25th October, 2011
Connecting the Dots in Digital Analytics
What does it mean to have a “data-driven” organization? How do organizations operationalize the concept of “data driven”? In the digital channel, “data driven” is often linked with “digital analytics,” a term that has evolved out of web analytics.
Since its inception as a practice in the late 1990s, the value of web analytics as a means to inform digital business strategy an operations has been hampered by the very technology that makes it possible… software that counts clicks and presents reports that explain web site activity in technical terms like page views and referrals, or inaccurate proxy terms like visits and visitors. These terms neither accurately reflect human interaction, nor do they easily describe the value of the web site.
In most organizations, web analytics has been largely viewed as a technical task that creates output of high-level visit/visitor/page view reports… information that may be viewed with interest, but of little influence.
This perception of value has changed little over the years. What has changed is the expansion of the digital channel. Today, we live in a multi-channel digital world with fixed web, mobile, video and social platforms. In parallel, we see that the web analyst who was considered more of a technician is now moving into Manager and Director-level positions. This change seems to be linked more to the fact that there is more data to manage rather than an expectation that there will or should be deeper insight or higher business value from the data.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Analytics data can and is shaped into relevant business metrics that can help create the “data-driven” organization. Best-in-class organizations are using digital analytics to assess and tune their international marketing strategy, evaluate new product lines, determine how to invest in social media, and how to identify and target to key market segments. This goes well beyond what passes for “traditional” web analytics of viewing historical traffic trend data.
The difference between how analytics professionals view their value versus their management is illustrated clearly in an independent annual survey that I conducted in Q3 2011 among digital analytics professionals.
When asked the question, what is the top priority of your digital analytics program, 56 percent of the analytics professionals answered, “Deliver recommendations and analysis.” When the same professionals were asked, in the opinion of your organization’s leadership, what is the top priority of your digital analytics program, only 46 percent indicated it was to “Deliver recommendations and analysis.”
It is the responses following the first answer that are more telling. Analytics professionals see their roles to be more strategic, such as “providing strategic direction on the use of analytics” and “creating organizational analytics standards and governance. However, it was their opinion that their organization’s management believes their roles to be more tactical, such as “developing reports and dashboards” and “providing tool set implementation and maintenance.”
The roots of this disconnect and the loss of potentially greater return on value from digital data, the key to creating a “data driven” organization, appear to be based on overall web governance. When asked about digital strategy, 55 percent of the analytics professionals indicated that their organizations did indeed have clear web strategy in place. However, when asked whether there was a governance council in place, only 30 percent answered affirmatively.
Web strategy is important to web analytics because the strategy goals should translate to online objectives that are measured through web analytics. Additionally, the web metrics should provide a clear evaluation for how the organization is succeeding in the meeting goals and objectives.
We think of web governance as being the operational component of a digital strategy. Governance takes the strategy and makes it real through assignment of roles, responsibilities, management policies and budget decisions. Web governance councils are common entities for facilitating consensus-driven decision-making, standards development and priority setting.
Organization-wide web governance can provide the web analytics function with a presence in the overall decision-making structure. It also provides an infrastructure for clarity in defining the role of web analytics within the organization processes for program expansion.
If digital analytics is not providing the business value that it can, it is possible that there is a breakdown between the strategy and how that strategy is communicated and made relevant through the organization.
While it is true that digital analytics is not the only online discipline to fall short of its potential value when governance is not presence, it is the only discipline that can help an organization reap the benefits of being “data driven.”
Web strategy and measurement expert Phil Kemelor is Vice President of Strategic Consulting Services at SEMphonic, a leading web analytics consultancy, where he helps companies deploy and use web analytics successfully. Kemelor, a noted author and speaker on web analytics, is a former journalist, marketing executive and 14-year Internet veteran.
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