Registration is now open for ACCELERATE 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia on September 18th. Reserve your spot today at Eventbrite — tickets are only $99 USD!


Registration for ACCELERATE 2014 is now open

I am excited to announce that registration for ACCELERATE 2014 on September 18th in Atlanta, Georgia is now open. You can learn more about the event and our unique “Ten Tips in Twenty Minutes” format on our ACCELERATE mini-site, and we plan to have registration open for our Advanced Analytics Education pre-ACCELERATE training sessions in the coming weeks.

Holding true to our “analytics for everyone”, and thanks to our generous 2014 sponsors Adobe, Tealium, and ObservepointACCELERATE registrations are still only $99 USD.

» Register for ACCELERATE 2014 today!

We will be announcing this year’s speakers over time, and if you have any questions about the event don’t hesitate to ask.

Published on April 23, 2014 under ACCELERATE

The 80/20 Rule for Analytics Teams

I had the pleasure last week of visiting with one of Web Analytics Demystified’s longest-standing and, at least from a digital analytical perspective, most successful clients. The team has grown tremendously over the years in terms of size and, more importantly, stature within the broader multi-channel business and has become one of the most productive and mature digital analytics groups that I personally am aware of across the industry. Their leader has the attention of senior-most stakeholders, all the way up to the company’s CEO, and her evangelism has led to the widespread acceptance of the inherent value of digitally collected data to the broader business, both online and off.

A true success story … but not one that came easily.

While much has been said about “maturity” in the digital analytics industry, my Partners and I have long been skeptical about this term and it’s application. That isn’t to say we don’t believe that maturation happens … but rather that it isn’t something that can be forced. Yes, companies can make better or worse decisions about where to invest their time and money when it comes to analytics and optimization, and yes, having a written plan governing this decision making process is a tremendous help, but nearly all of our experience over the past fifteen years — including the past five in partnership with the aforementioned client — leads us to believe that certain milestones simply need to happen over time and cannot be avoided, accelerated, or otherwise forced.

Why do we believe this? Experience.

In the past three years we have seen amazing things. We have watched an organization, largely recognized as being “the best of the best” in analytics crumble under it’s own weight; we have worked with one of the best recognized software companies in the world to make fundamental (even simple) analytical decisions; we have helped billion dollar digital organizations add hundreds of millions of incremental dollars through testing … and watched other, similarly sized companies fail to take advantage of even the most rudimentary analysis solutions.

Through all of this work — and trust me, with nearly 100 clients worldwide, the previous list only touches the tip of the iceberg — three things have stood out:

  1. Leadership counts. Perhaps the single most clear differentiator between “the best” and “all the rest” has been the quality, character, and experience of the day-to-day leader of a company’s analytical efforts. This differentiator cuts across dozens of dimensions — hiring and team development, evangelism up and down in the org, critical examination of analytical output, you name it … your organization is going to be massively more successful with digital analytics if you have an experienced resource that leadership trusts to produce insights and recommendations (as opposed to data and information.)
  2. You need to have a plan. While cynics will accuse me of being self-serving in this regard given that I have built a multi-million dollar consultancy based almost exclusively on the creation and adherence to a strategic plan for analytics, the proof is clear. Our clients (and other companies) that approach analytics and optimization armed with a clear and concise plan to drive understanding, adoption, and use of digital insights are far more successful than those who still incorrectly believe that “web analytics is easy” and that analysis will simply happen if the tools are provided.
  3. Your analysts are your greatest asset. Even if you have an amazing plan and a great leader for analytics, if you aren’t able to hire, train, and retain great analysts you will still be dead in the water. Tons has been written about the advantage that bright, articulate, passionate analysts and optimization specialists confer to the Enterprise, and the importance of finding the right talent has become so paramount that Web Analytics Demystified has started actively helping our clients hire digital analytics and optimization specialists. We have long said that web analytics is about “people, process, and technology” … and there is a reason we mention “people” first.

The last point brings me back around to the title of my post: the 80/20 Rule for Analytics Teams.

Great analysts, unsurprisingly, love to analyze data. I am honored to know some of the best analysts in the industry, and I can say with absolute certainty that few work-related things please them more than having the time to hunker down and leverage the available data to produce impactful recommendations. Yes, they will produce reports; yes, they will explain the Adobe Analytics UI for the umpteenth time; and yes, they will drop what they are doing to get you that “one number” you need for a presentation due to your boss … in an hour. But that is not what they love to do, and that is not their passion.

