Web Analytics: Are People on Your Team Accountable?

  |  June 5, 2007   |  Comments

Where Web metrics meet accountability.

I'm often asked why so many companies fail to really get Web analytics engrained within their business processes and to leverage the data to improve site performance.

In many past columns, I've written about setting proper goals and getting team buy-in on those goals, as well as monetizing behavior and the like. If you do all those things right but the people involved in the day-to-day management, strategy, design, and development aren't being held accountable for the Web site, all your work may be for naught.

Time and again you see people get caught up in working on a big list of initiatives that have queued up, without ever really defining what success means for each initiative. Success is often measured by delivering something (anything!) on time and within budget.

As soon as one initiative launches, it's off to the next one, and so on. Often there isn't time to define success metrics, and surely no time to see how the new launch did. It was, of course, nearly on time and right around the discussed resource budget.

This is usually based on pressure to always be making changes to a site and a ton of ideas of things that could be done. There's also a shortage of resources to get that project done that "needs to be finished this quarter."

In most cases, the people running the Web channel, projects, strategic direction, design, and development aren't held accountable for the Web channel's true performance.

So when you try to provide them with information, such as analytics data, that can help them better understand opportunities as well as what's working and what's not, that information isn't taken seriously and isn't a high priority.

The good news is this is all starting to change. As Web budgets grow, executives are starting to require deeper performance metrics from the channel. This often starts as high-level questions:

  • How much revenue is generated from our Web channel?

  • How many leads do we get from the Web site?

  • How many applications are submitted online?

The questions typically start going deeper. When first asked, they're often fairly easy to answer; however, things quickly get deeper and more specific.

Over time, a sophisticated Web channel leader will know he needs to find a way to move the metrics that matter most to the Web channel and executive team. Until this occurs, the individuals on the Web team aren't usually held accountable for anything other than delivery date and budget.

This is when a shift begins to occur. People on the Web team start to be asked by the group leader how they can move some of these metrics. When an initiative is launched, they may start looking at the impact of specific changes. Unfortunately, this often takes time; it can easily take 12 to 24 months from the time the person in charge of the channel starts getting the questions from the executive team to the point at which he has everyone on his team driving toward the optimization of specific metrics.

At the far end of the spectrum, some things you should expect to see include:

  • Success metrics are defined for every Web initiative.

  • All success metrics are monetized to understand the impact on the business.

  • Impact of all initiatives are forecast upfront.

  • Initiatives are prioritized based on the greatest forecasted impact to the business.

  • All initiatives are measured post-launch to determine impact.

  • Upon initiative launch, an ongoing testing plan to optimize new content is prepared and in place.

  • All team members are reviewed and bonuses are based on individual performance metrics tied to specific site performance measurements.

If you run a Web team, act now and get your team thinking in this direction. If you're a team member, start thinking about it now, before your boss has to act. If you're already getting hounded on this front and were caught off-guard, sincere apologies for not giving you a heads up sooner!

Jason is off this week. Today's column ran earlier on ClickZ.

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Jason Burby

As President of the Americas at POSSIBLE, Jason is responsible for leading the long-term stability and growth of the region. With more than 20 years experience in digital strategy, he is a long-time advocate of using data to inform digital strategies to help clients attract, convert, and retain customers. Jason supports POSSIBLE's clients and employees in driving new engagements and delivering great work that works. He is the co-author of Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions.

Follow him on Twitter @JasonBurby.

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