What is your web analytics communication strategy: Part II
(Last week I published PART I of this post which you should read first if you haven’t already done so.)
STEP FOUR: DETERMINE YOUR KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS AND CRITICAL REPORTS
You’re probably thinking “shouldn’t we have done this after we defined our business objectives and activities?” Conventional wisdom would probably say you should, but in my experience if you don’t have a clear process for leveraging those key performance indicators (KPIs) and critical reports, you may end up with one of three things:
- A huge report of 40 KPIs distributed across the organization that few people are likely to read and even fewer likely to act upon
- No KPIs distributed at all, and the expectation that everyone will simply “log in” and get the information on their own
- Well-defined and clearly articulated KPIs distributed hierarchically throughout the organization (because hey maybe you read a great book on the subject at some point)
The problem is that only the third possibility will deeply benefit your organization. I know that some people talk about hundreds of internal users who really get web analytics and all make superb decisions with the data, but this is very much the exception, not the rule. Remember, in our Analytics Demystified Spring Survey 69 percent of respondents said that they did not believe the majority of people using web analytics data in their organization actually understood that data.
It is far better for your analytics hub, as mandated by their executive sponsor in agreement with his or her peers throughout the organization, work directly with the individual spokes to ensure that appropriate KPIs are defined and the basis for those measures is clear. The hub then follows-up with appropriate explanation about the measures, including training on the reports and data that forms the basis of the indicators.
Your critical reports are directly tied to your key performance indicators (which remember are tied directly to your business objectives.) If you belong to the marketing organization than your KPIs will be measures like “Campaign Response Rate”, “Campaign Conversion Rate” and “Campaign Cost per Click”. Obviously as these KPIs change, appropriate tactical resources in the marketing spoke will review campaign response, conversion, and cost reports in your analytics application.
Your KPIs and critical reports will differ dramatically depending on what department you work for and where in that department you work — remember that the best practice for key performance indicator distribution is to deliver the specifically and hierarchically. Most attempts that I have seen to send “everything to everybody” have failed (often miserably).
STEP 5: DETERMINE HOW YOU’LL DELIVER ANALYSIS
Once you know what your KPIs and critical reports will look like, the next step is to determine how you’ll produce and deliver analysis. Let’s assume for a moment that you’ve got a hub-and-spoke model in place and the hub is receiving regular requests for more information, insights, and recommendations. The question then becomes “how will you deliver those insights and recommendations?”
As I said last week, there is no one “right” way to communicate about web analytics data but there are many, many wrong ways. The central challenge when delivering analysis stems from the fact that so few people really understand what web analytics terms mean, what the limitations of the technology are, and what is possible and impossible to report on. But it’s not like you can just give up and ignore the confusion, so what’s a great analyst to do?
The answer is “work harder, and think outside the box” (to use an overused term). While reports and raw data are best delivered using the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) method, analysis really needs to be more engaging. Remember: when you deliver analysis, what you really need to do is to convince the listeners that they need to take some action. To do this you absolutely have to be engaging.
Things that have worked for clients of mine in the past include:
- Well-delivered presentations, given IN PERSON, not just sent via email in hopes that people will review and understand
- Well-written documents, followed by a meeting to make sure that everyone READ the document and is on the same page
- Short summary documents, written up like a newsletter or newspaper article, designed to get people to attend a meeting or presentation
Since we’re in a Web 2.0 world, and since many of you are increasingly comfortable using new technology, a few other things you may want to consider include:
- An internal analysis Wiki that people can subscribe to and participate in. The Wiki is a good idea because it allows you to capture the conversation in a searchable format
- A regular analysis podcast, providing an update on past analysis and summarizing the data currently being reviewed
- A analysis video or vidcast, created with tools like TechSmith Camasis that allow you to easily blend images, live screen capture (useful when showing people live data in your analytics application), and annotation
The advantage the final two ideas confer is their ability to be downloaded to an MP3 player like the iPod or iPhone. If you have busy executives, you might be better able to reach them if you give them something to watch on the airplane or listen to on the drive home.
Keep in mind that none of these “Web 2.0” strategies should replace well-written, well-presented analysis, delivered in person whenever possible and making specific recommendations for changes (including a testing plan when possible!)
STEP 6: PUT IT ALL TOGETHER!
Assuming you’ve completed the previous five steps, you now have a functional web analytics organization, one capable of delivering relevant reports and producing actionable analysis. Now the challenge is to stop spending all of your time generating reports and start delivering analysis!
Unfortunately, for many organizations this is really, really difficult. Even when there are dedicated resources — people specifically hired to do web “analytics” (not web “reporting”) — far too many bright folks end us spending all of their time churning out reports. Even worse, these reports often go unread, unused, and unnoticed despite the real and opportunity costs associated with generating them.
To be really, really successful with web analytics you have to train the organization to stop looking for reports and start asking for analysis, insights, and recommendations. While every situation is different, ask yourself how closely your organization follows these steps:
- Automated KPI reports arrive, highlighting a potential problem associated with a core business objective
- Line of business analytics resources consult critical reports directly looking for a reasonable explanation
- Failing a reasonable explanation, business resources request analysis resources from the analytics hub
- Analytics hub double-checks LOB’s cursory analysis, confirming the need for deeper exploration
- Analytics hub prioritizes analysis with the business based on pre-agreed criteria
- Analysis is delivered back to the business along with recommendations and a testing plan
- Recommendations are reviewed by the business, test plan is agreed upon
- Tests are run, results are socialized as follow-up to the original analysis
- Incremental value of change is recorded to help calculate web analytics return on investment
Individual departments are still getting their reports, but they’re generating them by themselves. Senior managers have an appropriate view into the metrics, and their own resources to evaluate observed changes. Those resources have a way to get help when help is needed. Help (the hub) isn’t bogged down generating ad hoc reports all the time and is able to focus on high-value priorities. People produce analysis and make recommendations. Recommendations are tested. Optimization happens.
Kinda brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?
I know there are a hundred other things that come up in the line of business for any of you who are working practitioners, but having a clear communication strategy is the first step towards whittling that list down to something reasonable and, more importantly, valuable to your organization. Defining your business objectives, clarifying ownership and organization structures, establishing KPIs and critical reports, and knowing what your analysis output will actually look like is fundamental.
Defining your web analytics communication strategy will let the data work for you, not make you work for the data. It will help you move from making purely tactical decisions and start using web analytics strategically as part of your entire business. Over time you’ll find that a clear strategy, no surprise, helps the entire organization better understand web analytics in general and the value your investment can provide. And perhaps most importantly, a clear strategy will cut down on the volume of under-used, unused, and ignored reports traveling across your network.
If you’re interested in defining a web analytics communication strategy in your organization, I’d love to talk to you. If you don’t need help, I’m still happy to provide encouragement. If I can help you, great. If I can’t help you, I bet I know somebody who can!