Choose a rapture: web analytics or creative?

A conversation I just had with the great sage, Keith Burtis, got me thinking about something. He is working on a model for what it takes to be successful online; it’s a four-pillar model including:

  1. Strategy
  2. Creative
  3. Analytics
  4. Development

Let’s say the strategy is something that the CEO will handle, and the development is functional, just for the sake of simplifying the idea for this post…

In our little Skype rap (yeah, we gangsta like that), it came down to this idea: businesses have a hard time being data-driven because they are used to relying on “feel” or their gut to make decisions. It’s something they’ve done for a long time, and it’s something that causes a whole lot of frustration for those of us who wear the analytics hat when we watch decisions get made for wild west reasons when a bounty of data and insight is available.

Analysts tend to look at the creatives (or creators, using the term as inclusive of a lot of things, I don’t mean just people who make pretty stuff) down their noses, particularly after UIs, architectures, marketing messaging, etc. have been in play and data has been collected that may reveal a whole buffet of mistakes that could have been avoided. We wonder why these people would just go on feel, rather than looking at the data and making smarter decisions.

That’s crazy stupid, right?

Well, yes. I think it is pretty stupid. But think about it this way: businesses create things. Offerings. Interfaces. Architectures. Messages. It is these creations that constitute the offering. Analysts can help creators create in smarter ways, but no matter how much data we have, the data itself cannot create*. Nor can insight from that data create. We are enablers, and powerful ones, but it’s important to remember that no amount of enabling will materialize into a physical artifact.

* Ok, data can potentially create. Turn your reports into ASCII art:

If one group (analysts or creatives, in Keith’s model) were to be raptured, then, which one would cause more damage to our business?

No offense to you terribly attractive and intelligent readers, but if we were to disappear, the world would go on. Feel and gut have worked for a long time. Some people have that chi; the things they touch turn to gold. Yes, we could help them make platinum, but most of the world is happy with gold.

Analytics has tremendous value, but only when it’s integrated. Rather than us pointing the finger at others and calling them stupid for shooting from the hip, let’s make sure we’re aware that, a lot of the time, we don’t even have a gun.

Big Picture

This is one reason I passionately disagree with the notion of us calling ourselves specialists. As generalists, we do have guns. We can create. Maybe not as well as the specialists, but we can create across many specialties; something the specialists can’t do. And when we create, even if just brainstorming, across disciplines, we create a networked idea; one that approaches an opportunity from multiple perspectives. We synthesize the disciplines, compounding the value they’d be able to contribute individually.

Your organization might not encourage you crossing boundaries, and the specialists may not like you “doing their jobs.” Tough shit. Get your gun out.

Note: Please use a water gun. 🙂

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  1. Evan,
    This is another great post and I’m baffled by how quickly you write! Just for the sake of this post I thought I’d include a link to the graphic that came out of my head representative of this discussion. — — Creative? Well if nothing else it helps clarify the point. As we talked about in our Skype rap (waaasss up!) today I honestly think its a shame that these different pillars or talent pools rarely get together and collaborate in real meaningful ways. Yea, it happens every once and a while but what the heck! We have the opportunity in this digital age to communicate, collaborate and innovate like no other time in history. I don’t want to see any of these units rapture, what I’d like to see is them connect and collaborate to make truly impactful business decisions, to innovate for clients and create things that will truly change the world.

    Let me leave you with this. The analytics team believes the world revolves around them, creative believes the world revolves around them and so on and so forth. The fact is, the business universe revolves around the end user or customer. Lets focus there. No?

    Posted June 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Permalink
  2. Michel Spalburg

    Hi Evan,

    Another great post. Really enjoy your quick writing style and refreshing view on the online analytics field. Keep up the good work!

    @Keith: I think the model might need one more pillar. Hosting/application management..

    Posted June 17, 2011 at 3:35 am | Permalink

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