Web Analytics: Are People on Your Team Accountable?

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, etc. If you do all of 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 time 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 individual 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 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 nor is it a high priority.

The good news is that 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 they need 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 they have everyone on their team driving towards the optimization of specific metrics.

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

  • Success metrics defined for every Web initiative
  • All success metrics monetized in order to understand the impact on the business
  • Impact of all initiatives forecasted upfront
  • Initiatives prioritized based on the greatest forecasted impact to the business
  • All initiatives measured post-launch to determine impact
  • Upon launch of initiative an ongoing testing plan to optimize new content is prepared and in place.
  • All team members are reviewed and bonused 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!

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