Who Should Own Web Analytics?

Who should own Web analytics: IT or marketing? Five to ten years ago, it was common for a company’s IT department to own analytics. But much has changed over the past few years, and some companies still struggle with this question.

In the Beginning, There Was IT

When Web analytics was first seen as a resource, it was often for server performance and page errors. Software had to be installed on a separate server and the interface was unintuitive. It wasn’t made or positioned for marketers.

Think back to the early versions of WebTrends. It was installed on a separate server, and there were errors and issues with getting log files and processing them (to be fair, WebTrends has come a long way). It wasn’t perceived as valuable to marketing people.

IT would install the tool, make sure the reports ran against the log files on a regular basis, and sometimes even give people access to specific reports in the tool or print out a 388-page report for them. This didn’t show any value to the marketing team or drive any real insight.

Companies typically didn’t have defined site goals and success metrics. Even if they did, very rarely was the tool set up to track those key metrics. Again, that was related partially to the tools, partially to most Web teams’ sophistication when it came to success metrics. And some of it was an incorrect view of Web analytics’ role in decision making.

Then There Was Marketing

Over time, marketers starting thinking of ways they could use this data if they had better access to Web analytics. Initially (and still, in many cases today), they didn’t know what questions to ask or even what analytics could do for them, but they knew it had significant potential.

They started asking the understaffed IT department about getting certain types of data. In many cases, it wasn’t IT people’s dedicated jobs but one of a hundred things they had on their plates. They were trained and responsible for keeping the server up and making sure the logs processed on time, but they didn’t really know how to get answers or insight out of it.

Marketers grew frustrated by not being able to get what they needed. At the same time, tools from companies now named Omniture and WebSideStory came out with ASP (define) models that took the reliance off IT, the servers, and log file processing issues.

Suddenly interested marketers could go to one of those companies, have some basic tags placed on the site, and get more accurate data. It looked like all the issues were solved, and they could finally get the information they needed — still rarely tied to overall business goals, but a step in the right direction.

However, the marketers needed more help and technical support to place customized tags, track flash, integrate with other data, and the like. To be successful marketers, they needed the support of their IT or technical departments.

It’s interesting that companies are still debating this issue. And they often try different things before they settle into a good middle ground.

Now There’s Both

What’s the right mix of support and ownership? Having worked with many Fortune 1000 companies as well as much smaller organization to better leverage Web analytics’ power, we’ve identified what works best for most organizations:

  • The Web strategy/marketing team owns the tool and use of it. Having someone on the marketing team help shape the way necessary data is identified and used is imperative. Analytics will only be successful if the data is tied to overall business goals, opportunities identified, and action taken by the marketing team to improve site performance.
  • There must be support from the technical group, and they must work closely with the Web team to ensure the strategic analytic needs are being translated into page tags that trigger the tool correctly.
  • Processes must be put in place to ensure technical requirements are nailed on every new site or page launch. This will help reduce the page tagging and technical problems.

Companies structure their Web teams in different ways, so you may call things by different names. But the analytics strategic lead must reside side by side with the marketing and Web strategy teams.

If IT owns your tool, work with the head of your Web team to emphasize the importance of the strategic side of Web analytics. It’s no longer about the tool, it’s about the insight the tool can provide.

Meet Jason at the ClickZ Specifics: Advertising in Social Media seminar on May 21 at the Hilton New York.

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