You’re forgetting to analyze something very important

What would you tell your business if you found a tactic that was under-funded but has proven to consistently deliver real return for years on end? Something that has made the company a positive ROI for the entire time it’s been around, but where investment is just a fraction of what it could be and where incremental investment would mean that the opportunity wouldn’t disappear, that it may yield greater results, and that the opportunity may have more authority to drive decisions in other tactics?

So, that last part may have been a give-away. We’re talking about YOU.

You are incredibly valuable to your company. Probably a lot more valuable than you realize (only if you are driving business decisions, not if you are providing reporting). And you know what valuable people get? They get what they want.

Web analytics people consistently want these things:

  • More say
  • More ability to influence decision making
  • More people coming to them, earlier in the process, to discuss ideas
  • And who doesn’t want more money?
When I talk to most analytics people, though, I hear the same things. “It’s a slow process. These things take time. That’s now how things are. That’s not what businesses think of us. We aren’t worth that much.”

Well, pardon me, but that’s ridiculous.

We are a group of people who deliver amazing results that have real financial meaning to our businesses. We reveal mistakes that, when fixed, close the gap on hideously large amounts of lost revenue. We find the nuances to turn good ideas into great ones, when executed. We make every one of our channels more effective and profitable. We ensure that our usability and information architecture “best practices” really work for us, and add accountability to hundreds of SME-based tactics. And we make businesses ass-tons of money.

If we want to reach these goals of influence, respect, and money, we need to be aiming at targets that are farther out. We need to be impatient with results. You can’t just count on your business to give you the raise you deserve, because to them, you are a gold mine who thinks you are a dirt farm. You make a company millions and then call yourself a “measurer.” And they love it, because you are one of the cheapest success stories in their entire portfolio.

Yes, we may never have million dollar salaries and we may never have influence over companies that won’t make a single move without consulting us. Maybe. But are we going to get closer by saying we aren’t going to get there, or will we probably get closer by trying to get there?

What do I think? Knowing you people, I think when we try to do something, we do it.


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9 Comments

  1. Evan,

    Another thought provoking post. You say we should not be patient with the results. So with that how long should it be before these things come to be? How much should top level analysts/implementation folks be making?

    -Rudi

    Posted October 31, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink
  2. I think progress will be subjective. What will be objective is once we start fighting for progress, whether or not it is happening at all. The first steps are foundation-laying: we need to figure out what we collectively want, and who needs to be influenced to get it. This is something I am hoping the WAA will answer the call for, as the WAA currently has no mission statement that codifies in a way where we can say, “We did it.”

    Many, if not most, organizations like the WAA similarly state their purpose as “fostering the interests of professionals” in their field. So, this isn’t anything out of the ordinary, and it’s not a singled-out criticism. But in a field of results-oriented people, I don’t think it’s productive to not have a results-oriented membership association.

    As for salary, let’s just start simple: they should be able to make 1% of their impact. At the enterprise level, this will be a ridiculous number. And let’s not obsess over the definition of “their impact.” The point is, with any conceivable definition, it’s a lot bigger than it is today.

    Posted October 31, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink
  3. 1% of impact.

    Are you suggesting that this should be on top of some base? Or some pure commission like plan?

    Posted October 31, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Permalink
  4. My preference would be to have a solid base to make sure that the job isn’t always about short-term upside. Sometimes, it’s about reallocation, training/education, savings, and other things that may represent better long term decisions, rather than creating incentives to juice every piece of fruit that comes into view. But, having a portion of it driven by growth would be a nice incentive for people walking into a new job and trying to make pudding (to find the truth within). Putting too much of someone’s pay on commission can be highly destructive to the long-term, and would absolutely destroy any notion of web/digital analytics being about improving the consumer experience.

    To establish what that base should be, I think it would be a good idea to take a step back and look at what some of the more successful and productive analysts have done in terms of impact at different tiers of the market. I’d be curious at what point does 1% not keep the electricity on?

