Saturday, January 26, 2013

Creating Value through Analytics: A Question of Culture

Creating Value through Analytics: A Question of Culture


Web analytics is broad a dynamic topic these days.  And rightfully so. When well-executed, a web analytics technology can facilitate everything from brand exposure, to improved customer relationship management, to lower costs for a brand.  A lot has been written on the best technology suite to use or what KPI’s are really important. But before getting into the nitty-gritty details about a specific technology or analytics strategy, a bigger picture question must be posed, “Is your organization ready for web analytics on a cultural level?”
This question may seem overly simplistic.  It may seem vague.  It may even seem outdated.  However, It is incredibly important to have a clear understanding about how your company culture aligns with the what web analytics can achieve.  Or maybe more importantly what web analytics represents.  The topic and practice represents the attitude of not just measuring but predicting, not just asking “what” but “why”.  Its the embodiment of being pro-active instead of reactive.  It’s much more than an expenditure on new software.  After all, it doesn’t matter what suite is chosen, what metrics are spotlighted, etc.  If the the goal of turning data into real business intelligence isn’t culturally accepted, technology implementation will be a real struggle.   Web analytics, turns data into business intelligence.  Its not a single event and can’t be treated as such.  Rather, it has to be accepted as an ongoing discipline, thats embedded in the organization.  It’s about culture. [2]
So where do organizations lie today? Answers concerning cultural acceptance most likely range across a wide spectrum.  Some brands and companies are fully immersed in web analytics, constructing predictive models of customer behavior, and seeing increases in bottom line profits and margins because of it.  The may feel that the practice and technology is by no means new, but rather something that keeps them on par with other competitors in the industry.  Still others might be saying, “What are these internets that everyone keeps talking about?”
So what if your organization lands closer to the latter?  What if your CEO’s major concern is, “If I get trapped in the World Wide Web, will I be eaten by a world wide spider?”  In this case, not only do you have technical decisions to make concerning technology, but you have some cultural attitudes to shift as well.  It’s a challenging process.  
Changing a culture is a large-scale undertaking, and eventually all of the organizational tools for changing minds will need to be put in play.” [3]
First, make the practice of web analytics, or more importantly the spirit behind it, accessible and desirable to embrace.  Technical specifications, KPI’s, and all the fancy jargon, will help you quickly lose your audience if they don’t understand the bigger picture.  “Start by understanding what you’re working with by taking a realistic assessment of your organization’s culture.” [4]
Depict a process of analyzing data and generating intelligence, all in an effort to better understand the customer, the market, and create sustainable advantages over competitors.  Accountants analyze costs and suggest more efficient methods. Financial analysts review numbers and formulate revenue projections.  What makes web analytics people any different?  Nothing.  But always attempt to frame things on a level that people can understand.
Next, remember the people whose minds you are trying to change, are decision makers who are focused on profits and value.  The process facilitates intelligent decision making. It’s pretty simple.  Tie measures and key performance indicators, to value creation.   Now you’re talking their language. 
It’s always good to have support.  A few key people in influential positions, can help facilitate the process a great deal.  You don’t have to sell the whole crowd at once, but try to identify key decision makers, who can become advocates for implementation.  This will go a long way to not just change a few minds, but build a culture for success. ”Important colleagues or co-workers who were on the fence before may be strongly persuaded to jump on the bandwagon if a supervisor, partner, or even the owner supports the efforts.” [5]
And finally, make sure you have the right team structurally constructing things from the bottom up.  Not only do these folks need to be proficient in their role, but they need to be able to translate what they do to the people discussed above.  Those decision makers looking at things from the top down. 
These tactics are by no means exhaustive. The potential value created by analysis in both decision making ability and profit generation is truly staggering for an organization, a company, and a brand.  But understanding where your organization is culturally, and more importantly where it needs to be, is critical for success. Culture determines if implementation will be successful and if value will actually be created. After all, the best technology, the best measures, and the best insight, can’t result in value creation without proper implementation.  Culture is Key!

[2] accessed on January 19, 2012

[3] Denning, Steve. “How do you change an organizational culture”. Forbes. July, 2007.

[4] Lovett, John. “Building a culture of measurement”. published on January 29, 2010.

[5] Texieria, Joe. “It takes a village to raise a culture of web analytics”. published on August 10, 2009