Ana­lyt­ics can be like a kid in a candy store…when a com­pany sets off to put a new ana­lyt­ics sys­tem into place, they get so excited about all the things they’ll be able to mea­sure that they for­get many vital ele­ments they need to think about before ever deploy­ing the plat­form.  Here are five com­mon pit­falls that I see com­pa­nies fall into again and again. Avoid­ing them can make for much smoother sail­ing as you go about your imple­men­ta­tion and ensure you can get your candy and eat it too!
Pit­fall #1. Neglect­ing key stakeholders

It often hap­pens that the per­son who plans for and over­sees the imple­men­ta­tion wants to own it and be sole keeper of the data. Whether this stems from a mis­placed desire to shield oth­ers from any extra work that might come up around the imple­men­ta­tion or from a wish to be ruler of the data king­dom, it will cause major problems.Websites touch all facets of an orga­ni­za­tion, so a web ana­lyt­ics deploy­ment should reflect all facets of the orga­ni­za­tion. Every­one needs to be involved. This is no longer 1997, when a web­site was run as a closet ini­tia­tive.  Not get­ting require­ments nailed down at the out­set, from all con­cerned, can lead to big problems.

Pit­fall #2. Focus­ing on tac­ti­cal requirements

When deploy­ing an ana­lyt­ics pack­age like Omni­ture, you must under­stand your strate­gic busi­ness require­ments — that is, what you, as a busi­ness owner or stake­holder, will need from the ana­lyt­ics.  What strate­gic ques­tions do you want to answer? And by strate­gic I do not mean how pop­u­lar a link may be on a page…that is tac­ti­cal.  Strate­gic ques­tions are directly linked to your company’s strate­gic ini­tia­tives. So start with your company’s 3 or 5 key pri­or­i­ties – as out­lined by your CEO – and then deter­mine what ques­tions you need to answer to sup­port those.  Every com­pany I have work at or worked with has had 1000 dif­fer­ent things they want to do with their web­site, but it’s amaz­ing when you apply a lens of strate­gic CEO goals to these ini­tia­tives, how few are actu­ally rel­e­vant.  It’s a pow­er­ful yet sim­ple approach to pri­or­i­tiz­ing. For each project, just ask your­self – “how does this sup­port the goal out­lined by my CEO?”.  If you can’t clearly answer that ques­tion, you’re prob­a­bly deal­ing with a tac­ti­cal require­ment and some­thing that is sec­ondary to your deployment.

Pit­fall #3 — Believ­ing “data” equals “requirements”

As you go through the strate­gic require­ments gath­er­ing process, bear in mind that your require­ments are not the same as data.  When asked what your require­ments are, your instinct might be to say, “I need hits, I need time spent on page, I need num­ber of vis­i­tors…” Those are all met­rics, and quite frankly, all three of those are ques­tion­able in their strate­gic value.A require­ment is a busi­ness ques­tion you want to answer.  The met­ric is the gauge by which you answer that ques­tion (aka your Key Per­for­mance Indi­ca­tor).  For exam­ple, if you are dri­ving a car, the busi­ness ques­tion may be “how fast am I dri­ving?”  The imple­men­ta­tion of a speedome­ter (report) allows you to answer this ques­tion. And the met­ric of miles per hour (or kilo­me­ters per hour) allows you to deter­mine how fast you are actu­ally going. But just say­ing you need a miles per hour report doesn’t help because you haven’t estab­lished the busi­ness question.

So to sum­ma­rize, under­stand your man­date at a high level, and then artic­u­late the steps you are tak­ing to hit that goal. If your goal is to improve con­ver­sions, there are a num­ber of things you’ll try in order to achieve that: you may redesign your nav­i­ga­tion or improve your reg­is­tra­tion process or make reg­is­tra­tion optional.  The data you need will fall out nat­u­rally from know­ing your requirements.

Pit­fall #4. Not focus­ing on KPIs that are specif­i­cally tied to the goal.

If you think you have 20 or 30 key per­for­mance indi­ca­tors, then you don’t under­stand the con­cept of KPIs.  Think of the dash­board of your car.  There are many data points you can gain by look­ing at the dash­board, but there are only three or four that really mat­ter.  If you come up with dozens of met­rics that you absolutely must have, you’re not focus­ing on your true busi­ness goal. I can guar­an­tee you that.This doesn’t mean that you can’t mea­sure other things that are sec­ondary KPIs — but it does mean you don’t want to focus on them right away.

When imple­ment­ing an ana­lyt­ics pack­age, above all else you want to ensure that your KPIs are mea­sured.  Don’t waste time on non-strategic mea­sures.  Ask your­self this: if your CEO was stuck on an island and you could tell him only three things about your busi­ness so he would know the busi­ness was healthy, what would you tell him? If you said the aver­age time spent on a page was 1 minute 30 sec­onds, that tells him noth­ing. If you tell him your aver­age rev­enue per visit was $2.00 and you had 2 mil­lion vis­its, that is some­thing he will under­stand as a true mea­sure of busi­ness suc­cess.  There is so much oppor­tu­nity to mea­sure ini­tia­tives and improve on them based on four or five met­rics that you can keep your­self busy for months and even years.  Don’t fret about mea­sur­ing every lit­tle last detail. You’ll make your­self crazy and you won’t be sup­port­ing your busi­ness goals.

My next post will address three more pit­falls. Stay tuned!


I've just paraphrased your fourth point in an email to a client. They seem to be believing that because their analytics package can tell them so many things that they're all KPI. I'm hoping I've managed to get them to start thinking of their KPI in terms of their business goals - and if they ask one more time what the average is for their industry for every stat their analytics package can churn out - they currently want to increase the number of users who visit their site with Firefox as this browser has the highest conversion to email sign up! Hopefully have talked them out of having browser use stats as a 'KPI' in their web marketing. Cheers for the help Michael

Avinash Kaushik
Avinash Kaushik

"This is no longer 1997, when a website was run as a closet initiative." Priceless!! : ) This is a great post Matt, but do you think that #1 and #2 are in conflict with each other? Whenever I asked all the stakeholders a bunch of, let me just politely call it, "stuff" gets added and it is usually non value add and tactical. Yet, and you are right, tactical is so distracting. How do you resolve that inherent conflict? My path usually was: Just talk to the senior most people (say VP or higher) in the company to get "requirements". They have a inherent dislike of the tactical and that meant both that strategic questions were received but without the tactical (get me time on site). What do you think? -Avinash.