In my previous article, I discussed how organizations sometimes focus too much on having the right “tools” and not enough on the people behind the tools. It’s a common problem among companies striving to become more proficient in web analytics. It may appear as though just having the right tools in place will magically lift an organization to data-driven greatness. However, just like in sports, having the right equipment is only part of the formula for success. For example, a well-tuned, technologically-advanced race car is useless on the NASCAR circuit without a skilled driver, crew chief, and pit crew to get it across the finish line.

One part of the “people investment” is making sure that your organization has enough people covering the various positions on the web analytics playing field (see Part I). The second part of the “people investment” is to ensure people receive adequate training to excel in their roles. Just having people standing on the bases and outfield positions does not mean they are ready to play ball. Hopefully, each individual knows what to do when the ball comes to them and has been trained to perform their role effectively.

Good to great – through training

In a Fortune article “Secrets of Greatness“, Geoffrey Colvin revealed how natural talent was irrelevant to great success. From Tiger Woods to Warren Buffet, research showed the secret to their success came down to hard work and practice – not some unfair natural gifts. The article pointed out that if Michael Jordan were just born with superhuman basketball skills, he wouldn’t have been cut from his high school team.  Just like high-profile athletes, the people filling the various web analytics positions need to go through hours of training to develop, maintain, and hone their skills in order to be effective in their roles and get the most out of the provided tools. Kurt Schlegel at META Group stated, “While web analytics technologies can be quite easy to use, the extent of their potential benefits is still not well-understood. . . Detailed training opportunities are essential for getting the most business benefit from these solutions.”

Fostering the user adoption of web analytics tools can be a critical success factor in creating a data-driven organization. As more people share and leverage the tools, a company can derive more business value from its web analytics investment. Persistent training plays a key role in driving user adoption. Paul Strupp at Sun Microsystems stated that “training is not a zero-sum game”, and found that its value to the company significantly outweighed its costs. One important way to encourage user adoption is to provide adequate training opportunities at all levels within your organization.

The web analytics training pyramid

All great athletes start by learning the basics and then continue training to further hone their skills. The training triangle below shows how different individuals within your organization will need different training approaches. At the top of this pyramid, you focus on advancing the expertise of the company’s core team of web analysts and technical staff. This select group of individuals will require more formal training options such as Omniture certification courses. At the next level, you leverage the formal training and expertise of the core team to facilitate internal one-on-one training for executives and internal workshops for other key users. At the bottom of the pyramid, the large community of end users will leverage more self-service options – both internally produced options as well as on-demand videos available from Omniture.

It takes a village

In a recent conversation with a web analyst at a major insurance company, the topic of web governance came up and how “it takes a village” to establish a data-driven culture. An internal web analytics community (i.e., village) can advance tool usage and adoption throughout the company.

Paul Strupp shared how persistent internal training helped to nurture a web analytics community at Sun Microsystems. Sun’s web analytics email discussion list grew from ten people to more than one hundred people. Approximately half of the questions are now answered by community members outside of Strupp’s core team. In addition, the sophistication of the questions has evolved from “Page views or visits?” to “Why does my marketing campaign show high software downloads but low offline lead pipeline value?” Strupp identified one key benefit of developing a web analytics “village” is that “it puts the analytical capability closer to the business rather than in a remote ‘reporting’ group.” Enabling the people on the “front lines” to analyze their part of the business and take action makes great business sense.

In my next blog post, I’ll be looking at the “rules” of the village or in other words how to establish and maintain corporate standards.

4 comments
Brent Dykes
Brent Dykes

John, you're right. The goal of creating a data-driven organization is not to collect more data. It is to gather useful insights from the collected data and act on them. That may seem overly simplistic, but it is too often overlooked by organizations.

John Hunter
John Hunter

Management should be largely about managing people. Too often managers think their job is to manage spreadsheets and sit in meetings explaining results or talking about spreadsheets. Data is helpful but you need people to think about how to improve based on the data seen. And as you say, we need to invest in people and treat our organizations as systems of people - managing a human system is not the same as managing a computer system.

Brent Dykes
Brent Dykes

Kathleen, thanks for the feedback. I thought the Village People image would be fun. :)

Kathleen Hurley at Actio
Kathleen Hurley at Actio

I love your "it takes a village" photo -- now that's a good use of media to catch a reader's attention! Really, you guys do a great job. Keep it up, good things will come to you.