How the 4 web analytics career paths fit the 180

In thinking and talking to people about the predictions for 2011 and the web analytics 180, the great point of different people wanting different things from web analytics came up. Some people don’t want to be the VP of the Executive Director Chief Cheese at Large, so where do they fit in? What if you want to be on the tech side? What if you want to be working alone with your headphones on?

The first thing that needs to be said is that people of all flavors are completely needed and incredibly valuable to the practice of web analytics. From the person putting events in onclicks to the person pleading with the CMO, everyone is critical. But this is where my beef with the #measure hashtag comes from: this job is NEVER about measurement. It’s about a company, a business, a value proposition, and we all work together to make a business grow and thrive.

From a big picture perspective, here’s how I would answer the question of how the 180 applies to different career paths (with answers to the more specific points below):

There is not a single person practicing web analytics in any corner, role, niche, area of responsibility or slant of the practice who wouldn’t immensely benefit from knowing why they are doing what they are doing.

When I was discussing this with someone, we were standing on a tile floor. Looking down, you have to realize there is someone out there who is a super grout badass. He is the Michelangelo of grout. But he understands that grout is what sits between tile. His work has to complement the tile. He also understands that this grout and tile combination will make a floor. Floors are something people walk on. With tennis shoes, heels, maybe even golf spikes. And the entrance to this room will be walked on by thousands of people a day, some dragging boxes or rolling luggage. He knows that this building is a hotel, and a high-end one. And that the reputation of this hotel rides on the little things: the flowers they set out, the subtle music. The sharp suits they wear at reception. And he realizes that all of these heels, golf shoes, boxes, intense heat and light coming in from the nearby windows have to be something that can be withstood by this grout. Cracks ruin the perfect patina of this lobby. Chips and loose grout may cause someone to slip and fall.

He needs to lay the grout of his life. And he will, because he appreciates why he is laying that grout and what doing anything but the best job will mean.

So that’s my high-level sell. Now for the nitty gritty.

I’ll build the specifics off of Avinash’s post about the four career paths or roles that will be filled in this practice. They sit in four quadrants defined by these two decisions:

  1. Do you want to be on the business or technical side?
  2. Do you want to be an individual contributor, or a team leader?

So, let’s talk about the 180 in terms of these roles.

The Technical Individual Contributor (or the Tagging God / Developer Extraordinaire)

For this person, who may live in the IT group, the story is all about the grout example above. I hate that the example may feel as if it reflects poorly on this group, because it really does the opposite, when you think about it. It illustrates someone who is thorough, thoughtful, full of pride, and secure in their work; not seeking or in need of outside approval to be content with their trade. In fact, some may even get a kick out of the fact they know nobody will ever understand how good their work really is.

For 99% of the audience of the average web site, the work and expertise that goes into this role will never be appreciated or even noticed. Yes, visitors may notice a slicker calendar or cool drag & drop functionality, but they will probably never, ever go to the point of understanding how badass these things really are on a technical level.

For this person, the 180 may cause two changes in their daily activity:

  1. They will take pride in invisibility. Calm waters above while a submarine battle of epic proportions is unfolding below the surface. When you fully appreciate that the outcome of your best work may be absolutely no reaction (when your choice in reaction is either negative or nothing), you can seek no reaction. You’ll have to trust that the team leader does a good job of demonstrating that no news is good news, but hopefully the 180 will give you room to explore and experiment, which is what really makes you feel rewarded. A raise and recognition is a great thing, and you deserve it, but what really makes you tick is what you’re able to create.
  2. Specific to tagging, it may develop and deepen curiosity about how your creations and addition of measurement impact the business, which may enable you and your team lead to better explain how that calendar or drag and drop (and investments in more innovation) made a huge difference or had an unforeseen ripple effect. The idea here is that the organization may feel like it needs to tell IT the solutions to problems they’ve discovered. Hopefully, they’ll begin describing the problems and the solutions will be more elegant than the business side of the house could have ever dreamed of. From the inside, you can work with other developers or teams to help them feel that the true value of their work is seen and appreciated on a level they may have little exposure to otherwise.

In general, I think that these individuals will feel tremendously invested in their work. I know a few people like this, and any company in the world would be lucky to have them (I’m looking at you, Keystone) and should treat them like angels.

The Business Individual Contributor

With great power comes great responsibility. I think this is a particularly exciting role for the 180, because your job should get a lot bigger and more interesting, but at the same time, you need to do a very good job of highlighting where you were helped. The business individual contributor runs the risk of becoming a jackass who thinks of himself as an oracle. Fight this. Remember how important other roles, the technical team in particular, are, because they will be the ones that turn your business into greased lightning once things come into alignment. Ideas and drawings have to turn into reality, and this team will make it a cooler reality (and do so much more quickly) than the business first pictured if they’re given the creative space.

The hopeful change in your day-to-day is going to be cross-team and business-level assessments, in addition to tactical analysis. What this means is you’re not going to be focused 99% on the web site, but probably 60% on the web site and then 40% focused on how the business executes, how decisions are made, when compromises are/aren’t made, who wins, who loses, and why. This analysis will help your executives understand why bad decisions are made (which are inevitable), and whether they were made for good reasons or bad ones. This should make your life a lot cooler and your day a lot more well-rounded feeling, which you probably will enjoy a lot if this role feels like a good fit for you.

There are some sub-divisons of this role where statistics people and things like that fit in. These roles may need a little more consideration, but they probably aren’t liable to change much, because they are based on more specific education and a specialization. While the output of their analyses may be more broadly-applicable, their day-to-day work may look somewhat similar to beforehand, especially compared with everyone else we’re talking about here.

Technical Team Leader

After you’ve followed Avinash’s advice, I’d just say this about this role and the 180. Buy your team time and space. Show the organization the art of development. Some companies feel like IT is a giant, real-life dot matrix printer, turning the business’s eloquent words and thoughts into a material product. Rid the business of that mentality and begin contests, pet projects, 20% time, and things like that where technical projects can blow people’s minds in terms of time savings, ease of process, feature development, etc. Development is inherently (but not obviously, to some) creative, and it’s on you to set the stage for this to happen. Otherwise, you’re just going to have a cynical, miserable group of people on your hands, all waiting for their job applications to Google to come through.

Business Team Leader

If I have to explain the 180 to you, you need to find one of the previous 3 categories and get a new job. Make it happen or make room for someone else. Tough love.