Have you lost faith in web analytics?

Is the web analytics world getting you down? I think for many, it is. I’ve heard a lot of feedback on the WAA board and the WAA in general, the state of analytics in your company and in business, the frustrations in our community, etc.

It is a little discouraging. For me, too.

Here are a few things I think are big problems.

1) You are underestimating yourselves.

What do you think separates you from the CEOs, COOs, entrepreneurs, and other “successful” people in the world (both financially and in terms of how valuable these people are perceived to be)? What makes stock traders so valuable? What causes consultants to demand such high salaries? Why is that VP you can’t stand in that role?

Is it luck? Is it nepotism? Age? A result of them acting like jerks to everyone?

Probably yes.

But it’s also experience in situations where big decisions are being made. For better or for worse, these people make decisions get made. Note: I am not saying they make the right decisions or produce the best outcomes. They simply get it done. In the post-mortem, maybe they were right, maybe they were wrong. But the more frequently you make decisions, the more frequently you have the opportunity to make good decisions and benefit from them.

Note again, I didn’t say “quickly.” I said “frequently.” Making big decisions quickly is stupid. Making big decisions often is vital.

Some web analytics people think they are in the business of right/wrong or good/bad. Nope. We are in the business of using the data caused by decisions to cause new decisions as frequently as possible. The more quickly we can generate information (an inevitable result of decisions), look at that information, and make new decisions, the more successful we are. Avinash uses the phrase, “Fail faster,” pretty often, and this is what it’s all about. Productive failure is a result of action. Stop trying to pre-research everything from every angle in an effort to avoid failure, because inaction is also failure, and it’s nonproductive failure. It’s the most consciously-controlled form of failure in the world.

The data you make is better than the data you get. Start making data. Cause decisions to get made.

2) You’re passionate about the wrong things.

You know what Roger Federer wants to do? Kick ass. He doesn’t care about the string tension on his racquet, the type of rubber on his shoes, or the moisture-wicking properties of his shirt, unless it helps him kick ass. If some engineer comes up to him talking about synthetic string composition, Roger’s life just got a lot less interesting. If that same engineer comes up and tells Roger he has an idea about how to kick more ass, however, Roger is all ears.

We’re going to have to build some rapport with the people you’re trying to prod into making more decisions. We spend way too much time talking about our tools, technologies, techniques, data sources, etc. — things these people shouldn’t even know to care about. And most people in our trade have experienced the wrath of teaching executives to care about these things: have you ever had big decisions put on hold while the company is stuck trying to work out data integrity issues, even when the discrepancy won’t change the outcome?

Learn to lead with ass kicking.

3) You call yourselves specialists.

I don’t know who wrote the book that said everyone needs to “specialize” in something to be successful. That’s a total load of crap. Yes, you should get very good at something, that will help. But getting good at something in a vacuum makes you completely clueless how your particular role fits into the production. People argue about practically everything today because they have almost no appreciation for other peoples’ viewpoints and goals.

Ask yourself, “Does that sound like us?”

No, it doesn’t sound like us at all.

Unlike almost everyone else we work with, our success isn’t tied to any one discipline or effort. The more we can help the company compromise between specialists, the better we are. The more we can appreciate the balance between conflicting goals (rather than bullying one or the other), the more successful our business becomes. The less of a specialist we are, the more valuable we become.

So stop calling yourself a specialist. That’s a label that is counterproductive to your success.

A better future is ahead.

I definitely share some frustration about various associations, obstacles, etc. But until we can become the type of people who truly respect ourselves and our abilities, we can’t expect anyone else to. And until we understand that decisions, not rightness, are what drive success, our efforts will plink off of corporate armor, our salaries will remain depressed and un-linked to outcomes, and our reputation as nerdy data-fetchers or tool implementers will remain.

In our day-to-day, we have opportunities to to change this momentum. We can show the world that we are about one thing and one thing only: getting stuff done. Not analyzing it, not reporting it, not charting it: DOING it. Follow up on your analysis and make sure that a real life action is taken. You can’t fail.


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  1. By Reading Atlanta Analytics | panictank on August 29, 2012 at 7:30 am

    [...] Have you lost faith in web analytics? [...]

5 Comments

  1. Well said! Just like life…make those decisions and go…

    Posted April 25, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Permalink
  2. Totally agreed! And I like the part about kicking ass ^^

    Posted April 26, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink
  3. Great post. Lead with the ass kicking.

    And I think pointing out that how we talk about ourselves and the labels we use is key too.

    Its a challenge- but when data geekyness can be combined with communication skills and an understanding of what the business is really about (hint, its not bounce rate) it’s like having a superpower- and I think that web analytics (and analysts) are going to find their second wind and FLY.

    Posted April 26, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink
  4. Chris G

    My favorite takeaway from this : “We are in the business of using the data caused by decisions to cause new decisions as frequently as possible.” We’ve been mucking around with writing a mission statement and it’s typical bureau-mush. This is it. Thanks.

    Posted April 29, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  5. @Chris wow, I’m so glad this was helpful to you! What a great compliment to know this was useful :)

    Posted April 29, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink