports (it will only display what has been configured to capture), and your finally storage reports to put together the simple story of Unique Users (daily only even in the rolloup), hits (page views? who uses the term “hits?” that’s so 1995), and then your storage against your quota in classic storman.aspx which is back. If you’re not site collection admin, you can get the basic usage report in site settings under site administration titled “Popularity Trends” (What sounds like usability got all over that one??) It’s still just Hits and Unique Users, despite the line “This report shows historical usage information about the site, such as the number of views and unique users. Use this report to identify usage trends and to determine times of high and low activity.” No detail on hourly usage in the report, and since it uses “hits” which classically means all get/post and various verb HTTP responses I think what you’re actually seeing is page hits or page views.  This must have been an intern.  Historically means “Daily” and “Monthly.”  No way to break it down by hour.  Good luck identifying any usage trends other than day of the week since you can’t see any detail about who the users are, what the browser or agent string, or really anything about the user.  They don’t even define “hit” or “user.”  Every one of these reports is in Excel, but the data behind the scenes is not rich at all. Sad smile

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Right out of Excel – All of the Reports are now based in Excel and download to the client.  No web based reporting.

Sad they don’t open up directly in Office Web Apps.

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In the Audit Reporting

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As a huge advocate of SharePoint, I am one of the first to stand up and say how great this next version is.  In fact I think people shouldn’t wait to upgrade because of the huge benefits in search and in mobile and cross browser support.  The latest version is a real game changer from a platform perspective, but still has a few gaping holes…  Compliance, Management, Storage, Reliable Backup/Restore and Recoverability, Replication, Workflow, Mobile, Social*, Web Analytics Reporting and More have created a rich ecosystem that the partners love to solve for SharePoint.  Would be interesting some time to really categorize these holes and list the partners all attempting to solve the same problem that Microsoft exposes.

Should you be ear marking money for additional software for a new deployment… YES!

Rant: Also don’t believe anyone in MS Sales if they tell you that SharePoint is an easy or trivial deployment.  It clearly is on the high end of what most web architects will ever see in terms of complexity (not in the install (which is still tricky), but in getting it deployed correctly).  It really takes knowledge of best practices and serious coordination with the business to get the most out of your new or existing deployment.

*Social was a big 2013 investment, but overshadowed by the acquisition, and is called out because you should get on board with Yammer or one of the other third parties that pull together the story.

Figure: FrontPage 2000 Usage Reports (Available for SharePoint Team Services)

Yesterday, I presented in a SharePoint 2013 Actionable Metrics webcast sponsored by Intlock Cardiolog.  In the webcast I presented a list of common, but actionable categories for designing your solution around.

Download the “SharePoint 2013: Making Metrics Actionable”

What’s amazing to me is how Microsoft in their tradeoffs of moving usage analytics to search ended up gutting usage and not providing much in the way of traditional usage reporting.  I venture to say that SharePoint Team Services the V1 product had better traditional usage (traffic) analytics than 2013 does.

Figure 2: Site Usage Report – WSS 2.0

Please refer to these ancient screenshots and a simple chart I put together and know while it use to be bad, it is now worse.  Yes, the report on the right refers to IE 5 as the popular browser and Win 98 as top OS in 2001.  Amazing how this list of usage metrics was cycled over and over in each successive version.  It is great someone decided that usage had to change, and putting it in search is and was brilliant, but we still need basic metrics with extensibility for rich metrics to make key decisions about what’s going on.  It’s strange that browser support is really one of the biggest reasons to upgrade to SharePoint 2013, but if you were using 2013, you wouldn’t be able to get the report to provide the justification.

 

Side by Side Comparison of Built in Usage Reporting in SharePoint over Time

* Note SharePoint Team Services required Server Health and WSS 2.0 required usage processing to be enabled.  SharePoint Portal 2001 is left out as it did not have usage reporting built in, it required scripts such as IIS log parser.  Site Server 3.0 had awesome analytics for it’s day, but let’s stop there.  Since 2007 – SharePoint Foundation has provided the usage and web analytics and available in standard and enterprise, so editions are left out on purpose.

Traffic Analysis SharePoint 2013 SharePoint 2010 SharePoint 2007 SharePoint 2003
(FrontPage 2003)
SharePoint Team Services
(FrontPage 2000)
Daily Visits X X X X X
Users Requires dev or tool X X X X
Browsers Requires dev or tool X X X X
Operating System Requires dev or tool X X X X
Referrals Requires dev or tool X X X X
Users Requires dev or tool X X X X in FrontPage
Bytes Requires dev or tool Requires dev or Tool (logs) Requires dev or Tool (logs) X in FrontPage X in FrontPage
Item Stats X (still is limited but better) Only Top Only Top Limited Limited
Search X+
(Tons of excel reports)
X (More w/ FAST)

What does all this tell you?  Microsoft has checked out of the Usage Reporting business.  If I get into the brains of the product team, they are thinking.  We have partners who do this for our customers.  There are plenty of tools out there that provide web analytics.  Customers will use the same tools they are already using on their other web platforms for a consistent experience. I could easily list a dozen tools that do it better, but that have most have yet to to answer the key SharePoint Adoption Questions of what features are people in my company using.   SharePoint team has focused on search, and auditing which are much more challenging for a third party to get at.  Same with the ULS logs and working with the data in that space.