Their passion is analysis.

The problem with this fairly obvious: within most companies there simply aren’t enough analysts to meet the ever-expanding data and information needs of the business. Even in companies that are well-staffed, while great analysis and recommendations are frequently produced, more often than not the output is constrained by either time, specific business need, technology limitations, or all of the above. So we are closer … but we are not there yet.

In thinking about this I was reminded of a program that Google has or had: their “20% time.” Basically the opportunity for programmers to spend twenty percent of their time — a day a week — working on whatever they thought might be good for the business. I’m not sure how much value this effort delivered back to Google and their share-holders, the idea that staff could be trusted to take initiative and focus on opportunities that they believed could be valuable is brilliant (and the program certainly gathered press and accolades for Google.)

What if you gave your analysts the same trust and freedom that Google gave their engineers, only with a few more parameters … what do you think would happen? What if you told your Senior Analysts and Analytics Managers that they were free to spend 20% of their time producing analysis that they thought could benefit the business? And what if you gave them a venue to present this information so that, if their analysis was robust and their recommendations solid, the analysis would make its way up the ranks?

Think about that for a minute.

While not easy to pull off both from a logistical and resource-allocation perspective, I personally think that giving analysts “20% time” has potential that is three-fold:

  1. It would create very happy, engaged, and loyal analysts. Remember: analysts love to produce analysis. By taking the constraints of time, business need, and technology off the table and simply saying “provide analysis that you believe can practically and reasonably help drive the business forward” you are turning your team loose to do the thing they love (and potentially helping the business at the same time.) Happy analysts, in turn, help with recruiting and retention — both of which are challenging to say the least.
  2. It would further reinforce the value of digital data to the broader business. Readers are well aware of the value that digitally-collected data has to their companies, both online and off, but the same cannot be said for the majority of most companies. Especially in multi-channel and traditional offline organizations, web data is new, confusing, and often suspect. By giving your best analysts additional opportunities to use said data to help improve the overall business you logically increase the visibility and awareness of digital analytics across the Enterprise in it’s “most valuable” form (e.g., insights and recommendations.)
  3. It would provide a unique, data informed view of the business. Analysts usually have a very unique perspective on how the business is run given that A) they don’t typically “belong” to a single business unit and B) they are trained to be objective whenever possible. Over the years I have seen amazing analyses produced by digital analysts who aren’t constrained by programs that have been planned, monies that have been committed, or “the way we have always done things.” By giving your analysts the opportunity to take a step back and leverage their knowledge of the business informed by the available data … you might be surprised by what you learn.

Now yes, the devil is in the details. Carving out one day per week and having your analysts work on “whatever” has the potential to slow down projects and further strain resources, giving analysts carte blanche to suggest changes to infrastructure and long-term business plans has the potential to backfire, and given that the analysis would not originate with the business, serious thought would need to be given to the way the insights were socialized.  Still:

  • By carving out time for analysis … you are further reinforcing the need to create valuable work product (versus the “spreadsheets and data” output that is so common …)
  • By removing barriers … you are increasing the odds of finding insights that have the potential to truly move the needle (versus small, incremental wins and losses …)
  • By creating new venues to present analysis … you are both further demonstrating the value of digital analytics and giving your analysts additional experience presenting to leaders

Honestly this isn’t that radical of an idea; it is likely your best analysts have been producing independent analysis all along … they just haven’t had any formal way to share what they have learned with the rest of the business.

So what do you think?

As always I welcome your thoughts and comments. Have you tried something like this in the past? Are you an analyst who doesn’t get nearly enough time to produce recommendations and insights? Do you think this idea is great or simply awful?

Published on February 24, 2014 under General Web Analytics, Jobs, Random Thoughts

Time for Tag Management Vendors to Grow Up

As I have written before, Web Analytics Demystified are big fans of Tag Management Systems, and I believe we are at the point where our entire client base is either on TMS or will be in the very near future. The advantages of TMS, especially when coupled with solid governance and the right resources managing the technology, are so many that we have simply stopped counting, and our most advanced clients are starting to do things with tag management that we’re not sure even the vendors imagined.

