I recently experienced shock and awe in the web analytics industry. I was speaking with a VP of Marketing who had asked for best practices in organizational success with web analytics and marketing measurement. She confessed to knowing very little about web analytics and how their marketing group could benefit from such tools.

But before I had the chance to reply, she quickly pointed out that they had already decided only a few users would be allowed to access the entire system. While their organization numbered several hundred employees, including around 70 in marketing alone, they felt that only four employees – that’s right – four, should have access to all the marketing data in this analytics package. All other individuals – anyone that wanted a report, an analysis, or simply had a question – would have to request it from one of these four people. In this day and age, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

The vendor she selected, which I’ll leave anonymous, sold them on the idea that organizational access to data was “bad” and it created more problems than it solved. To drive this point home, the vendor charges several *thousand* dollars per additional user – effectively prohibiting the company from really growing beyond the four initial users without some serious budget considerations.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – just when I thought the days of Ivory Tower analytics were over! In all my experience, success is a direct function of organizational analytics adoption. When marketers have data, they can make decisions. Informed decisions. These decisions drive profit and maximize ROI, far better than your gut. In other words, data removes the subjectivity. If you take this away, marketers are just guessing what works, what doesn’t, and why. So why would you even consider this?

The misguided notion is that organizational access to data creates “more problems than it solves”. This elitist, Ivory Tower philosophy basically asserts that a mere 1% of your organization is “smart enough” to make decisions from your data. While this is convenient for the vendor that advocated this expensive per user model to the VP of Marketing, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here’s the reality – problems can occur with end-user access to data – but they occur when end-users get the WRONG data. Not when end-users get the RIGHT data. In other words, the problem is not with the end-user, it’s with the data itself.

So how do you ensure your end-users are getting the RIGHT data? First, understand what questions you’d like to answer with analytics – before deploying the system. Second, agree on what metrics best answer these questions – for example, is it click-thru rate, revenue per click, or profit per customer? Third, discuss the results with your team or group – while the data may suggest a campaign is not working, you have many options for what actions you ultimately take.

The Omniture Best Practices team is here to help you thru this process, so please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.

In parting I say do not get blindsided by Ivory Tower analytics – they ultimately cost you more, and severely limit your success. Data mongers beware – your days are numbered!