Did focus on Cloud kill Usage Metrics in SharePoint?

Rather than rail on Microsoft which would be very easy to do in this particular space.  I’m instead going to say.  Hey there’s a HUGE hole, and you shouldn’t plan to only leverage SharePoint in the Usage space.  There’s a big problem of Office 365 having even more limited usage reporting.  I expect much of this will result in bots and reliance on third party solutions and analysis and number crunching happening from outside of the environment. (Maybe it all comes down to CPU cycles and MS wants to get rid of it as unnecessary that many will never even look at?)

Figure 3: FrontPage 2003 – Available for WSS 2.0 or SharePoint 2003

Microsoft I would like to give you a little wish list of what I would consider basic usage that any web platform should provide out of the box.  I do see it as unfortunate that many site admins will turn to Google analytics to gather these basic statistics.  If Microsoft wants someone to create an app to provide these they need to do a great job of exposing the right metrics that don’t give away the farm, but provide the right kind of logging data that makes it possible to do in a hosted state.

Basic Analytics – Things I would expect built in

Audience (help me understand my users)

  • Desktop, Tablet, OS and Browsers, plus screen resolution
  • Mobile OS and Devices (In SharePoint it would be great to know which mode they are viewing the site in, and 2013 it would have been nice to .)
  • Top New vs. Returning Users
  • *Real* count on monthly Authenticated (Intranet) or Unique Users (Anonymous), Session length and # Repeat Visits

Activity + Traffic Source

  • Pages – Total Page views over time, pages per visit
  • Engagement – Like, rated, shared
  • Language and Location
  • Referrals (referring domain and full URL)
  • Search Traffic sources and keywords an Queries (I know this is already in 2013)
  • Direct Traffic Landing Pages
  • Document storage file type metrics

 

Your key take away in all of this is you will need to spend some time thinking about how serious you are about metrics.  Will you evaluate and purchase a tool or create an FAQ or rely on apps to fill the hole.  Maybe it’s time for us to not blame Microsoft on this one… nah, that’s way too easy.  While there are always trade offs with any new product update, this one seems to really have been overlooked and as a result you’ll need to spend time on deciding what you’re going to do to fill the gap.  Anyone serious about Usage Analytics wasn’t using out the box metrics anyway.

12 Comments »

  1. Lisa March 17, 2015 at 9:10 am - Reply

    Daniel – how did you get the PIWIKS tracking code to work on your sharepoint site?

  2. Steve C November 20, 2014 at 8:59 am - Reply

    You asked the right question, then totally missed the mark on the answer… Yes, the cloudy implementation of SharePoint Online DID kill Usage Metrics in SharePoint! Since MS can’t provide a separate UsageAndHealthDB for each tenant, they obviously had to throw out the old method of collection and reporting and begin from scratch with some partial replacement functionality. Since O365 can’t appear deficient compared to its full server counterpart, they correspondingly gutted the core product.
    As for the cloud story, since individual IIS logs can’t be provided to separate tenants, there’s no possibility to obtain and crunch the raw data “from outside the environment”. I’m now wondering whether in-page telemetry with reporting from Google Analytics might be feasible.

    • joleson@yahoo.com November 24, 2014 at 11:16 am - Reply

      I’ve seen some success with in page bots. Had some great success with integrating omniture into an enterprise bar on the top of all pages of the site, but google analytics or other page bots are also decent options. Why MSN or Bing never provided bot based page analytics still surprises me. I figured MS would have bought Web Trends ages ago.

  3. Carry Megens April 16, 2014 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    Great article, spot on! Don’t understand how this gets messed up while having those good Excel services under the hood! Must indeed have been an intern assignment…:-(
    Anyone a solution for SharePoint Online on this

    • joleson@yahoo.com April 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm - Reply

      I agree, I think there were some poor assumptions or late changes where this got left out.

      Joel

  4. Daniel March 19, 2014 at 9:45 am - Reply

    It’s pure analytics. Completely open source and with some nice features, growing plugin marketplace and so on. There were some nice developments in the last time so the community seems the work really hard to make it a good product.
    It’s not developed for SharePoint though, but for being completely for free it’s great!

  5. Daniel March 18, 2014 at 8:37 am - Reply

    We are using Piwik, it’s doing a great job in our environment. Haven’t tried anything else so far but it does everything we want it to do.

    • joleson@yahoo.com March 18, 2014 at 11:58 am - Reply

      Never heard of Piwik, but curious… is it analytics or a wiki?

  6. Andy October 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm - Reply

    “Analytics suck in SharePoint 2013”

    Yup. We were forced to find another on-premise solution, now that Webtrends is SaaS-only.

    Angelfish has worked well for us and is reasonably priced – have you heard of it?
    http://analytics.angelfishstats.com

    • joleson@yahoo.com October 30, 2013 at 9:18 am - Reply

      I have not heard of Angelfish. I was a big fan of Omniture before Adobe picked it up. Not sure how it is now. I think it’s also Saas. Have you tried Cardiolog?

  7. DH October 17, 2013 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Great article. Verry dissapointing on Microsoft’s behalf.

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