Analysis Exchange members going to X Change 2010
Earlier this year after we launched the Analysis Exchange we put out our first challenge to the membership. We asked people to “be exceptional” in their participation, to step up and make a difference by working harder than expected, by bringing crazy passion to their work, and by participating in unexpected ways. In exchange for “being exceptional” we said we would provide a complimentary pass to one mentor and one student to this year’s X Change conference in Monterey, California September 20, 21, and 22.
Today I am pleased to announce your exceptional winners of this challenge.
While nearly everyone who has participated in Analysis Exchange thus far has really blown my mind with their energy, their commitment, and their willingness to do something special for the larger web analytics and nonprofit communities, five people really stood out in the crowd.
- Sarah DeAtley, Mentor from Washington who worked like crazy to sign up her fellow Seattle-ites and continues to evangelize for the effort;
- Victor Acquah, Mentor from Virginia who participated in both our Alpha and Beta tests with PBS and provided tremendously valuable feedback;
- Jason Thompson, Mentor from Utah who has stepped up repeatedly to mentor projects and has helped a great deal to spread the word;
- Jan Alden Cornish, Student from California who has not only participated in multiple projects but has been an invaluable source of ideas and feedback;
- Michael Healy, Student from California who has helped out on numerous projects and who really understands what Analysis Exchange is trying to do.
Unfortunately not everyone would have been able to make the X Change this year due to previous commitments; fortunately that made our job selecting the finalists nominally easier. To make our final decision we asked everyone to send us a short paragraph describing “what they have learned” in Analysis Exchange to date. Here is what we heard back:
From Jason Thompson:
“First let me say, that with the amazing cast of students and mentors
that make up the Analysis Exchange, I am truly humbled to be
considered for this honor.
The Analysis Exchange has reminded me that what makes us truly rich is
not the contents of our wallets or how much money we have in our bank
accounts, whoa….sorry…started channeling Tyler Durden there for a
second, but what makes us truly rich are the relationships we have in
So what have I learned thus far? I have learned that we are all
students and that if we are open, there are many great lessons for us
to be taught.
I didn’t join the AE with the thought of getting anything in return,
although I have been given many wonderful gifts through my
participation. I joined because the AE provided me with the
opportunity to give back to an industry that has given me so much.
I honestly feel a little bit weird writing this email and the humble
Jason in me says this opportunity should go the person who would
benefit from it the most.”
From Jan Alden Cornish:
“My two Analysis Exchange student projects have demonstrated several key takeaways. First, project management principles are paramount. The project kick-of meeting should reinforce the Analysis Exchange project priorities:
- Schedule: short-term project
- Cost : limited resource availability, with the expectation that the student have the most flexibility
- Scope: the project deliverables given the constraints
The project kick-off meeting should confirm the core roles and responsibilities of the project team members.
- Organizational Lead: the key business stakeholder who approves the project scope and project deliverables. The organizational lead may be the project manager
- Mentor : the web analysis expert / consultant. The mentor may be the project manager.
- Student: the primary execution resource
The project team has to rapidly converge on meeting times for reviewing and also for approving deliverables. The team needs to determine web / audio conferencing details: Skype, GoToMeeting, etc.
The first milestone is approving the project charter, which provides the scope definition and defines the team members’ roles and responsibilities. Scope definition may require more than one meeting, particularly if the business plan of the nonprofit organization does not clearly set forth measurable expectations for their web presence. For example, the organizational lead may be accountable for other time critical projects (i.e. migration to a new content management system). The Analysis Exchange project may run concurrently with other projects within the organization that impact its web presence (i.e, an outsourced web redesign).
A second key takeaway for me was that the nonprofit world is a microcosm of the real world. Thus, risk management is key. A risk is a potential issue which might adversely impact the success of the project. Risks may be categorized as technical or organizational. The web implementation may not allow certain analysis questions to be answered. Nonprofits often leverage third-party platforms for key business functions such as e-newsletter management, volunteer recruitment, and e-commerce. These functions might not be tightly integrated from an analytics reporting standpoint. They may “roll up” to other departments in the nonprofit’s organization. The nonprofit ‘s web implementation also may have a limited deployment of Google Analytics. Other web analysis tools that are deployed may not may not offer similar functionality to Google Analytics.
Armed with these takeaways from my first two Analysis Exchange projects I look eagerly forward to my next project.”
And from Michael Healy:
“Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results. – E. Shackleton
In my experience thus far with the Analysis Exchange I learned that the bounce rate, page views, time on page and every other web metric pretty much aren’t worth anything. More accurately, they aren’t worth anything to the client unless they start to solve a business problem.
Considering that the organizations in the Analysis Exchange aren’t selling anything per se, but instead are providing a non-profit service to others presented a few challenges. Working with Gordon Holstlander, of the Circle Drive Alliance Church of Saskatoon, and Michael Helbling, my excellent mentor, I learned how to work together as a team to move beyond the prima facie challenge.
Our project involved what appeared to be a simple analysis of the home page real estate to determine the best usage of the page. I built out several personas of usage for the CDAC website which showed dynamic access to information; with different goals at different times of the day, week and year. Answering ‘it depends’ to Gordon’s original question delighted my Econ brain to no end.
Moving beyond the population of people who already accessed the site, I was able to show Gordon how to do a simple Google Trends search for the Saskatoon area. An examination of the entire CDAC website also revealed a great source of underutilized content. These two were passed onto the client for future SEO usage.
The biggest lesson in the Analysis Exchange thus far has been the open dialog and client relationships developed. Websites can be very personal things, with people at non-profits often pouring countless hours into improving them.Michael facilitated an exchange of ideas with Gordon and me; such that when I made my presentation all parties were open to improvements. That is a lesson I will lean on for the rest of my career.”
As you can see we are honored to have members who are so thoughtful, intelligent, and especially in Jan’s case, precise! In the end the decision was nearly impossible to make … until Michael Healy mentioned that he would be coming to the X Change regardless of the outcome. To smooth that path we are sending Michael our “maximum discount” code for the conference and will ensure that he drinks his fill at the bar each evening.
Which leaves us with Jason Thompson and Jan Alden Cornish, this year’s Analysis Exchange at the X Change contest winners!
Jason and Jan will be coming to the X Change compliments of Analytics Demystified and Semphonic, co-hosts for the conference. I hope you will all join us in comments congratulating Jason, Jan, and all of our distinguished members! And if you are lucky enough to be joining us at this year’s X Change conference make sure to find Jason and Jan and congratulate them in person, shake their hands, and ask them about their experience in this effort.
The Analysis Exchange is always looking for more volunteer students, mentors, and nonprofit organizations. The X Change conference will be held September 20, 21, and 22 at the beautiful Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa in Monterey, California.