Data Gaps & Governance: What Was True in the Morning Becomes a Lie Before Noon

  |  October 7, 2013   |  Comments

Governance is critical in managing the masses of data available in online business, yet many admit their organization still lacks a data governance policy.

frustrated-at-computerYou sit at your desk, aware you are supposed to make decisions based on data and knowing that a great deal rides on your choices. Which content goes front and center? Which campaign gets yanked? How can you direct your agency in creating content more effective at converting prospects to customers?

The company has invested millions and management wants to know how the new bag of tricks is doing against the old.

You log in to the digital analytics dashboard and find what you think you need. It's supposed to show campaign attribution--but it's only based on the last click. It's also supposed to show content popularity, but lacks conversion perspective. The paths into and out of the contact page are baffling, to say the least. You call up your analytics admin, who calls the report people, who call the agency that was supposed to do the tagging, to find out if this data is the latest.

In the meantime, the decision is due on your boss' desk by noon... and it's 11:53. She asks your opinion, so you assume she wanted your judgment, not the digital beeps and bytes of some machine. Looking everything over, you make some lightning decisions and, feeling smart and well-informed, send an email to your boss at 11:59, to which she simply replies, "Thanks." Time to grab an in-house latte because that cafe around the corner, while it may be better, is charging seven dollars for a cup of hardcore joe and some cream.

At 12:20, you get a call from your analytics admin, who tells you the agency (who don't specialize in analytics, but are performing the work as part of their premium support package) never got around to tagging that part of the site, because they were "coding a mobile app that took longer than expected".

"And what does that mean?" You ask, careful that your tone conveys gentle concern.

What it means is that none of the numbers are relevant or even remotely accurate, because none of the new pages have been measured since they launched a month ago.

You drop the phone but rapidly pick it up and place it back on the receiver. Your boss won't be back until three. Can the site get tagged and measured before then? That, you know, is a vain hope and shame on you for even thinking about it. Worse, even if it could be tagged in a jiff, you cannot "replay" any data because, without tags, nothing was collected. You've got goose-eggs. And goosebumps. Perhaps if you check your Twitter feed, it will all go away.

A text from your boss interrupts your foray into the Twitosphere:

"Data inaccurate? Let's talk at 12:30."

Your boss is coming back early, and you've had this talk before.

Last time, you had recommended a better process; one where agencies did not own the responsibility of tagging their own creative. Where a centralized data collection team, expert in the art and science of collecting and displaying data, in conjunction with perhaps a tag management solution, would provide both expertise and governance.

Like many recommendations requiring a complex initiative, it was praised but ultimately not implemented.

Maybe this time the talk will be different. It could go one of two ways.

First, you might be blamed for providing inaccurate data and therefore useless insights.

Second, you might be asked to resubmit that governance proposal.

Governance has become easier with the right tools; with properly configured roll-up reporting and an up-to-date tag management tool (plus the essential expertise), this can be solved.

Chaos, as a result of lack of process and lack of expertise, defeats technology and the insights that come from it. The expertise is not impossible to find and the tools are maturing.

It should be easier to make the case this time.

You put down your latte and head for your boss's office.

A Completely Fictional Story, Right?

Not really. This plays out every day like clockwork, across the country, in companies large and small.

Governance is critical in managing the masses of data available in online business, yet 44 percent of respondents to a recent survey by Rand Secure Archive admit their organization still lacks a data governance policy. Within the next year, 50 percent of respondents plan to take action on data governance.

Whether or not you're a driver for this necessary change in your own organization depends largely on how you sell the necessity to the boss down the hall.

Have you instigated change in how your organization handles data? Share your tips and experience in the comments.


Andrew Edwards

Andrew V. Edwards is a digital marketing executive with 20 years of experience serving large organizations, and has been an operating executive and digital marketing consultant since the 1980s. 

In 2004 Edwards co-founded the Digital Analytics Association and is currently a director emeritus. He has designed analytics training curricula for business teams and has led seminars on digital marketing subjects.

Besides writing a regular column about analytics for ClickZ, Andrew wrote the groundbreaking Dawn of Convergence Analytics report, and authored the book, Digital is Destroying Everything, in 2015.

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