There is much discussion about research, analytics and optimization in today's digital world. Judah did the right thing in getting granular by identifying a number of different job types that can go into the above broad bucket. These include Web Analyst, Site Optimizer, Social Metrician, Database Marketer, Search Analyst, Market Researcher, Qualitative Analyst, Ad Analyst and Audience Measurer. Quite a list! In a posted comment to that article, David Alston of Radian6 suggested adding Online Lead Gen Expert.
The question was then posed, "How do these people meet and work together?" This is especially true in a world of online and offline, where teams are not working together in many companies. In addition, Web functions for many companies, especially search-oriented functions above such as Site Optimizer and Search Analyst, might not even be in the marketing group but reside within the IT group. The marketing group generally has an agency that acts as its extension, but only for the functions that are controlled by marketing. In addition, the Database Marketer might well be an adjunct to sales rather than marketing. The same could be true for the Online Lead Gen Expert.
This is where agencies can be of help. They are a primary resource for outsourcing of client marketing services. This is especially true if a client is willing to let an agency work with various departments outside of marketing in cases where marketing does not control the whole pie. Not only can they supply some or all of the functions listed above that may not be present within a corporation, they can provide the glue.
I've talked before in this space and others about the need for an analytics agency of record. Such an agency can act as the connective tissue between a number of different types of analytics. It can also make sure that there is a unified cookie pool. This unified pool would ensure that proper deduping takes place for the Web, takes advantage of attribution management best practices between Web and search, and provides similar capability as media like mobile and other digital entries establish cookie capability.
I've also written before about the need for media planners and account planners to work together. In many cases, account planning (some of the functions outlined by Judah in Qualitative Analysis fall into this bucket) is most closely associated with creative development. But in many agencies, they become the qualitative analysts while the media planner becomes the quantitative analyst. These two should be in the same group at the agency side in order to most effectively interface with the various analysts on both the agency and client side. Additionally, a dashboard that is able to accept data from a broad number of sources is crucial to bringing analytics to all parties in a clear and comprehensive format.
As for a unifying function, that's what media planners do every day. You'd need a media planner who is experienced in traditional media, digital media and deep in analytics, but the right planner can leverage off the above analytics types and provide a qualified cross-media mix that is enlightened by the data and analysis provided. As one such media planner, I say, bring it on.