Successfully Implementing a Web Analytics System

My last column shared some thoughts about the process of selecting analytical systems, particularly Web analytics systems. The steps include:

  • Being clear about your goals.

  • Define the key performance indicators (KPIs) and key metrics.
  • Define the business processes.
  • Write a challenging business requirements document.

But selection is only half the battle to successful adoption. There’s also the issue of actually implementing and obtaining business value from it. I’ve seen systems implemented that work perfectly well but aren’t perceived to deliver much in the way of value simply because they’re underutilized (for whatever reason) relative to their potential. So, what are some tips for successfully implementing an analytics system?

Write a Plan

This may seem like a case of stating the obvious, but my point is to write a type of business plan rather than a technical systems implementation plan. The plan should consider all the environmental and organizational as well as technical issues.

On one level, there are technical issues that need to be thought through, such as how the site will be tagged and how log files will be harvested. The devil’s in the detail with these sorts of issues, and careful consideration must be given to them upfront to avoid pain later.

On another level, successful system implementation will also be determined by whether people use the system and whether they get any value from it. This is where organizational and environmental factors come in. Different types of organizations and functions are likely to have different attitudes toward the adoption and use of analytical reporting systems. What’s the plan for getting them engaged on the level they need to be engaged at?

Find Advocates

Think about who your likely advocates are. These are the people who get it and will be willing adopters of the new system and the opportunities it will offer them.

One mistake I’ve made when trying to roll out a new analytics system is to roll it out too broadly. Too many people were involved. At the time, it felt like trying to push water uphill. Since then, I’ve found a useful approach is to find a group of individuals who are happy to be early adopters. I work closely with them in the early phases to get the system actually used in the business.

You may work with the early advocates to get some of the more sophisticated system features up and running, such as campaign tracking capabilities. Working with these advocates can then help you develop useful case studies you can use with the rest of the business in seminars, training courses, and the like.

Deliver Appropriate Training

All staffers need some training to get the most out of a new system, even if they won’t actually use the system itself. Training can often focus on how to “drive” the system, a bit like learning how to drive a car. But it’s also useful to coach people in what to do with the results. That’s where the case studies you’ve built up with your early advocates come in handy.

Often, systems can push reports out to end users via email or an intranet, which is great. But do the end users always know what these reports are telling them, or what they should be looking for? An analyst creates value by adding interpretation. If this isn’t possible, at least consider how to coach end users in interpreting the data that’s delivered to them.

Demonstrate Value and Celebrate Success

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. As I mentioned last time, you only really know what you’re going to get with a new analytics system once you’ve got it up and running. It’s important to demonstrate the investment’s value to the business. This may take different forms depending on the business, but there should be some early winds you can point out to demonstrate the implementation’s success. These may be new approaches to campaigning that are being implemented or conversion improvements in certain areas. Whatever they are, add them to your library of case studies and use them to demonstrate the business value every opportunity you get!

Next week, I’m heading over to Search Engine Strategies in New York to take part in the ClickZ Track. I’m really looking forward to catching up with some old colleagues and hopefully meeting new ones. I am also looking forward to taking a look at the search analytics scene and will report back on what I find next time.

Till then…

Meet Neil at Search Engine Strategies in New York City, February 27-March 2.

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