    Posted October 31, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink
  5. The closer data is to the core business,in general, the more valuable (or at least perceived value) the analytics role will be – its just that it prob won’t be called web analytics. So for companies like bitly etc., they have folks doing analytics, but they call them data scientists. And since these companies are about data, they not only analyze results, but are able to quick input/feedback/affect the product/process in the next time step.

    Posted November 1, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink
  6. Yep, great point, although I’ll contest the “data scientists” title. Just too nerdy of a title and doesn’t have an equivalent that people can relate to today. It doesn’t do us any favors. For progressive businesses creating titles from scratch, it’s fine. But for Bank of America, we need a title they can relate to. The word ‘web’ may not be relevant any more, so potentially ‘digital analytics’ or something like that is beginning to make more sense.

    I don’t understand why this field is fighting the “analytics” part of the title, really. The most influential people in the world are called analysts, whether that’s financial, political, military, research, or any number of things, and it’s something people can relate to or that we can point to as a comparative to explain the types of things we do and the influence our work can have.

    You are dead right about the importance of data being central to the organization. For new companies, they’d be best served to ingrain this in their culture from the beginning. But the challenge is for businesses that aren’t, it’s going to be a sell, and that’s a human thing. In my opinion, rather than pushing to make data central, it seems we should push to make people who believe in data central first, and allow their success to imbue a data-centric culture into the organization. But forcing data onto people who are not data-centric won’t work. It’s like a religion: are people more apt to adopt a religion if they admire someone who has adopted it and sets a good example, or if they are explained dogma and expected to adopt it?

    Posted November 1, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink
  7. Yes, and that is sort of my point. No one in those fields you mention has to explain/argue about the value of data/analytics. Why?
    Plus it is not the name, per se, but the presumed bundle of skills and roles.
    You have an online application or process. You measure its performance wrt. its users, and in turn use that information to improve. That is sort of what web analytics is all about, right? It also seems to be what folks who call themselves DataScience are about – but they don't seem to have to explain their value to the organization. Why?
    Is it because web analytics tends to sit in service to Marketing? DO they really do different things, or is it that they do similar things but at different types of companies? Or am I way off on my basic premise?

    Posted November 1, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink
  8. I guess my point is there is precisely zero “science” happening in 99% of the businesses we do analytics for, and the business side of the organization will just picture a bunch of nerds in lab coats playing around with data. It’s a fun title, but not one that makes any sense, especially in terms of output. I think the temptation is to describe what we do — in title and in longer form — in terms of the inputs and process, rather than the outputs. To make it simpler, there’s a difference between “analyzing” and “analysis”. The company wants the output, not the input. We go way too far when someone says, “What do you do?” in describing our daily routine, inputs, and process, rather than simply saying this:

    “We help companies make better decisions, more often.”

    Output.

    People that call themselves Data Scientists don’t have to explain that role to the organization because those organizations created those roles and cute titles. But when a CEO asks me what I do, there’s no way in hell I’m going to tell him “data science.” I’m going to tell him I help companies learn from their mistakes faster, put ideas into place and prove them faster, and add accountability to a lot of tactics that aren’t currently accountable to real business outcomes.

    Posted November 1, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink
  9. Ned Kumar

    Interesting arguments. I personally think ‘data scientists’ have a different role to play in an organization than ‘web analysts’ — plus the skills and knowledge base (imo) are different with the former being much more deeply rooted in the statistical/econometric/technical aspects.

    In terms of compensation, that is an interesting question to ponder about. One could hire the best farmer in the world and give him a terrific compensation initially but unless there is a corresponding commitment to providing land, tools, resources etc. his output will be severely limited and disillusionment sets in on both sides.

    Probably not a good analogy but the point being that many firms still have a myopic view of what web analytics is about rather than looking at what is needed to get the most value out of their people in this field.

    Cheers,
    -Ned

    Posted November 1, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink