Continuing my series of articles on the “Seven Keys to Creating a Data-Driven Organization”, I’d now like to focus on the next key area – staffing and training, which I’m going to break into two separate articles. Looking first at staffing, I like to compare the key roles in a web analytics program to the positions on a sports team. Regardless of whether your sport is baseball, hockey, football, or “futebol”, a sports team has several crucial positions which need to be filled.

Most organizations have the necessary equipment – web analytics tools – but may find it sitting idle most of the time while one or two people run around the field trying to cover several positions. If you don’t have all of the key positions covered then it can be difficult to win the game or be successful with web analytics. Imagine how successful your favorite sports team would be without a pitcher, goalie, quarterback, or striker – let alone a great one. Make sure you have a box of Kleenex on hand when you ask a Chicago Bears fan about their lack of a quarterback (40+ changes to their starting quarterback since 1992).

I’ve presented this analogy several times over the past couple of years and even though I’m a die-hard hockey fan (it’s in my Canadian blood), I’ve primarily used baseball for this analogy. At Omniture’s Tokyo Summit in 2008, I used all-star outfielder, Ichiro Suzuki, in my slides. For the Salt Lake City Summit last February, I was originally going to use Yankees all-star Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez. However, when he admitted to using banned substances, I ended up using another player, Dodgers all-star Manny Ramirez . . . who was later suspended for 50 games for using performance-enhancing drugs.

My point in bringing this up is that just like professional sports, there are no shortcuts in building a web analytics program. That’s the last thing you probably want to hear when budgets are tighter than ever, and managers are being forced to “do more with less”. Other than supplementing your program with fully-trained and experienced consultants, there’s no magic pill for adding more staff or transforming inexperienced resources into web analytics experts. However, even in this tough economy, some determined companies view the benefits from properly staffing a web analytics program and training up employees on the tools as crucial to their short- and long-term success. Let’s hope one of these companies is not your competitor.

Web analytics playing field

At one of my previous employers, I was part of a motley group of softball players. The company provided us with branded t-shirts and decent equipment, but each week we struggled to get sufficient numbers out to each game. If someone had a last-minute scheduling conflict, got sick, or preferred whatever was on TV that night (pre-DVR era), we were unable to field a complete team and would have to forfeit the game. It can be equally frustrating for participants in a web analytics program when not all of the positions are being covered, and the company is forced to forfeit many of the benefits derived from becoming more data-driven.

At a high-level, the following positions are critical to a successful web analytics program, although the size of your organization may change the need for certain roles as well as the number of people in each role:

  • Executive sponsor: Senior executive who sets priorities, provides high-level support, resolves internal conflicts, and promotes data-driven decision-making throughout the organization.
  • Web steering committee: Formed by the executive sponsor and contains executives from all web stakeholders. It is focused on overall web performance, strategy, and future initiatives.
  • Omniture owner: Manages Omniture relationship and web analytics program at company. The single point of contact for all web analytics-related issues for the organization.
  • Core team: Centralized team of web analysts focused on overall business measurement, reporting, and analysis. They report to the Omniture owner.
  • Business leads: Business managers and analysts at the business-unit level who are responsible for measurement, reporting, and analysis.
  • Technical leads: Web developers who implement SiteCatalyst at the business-unit level.

Two key players on the analytics field

In a previous article, I discussed the importance of having an executive sponsor, who is essentially the general manager for your web analytics team. As you build your web analytics team, two key types of players are needed. Web analysts are one key player on the analytics field, and frequently fill the roles of Omniture owner, core team member, or business lead. They typically possess the following characteristics:

  • Business-minded with marketing-related background
  • Analytical, inquisitive, and detail-oriented
  • Able to bridge gap between business and IT
  • Strong communication skills

Web analysts translate business requirements into technical specifications. They need to be effective communicators as they work with cross-functional groups, message the value of different findings to the organization, and drive optimization efforts throughout the company. A 2006 Forrester research study showed that web analysts could generate up to a 3000% ROI on their salary cost.

Similar to other famous sports duos such as Montana/Rice, Stockton/Malone, Gretzky/Kurri, Pele/Garrincha, etc., good technical leads can form a powerful tandem with web analysts, allowing the analysts to deliver the high ROI identified by Forrester. Technical leads provide the technical know-how to get the right measurement in place and working correctly. They possess the following attributes:

  • Solid understanding of internal web architecture and systems
  • Coding / web development expertise (JavaScript)
  • Familiarity with SiteCatalyst deployments
  • Business acumen

Frequently, large companies use a pool of IT staff to service different IT projects. When you have to work with different IT resources for each new web analytics project, you constantly have to educate new technical resources on web analytics and you’re also unable to designate a single point of contact for all future technical issues. For example, you may want to adjust the tagging for a Flash micro-site a few weeks after launch, but find out that you’re forced to work with a completely different technical resource because the original web developer has already been assigned to another IT project. It may not make sense to have an IT person fully dedicated to only web analytics projects, but it is a best practice to use the same resources for all web analytics initiatives.

In my next article, I’ll focus on the training considerations that are required to become more data-driven as an organization. Get ready for training camp.

Brent Dykes
Brent Dykes

John, I agree. Knowledge sharing is very important. I cover that a little more in the next part of this article, where I talk about establishing a web analytics community. You're absolutely right that the core team (if you're in a large organization) should play a key role in promoting user adoption throughout the company via various training opportunities. In terms of IT's role in web analytics, I've interacted lots of different organizations. I find that when the two sides -- business and IT -- form a close partnership on web analytics then you're going to have a better implementation that measures the right things in an efficient manner. When one side forces its will over the other, you either end up with a wasteful or impotent implementation -- both of which are suboptimal situations.

John Hunter
John Hunter

I think a big key is to have this important knowledge shared. It is important for IT staff and business staff understand the importance of web analytics. When they are doing their particular jobs they need to integrate these ideas into their tasks. I would actually prefer to have the knowledge spread out (rather than a dedicated team) though if the organization is large enough some dedicated staff can help - and one of their focuses should be to educate others. I find that IT often understands the importance of analytics better than the rest of the organization - and try to stop foolish decisions from being implimented. But often people see IT as an organization that should just implement what we tell you. And those doing the telling don't have an understanding of the impact of the decisions they make. Some may not like it but in the web space technical expertise is required to understand the options and strengths and weaknesses of various options.


great example showing grossman dropping the ball on something so easy, it really illustrates the point you're making. it is better to have one person dedicated to one project, it may cost more money but in the long run with all the time you save, by getting it done correctly will be worth it.

Brent Dykes
Brent Dykes

Sorry about poking at a still tender wound for Bears fans. I hope Jay Cutler works out for the Bears at the QB position. I've worked with a few great analyst / technical tandems over the years as well as many dysfunctional teams. I found the "assigned / dedicated" technical person to be really critical to organizational success with web analytics as they worked closely with web analysts. The implementations were tighter. Changes could be made more quickly. More people at these companies ended up relying on the data and reports. They could also push the limits of our tools and use them in innovative ways. All of these benefits fueled the success of their analytics programs.

Adam Ware
Adam Ware

Brent, why did you have to take a great post like this and ruin it with that picture of Rex Grossman? Seriously though, great breakdown of the stakeholders, I love the playing field model. I think your last paragraph about having to educate IT staff is spot on also. Having technical resources dedicated to analytics has a dramatic effect on efficiency and growth of the analytics program. Oh, and by the way, our quarterback situation has been resolved in Chicago... for now. - Adam (@wheresitworking)