Last month, I received a letter from a Web analytics specialist who encountered multiple roadblocks to leveraging Web analytics and site optimization for a new employer. I reproduced his letter in my last column (with names and company info changed to protect the innocent). Here is my response to him.
The first step to any intervention is admitting the problem. Fortunately, you're admitting it. Unfortunately, your organization is not.
There are seven steps to recovery:
Step 1: Admit There's a Problem
You've accomplished this already. Good.
Step 2: Admit the Problem Is Your Own
You've painted a great picture of what's happening in your organization, but I'll be frank. Your inability to get the most from your analytics investment isn't a problem with the software, your information technology department, or your analytics vendor. It's on your doorstep, nobody else's.
You mentioned seeing a lot of things that make you cringe. Can you be more proactive? Do you establish success metrics for your Web initiatives? Identify problems and opportunities based on your analytics data? Make sure to listen to your metrics. Use the data to measure the effectiveness of teams and benchmark site improvements. This naturally helps to set employee and team goals that are rewarded with compensation and bonuses for all those brilliant minds.
Step 3: Agree This Is a Corporate Intervention
Anonymous, in your case, this seems to be the main concern. The problem must be addressed by your entire team, not just your Web analyst. At every level, team and individual actions must support business decisions and measure up to performance standards. Getting more strategic with step two will help. Make every person in your organization involved and accountable and reward them for their efforts.
Step 4: Set Your Goals
Look at your organization's overall business goals, and focus on which improvements will really yield the biggest bang for your buck. After you have this info in hand, you can more easily prioritize your projects and allocate resources. Keep in mind, once you've set these goals you can use scorecards at any point along the way, from a business or employee perspective. For example, Microsoft measures customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction four times a year. Employee reviews are based on this score and index.
Step 5: Anticipate Risks
Though your intentions are good, you may encounter some issues using your analytics data. Don't get discouraged. Many experience these issues, and there are ways to conquer them.
Anonymous, it seems you're attempting to solve all the problems at once. Our most successful clients start small. Here are some guidelines:
Pick one page, form, or promo that's not performing well and try to improve that.
Start with a basic A/B or multivariate test.
Go through the steps, evaluate the impact, and go on from there.
After the first successful optimization steps, all others come much easier. People start to understand the process.
Problem: Wheels are spinning wheels, but you're not making progress (you're just waving that analytics flag you were talking about). It's very common for Web analytics to slide to the back burner when other pots boil over.
Solution: It's important to have a dedicated person responsible for Web analytics, whether it's an internal or external resource. This person can champion data use and provide insight to other team members on how to use the data. (Anonymous, it sounds like you might be this person).
Since ongoing site optimization is a paradigm shift for a lot of organizations, it's important to have executive support to help get (and keep) the ball rolling.
Step 6: Know You're On the Right Track
Begin your journey to become a truly data driven organization by building the following steps into your personal action plan. Once the potential ROI (define) of proposed changes has been identified, the information can be charted against industry standards and overall business goals for both the short and long term. The optimization cycle includes setting goals, benchmarking, measuring progress toward your goals, and measuring your changes' impact.
Step 7: Summarize the Journey
All these steps lead to one goal: establish unity. Each person in your organization must feel connected and responsible for his or her own Web analytics deliverable. You must find out what that is and set goals to accomplish one deliverable for each department.
So tell me, Anonymous, where are you on this road to recovery?
In 1998, Shane co-founded ZAAZ to advocate a different approach to Web services — one that respects and delivers on the power of the individual and the promise of Web technologies. As CEO, Shane leads the company's long-term strategic vision of working with leading financial service organizations, consumer brands, startups, non-profits, and community-based organizations, helping each realize the potential of the Internet and its meaningful impact on their business.