The other qualitative side of web analytics

Sometimes we let ourselves get a little rusty. It’s been a while since we talked to some people in our business who we don’t run into in the course of our daily routine or normal work.

Companies are complex places. They’re complex like the olympics. Everyone is striving for a gold, but some people are skiing downhill and other people are brushing the ice to make a huge stone land in a target. It’s when the curlers are curling in the middle of the downhill race that things go wrong. It’s when different departments and different people are playing different sports that conflicts pop up and we have this, “We’re all on the same team,” BS talk with our managers. Yes, we are all playing for the USA or wherever you are from, but we earn our gold medals in decidedly different ways.

So something that is of huge value to businesses is objective people like us understanding the viewpoints of people in different disciplines. What pain are people feeling as a result of being aligned to a different goal than the people who are shoveling work on their plates? Where are the failure points?

I know that in many companies, it feels a little unrealistic, but if we can make some friends around the organization and go out to lunch with them once a month (individually), or at least have a standard 15 minute coffee every few weeks, we will have an unparalleled understanding of our organizations. We will start to see that peoples’ complaints are legitimate, we can identify the parts of the complex ecosystem that may be to blame for those complaints and pains, and we can give each of these people some context from something we’ve learned from another part of the organization. And we will learn things a little differently than the “team USA” coaches in the company (HR, centralized execs., etc.) because we are part of the infantry; we are the ones with the guns (not just the maps) in our hands. Even if you are an executive in analytics, you are still a practitioner, because this isn’t a profession you can avoid getting your hands dirty in.

When we get back to our analyzing and identify issues with the site’s performance or customer experience, we will have a new understanding of the types of conversations and decisions that led us to this point. We can also see these potential points of failure, losses of efficiency, and causes for bad decisions in current conversations taking place. We can become better analysts by putting our UX, IA, marketing, etc. “opportunities” into a qualitative context: that these could and should have been better experiences with higher ROI and overall performance, but there were giant stones sliding across the downhill course, causing the skiers to go flying into the woods.

When we do our analysis not just on the customer and the web site, but include some findings on the internal workings of the business, our work can take on a whole new light and reach a whole new audience. We can become the resource we should be to all arms and all sports, and we can do a huge service to the individual athletes by pointing out their overridden efforts to avoid these pitfalls when decisions were being made. We don’t need to point fingers or name names of those who steamrolled the “right” decision, just merely recap the facts in an effort to learn from our own mistakes.

So, who’s our next lunch going to be with?


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  1. Jason Paulsen

    I just had this exact conversation with our BA team. I was chatting with them about the possibilities of using the analytics to not only help identify issues with the website, but understand how those issues impact other teams, such as the call center folks.

    Posted August 4, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Permalink