Speaking of tag management vendors, sometimes watching the competitive landscape evolve is like watching the entire 10 year evolution of the web analytics sector happen in fast-forward … good, bad, and ugly. Market share is constantly in flux, outside (investor) interest ebbs and flows, prices are falling, employees are moving around, and sadly we are seeing the same snippiness, FUD, and otherwise uncouth behavior that characterized the worst aspects of our industry during the early days.

Sigh.

Fortunately for all involved, many of the TMS vendors have banded together with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and have authored a first-of-its-kind proposed standard for the creation of the digital data layer that forms the foundation of every “best of breed” tag management deployment. The group, chaired by IBM’s Viswanath Srikanth, had 100+ participants and over 50 companies contribute to the creation of the specification which is now available for download via the W3C.

How cool is that?

Built around a common set of definitions and widely used Javascript, the document outlines how data layers can (and should) be built to facilitate the deployment of tag management systems. What’s more, assuming the vendor participants in the W3C working group follow through on their commitment to support this standard, those companies leveraging the W3C work will essentially enable a “plug and play” environment allowing for even greater portability of systems including TMS.

At Web Analytics Demystified we are excited to start leveraging this document in our client work and are looking forward to years of growth in the TMS sector. We never had any kind of standard in the early days of web analytics — the technology didn’t lend itself to it and the competitive landscape would have never let it happen. Hopefully the participation of many of the major vendors and their commitment to support the W3C standard will demonstrate that the aforementioned “snippiness” is just growing pains and the TMS sector will mature as quickly as they emerged.

If you’d like help interpreting the W3C document and deploying tag management on your sites drop me a line, we’d love to hear from you.

 

Published on December 16, 2013 under Tag Management Systems

Advanced Analytics Education Dates Announced

Based on the very successful roll-out of our Advanced Analytics Education offering at ACCELERATE 2013 Web Analytics Demystified is delighted to announce our “Adobe Intensive” sessions in Portland, Oregon April 23rd and 24th, 2014. We will be packing decades of knowledge into two days of Adobe-centric training and covering Adobe SiteCatalyst, Adobe ReportBuilder, Adobe Discover, and Adobe Target, all for one low price.

Instructors include Adam Greco, Senior Partner at Web Analytics Demystified and the author of The Adobe SiteCatalyst Handbook: An Insider’s Guide and Demystified Partners Kevin Willeitner and Brian Hawkins. Class sizes will be small by design, and so we believe our Adobe Intensive provides an incredible opportunity to learn these technologies directly from the master’s themselves.

Learn more about our Adobe Intensive and register today!

Published on November 21, 2013 under ACCELERATE, Analysis Exchange, Events

The problem with “Big Data” …

A lot has been written about “big data” in the past two or three years — some say too much — and it is clear that the idea has taken hold in the corner offices and boardrooms of corporate America. Unfortunately, in far too many cases, “big data” projects are failing to meet expectations due to the sheer complexity of the challenge, lack of over-arching strategy, and a failure to “start small” and expand based on demonstrated results.

At Web Analytics Demystified we have been counseling our clients to think differently about this opportunity, encouraging the expanding use of integrated data and increasingly complex systems via an incremental approach based initially on digitally collected information.  We refer to the approach, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as “little big data” and recently had an opportunity to write a full-length white paper on the subject (sponsored by Tealium.)

You can download the white paper freely from Tealium:

Free White Paper: Digital Data Distribution Platforms in Action

The central thesis of the paper is that through careful and considered digital data integration — in this case powered by emerging Digital Data Distribution (D3P) platforms like Tealium’s AudienceStream — the Enterprise is able to develop the skills and processes necessary for true “big data” projects on reasonably sized and integrated data sets (hence, “little” big data.) The same types of complex, integrated analyses are possible using the same systems and data storage platforms, but by simplifying the process of collection and integration via D3P companies can focus on generating results and proving value … rather than spinning their wheels creating massive data sets.

I will be delivering a webcast with Tealium on this white paper and subject on Wednesday, October 16th at 10 AM Pacific / 1 PM Eastern if you’re interested in learning more:

Free Webinar: Digital Data Distribution Platforms in Action

If you are struggling with “big data” or are interested in how D3P might help your business better understand the integrated, multi-channel consumer, please join us.

Published on October 13, 2013 under Events, Presentations, White Papers

 


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