Brent Dykes

Director of Industry Consulting
Adobe Systems

In last week's post, I discussed how organizations sometimes focus too much on having the right tools and not enough on the people behind the tools. It’s a common problem among companies striving to become more proficient in Web analytics. It might appear as though just having the right tools in place will magically lift an organization to data-driven greatness. However, just like in sports, having the right equipment is only part of the formula for success. For example, a well-tuned, technologically advanced race car is useless on the NASCAR circuit without a skilled driver, crew chief, and pit crew to get it across the finish line.

The first part of “people investment” is making sure your organization has enough staff covering the various positions on the Web analytics playing field. The second part is to ensure those people receive adequate training to excel in their roles. Just having people standing on the bases and outfield positions does not mean they are ready to play ball. Hopefully, each individual knows what to do when the ball comes to them and has been trained to perform their role effectively.

Good To Great--Through Training
In a 2006 Fortune article “Secrets of Greatness,” Geoffrey Colvin revealed how natural talent was irrelevant to great success. From Tiger Woods to Warren Buffet, research shows the secret to their success came down to hard work and practice--not some unfair natural gifts. The article pointed out that if Michael Jordan were born with just superhuman basketball skills, he wouldn’t have been cut from his high school team. Just like high-profile athletes, the people filling the various Web analytics positions need to go through hours of training to develop, maintain, and hone their skills to be effective in their roles and to get the most out of the provided tools. “While Web analytics technologies can be quite easy to use, the extent of their potential benefits is still not well-understood,” said Kurt Schlegel, a vice president at Gartner Research. “Detailed training opportunities are essential for getting the most business benefit from these solutions.”

Fostering user adoption of Web analytics tools can be a critical success factor in creating a data-driven organization. As more people share and leverage the tools, a company can derive more business value from its Web analytics investment. Persistent training plays a key role in driving user adoption. “Training is not a zero-sum game,” and its value to the company significantly outweighs its costs, said Paul Strupp, senior analytics product manager at RIM. One important way to encourage user adoption is to provide adequate training opportunities at all levels within your organization.

The Web Analytics Training Pyramid
All great athletes start by learning the basics and then continue training to further hone their skills. The training triangle below exemplifies how different individuals within your organization will need different training approaches. At the top of this pyramid, you focus on advancing the expertise of the company’s core team of Web analysts and technical staff. This select group of individuals will require more formal training options. At the next level, you leverage the formal training and expertise of the core team to facilitate internal one-on-one training for executives and internal workshops for other key users. At the bottom of the pyramid, the large community of end users leverage more self-service options--both internally produced options as well as on-demand videos.

It Takes A Village
In a recent conversation with a Web analyst at a major insurance company, the topic of Web governance came up and how “it takes a village” to establish a data-driven culture. An internal Web analytics community (i.e., village) can advance tool usage and adoption throughout the company.

RIM's Strupp shared how persistent internal training helped to nurture a Web analytics community at Sun Microsystems. Sun’s Web analytics email discussion list grew from 10 people to more than 100 people. Approximately half of the questions are now answered by community members outside of Strupp’s core team. In addition, the sophistication of the questions has evolved from, “Page views or visits?” to, “Why does my marketing campaign show high software downloads, but low offline lead pipeline value?” According to Strupp, one key benefit of developing a Web analytics “village” is that “it puts the analytical capability closer to the business rather than in a remote ‘reporting’ group.” Enabling the people on the front lines to analyze their parts of the business and take action makes great business sense.

In my next blog post, I’ll be looking at the “rules” of the village or, in other word,s how to establish and maintain corporate standards.

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