A few weeks ago I started pinging folks within the digital measurement community asking about the work we do, the challenges we face, and how we got where we are today. The responses I got were all tremendously positive and showed a true commitment to web analytics across vendor, consultant, and end-user practitioner roles. What I learned was, well, exactly what I expected given my decade-plus in the sector: “web analytics” is still a relatively immature industry, one populated by diverse opinions, experiences, and backgrounds.
Those of you who have been following my work know that I have spent a great deal of time working to create solutions for the sector. As a matter of record I was the first to create an online community for web analytics professionals and explicitly point out the need for dedicated analysis resources back in 2004, and the first to publish a web analytics maturity model and change how web analytics practitioners interact with their local community back in 2005. I’ve also written a few books, a few blog posts, and have logged a few miles in the air working with some amazing companies to improve their own use of web analytics.
I offer the preceding paragraph not to brag but rather to establish my credentials as part of setting the stage for what the rest of this post is about. Like many in web analytics — Jim Sterne, Avinash Kaushik, and Bryan Eisenberg all come to mind — I have worked tirelessly at times to evolve and improve the landscape around us. And with the following announcement I hope to have lightning strike a fourth time …
But I digress.
One of the key questions I asked in Twitter was “how did you get started [in web analytics?]” Unsurprisingly each and every respondent gave some variation on “miraculously, and without premeditation.” While people’s responses highlighted the enthusiasm we have in the sector, it also highlighted what I see as the single most significant long-term problem we face in web analytics.
We haven’t created an entry path into the system.
As a community of vendors, consultants, practitioners, evangelists, authors, bloggers, Tweeters, socializers, and thought-leaders, we have failed nearly 100% at creating a way for talented, motivated, and educated individuals who are “not us” to gain the real-world experience required to actually participate meaningfully in this wonderful thing that we have all created.
Before the comments about the Web Analytics Association UBC classes or the new certification pour in consider this: The UBC course offers little or no practical experience with real data and real-world business problems, and the certification is designed, as stated, “for individuals having at least three years of experience in the sector.” Both are incredibly valuable, but they are not the type of training the average global citizen wishing to apply their curiosity, their precision, and their individual talents to the study of web data need to actually get a good job coming from outside the sector.
And while I have little doubt people have landed jobs based on completion of the UBC course given the resource constraints we face today, as a former hiring manager and consultant to nearly a dozen companies who are constantly looking for experienced web analysts, I can assure you that book-based education is not the first requirement being looked for. Requirement number one is always, and always will be, direct, hands-on experience using digitally collected data to tell a meaningful story about the business.
Today I am incredibly happy to announce my, my partners, and some very nice people’s solution to this problem. At 6:30 PM Eastern time at the Web Analytics Wednesday event in Cambridge, Massachusetts my partner John Lovett shared the details of our newest community effort, The Analysis Exchange.
What is The Analysis Exchange?
The Analysis Exchange is exactly what it sounds like — an exchange of information and analytical outputs — and is functionally a three-partner exchange:
- At one corner we have small businesses, nonprofits, and non-governmental organizations who rarely if ever make any substantial use of the web analytic data most are actively collecting thanks to the amazing wonderfulness of Google Analytics;
- In the next corner we have motivated and intelligent individuals, our students, who are looking for hands-on experience with web analytics systems and data they can put on their resume during when looking for work or looking to advance in their jobs;
- And at the apex of the pyramid we have our existing community of analytics experts, many of whom have already demonstrated their willingness to contribute to the larger community via Web Analytics Wednesday, the WAA, and other selfless efforts
The Analysis Exchange will bridge the introductions between these three parties using an extremely elegant work-flow. Projects will be scoped to deliver results in weeks, effort from businesses and mentors is designed to be minimal, and we’re working on an entire back-end system to seamlessly connect the dots. And have I already mentioned that it will do so without any money changing hands?
Yeah, The Analysis Exchange is totally, completely, 100 percent free.
John, Aurelie, and I decided early on, despite the fact that we are all consultants who are just as motivated by revenue as any of our peers, that the right model for The Analysis Exchange would be the most frictionless strategy possible. Given our initial target market of nonprofits and non-governmental organizations, most of whom our advisers from the sector warned were somewhat slow to invest in technology and services, “free” offered the least amount of friction possible.
Businesses bring data and questions, mentors bring focus and experience, and students bring a passion to learn. Businesses get analysis and insights, students gain experience for their resume, and mentors have a chance to shape the next wave of digital analysis resources … resources the mentor’s organizations are frequently looking to hire.
More importantly, our mentors will be teaching students and businesses how to produce true analytical insights, not how to make Google Analytics generate reports. Our world is already incredibly data rich, but the best of us are willing to admit that we are still also incredibly information poor. Students will be taught how to actually create analysis — a written document specifically addressing stated business needs — and therein lies the true, long-term value to our community.
Too many reports, not enough insights. This has been the theme of countless posts, a half-dozen great books, and nearly every one of the hundred consulting engagements I have done in the past three years. The Analysis Exchange is a concerted effort to slay the report monkeys and teach the “analysts” of the future to actually produce ANALYSIS!
A few things you might want to know about The Analysis Exchange (in addition to the FAQ we have up on the official web site):
- Initially we will be limiting organizational participants to nonprofit and non-governmental entities. We are doing this because we believe this approach simultaneously provides the greatest benefit back beyond the web analytics community and provides a reasonable initial scope for our efforts. Plus, we’ve partnered with NTEN: the Nonprofit Technology Network who are an amazing organization of their own;
- Initially we will be hand-selecting mentors wishing to participate in the program. Because we are taking a cautious approach towards the Exchange’s roll-out in an effort to learn as much as possible about the effort as it unfolds, we are going to limit mentor opportunities somewhat. Please do write us if you’re interested in participating, and please don’t be hurt if we put you off … at least for a month or two;
- With the previous caution in mind, we are definitely open to help from the outside! If you have experience with this type of effort or just have a passion for helping other people please let us know. Just like with Web Analytics Wednesday, we know that when The Analysis Exchange gets cranking we will need lots and lots of help;
Because this post is beginning to approach the length at which I typically tune out myself I will stop here and point readers to three resources to learn more about The Analysis Exchange:
- We have a basic, informational web site at http://www.analysis-exchange.com that has a nice video explaining the Exchange model in a little greater detail;
- You can email us directly at email@example.com for more information or to let us know if you’re willing to help with Exchange efforts;
- You can follow Exchange efforts in Twitter by following @analysisxchange
As you can probably detect from the post I’m pretty excited about this effort. Like I did when I co-founded Web Analytics Wednesday, I have some amazing partners on this project. And like I did when I founded the Yahoo! group, I believe this effort will satisfy an incredible pent-up demand. Hopefully you will take the time to share information about The Analysis Exchange with your own network, and as always I welcome your thoughts, comments, and insights.
Learn more at http://www.analysis-exchange.com