Analysts, and executives, and monkeys! Oh, my! (Part 1)

By | 2011-11-20

Last week I had the great honor to present at the first ever Accelerate event hosted by Web Analytics Demystified, sponsored by Ensighten, OpinionLab & Tealeaf.

Having been to many events over the years, I can safely say that this type of event is one that hasn’t been done before in the context of the web analytics industry. There were two forms of presentations, 20 minute / 10 tips and 5 minute / 1 big idea. The list of speakers in both formats was fantastic and the resulting votes for best speakers, Ben Gaines & Tim Wilson, could not have been more accurate.

Originally I was very disappointed that I was not going to be able to attend. Luckily, at the last minute someone dropped out of the 5 minute presentation part of Accelerate and my travel plans changed which resulted in me being in the San Francisco area.

Having presented a number of times in the past there were a couple topics that I could have rehashed but having only 5 minutes is tough (especially for me) and this audience was not going to put up with another boring presentation. As a result my wheels started spinning and it didn’t take long. The day I found out that presenting could happen I was training a class (this will matter later) and the topic was web analytics, digital marketing and competitive knowledge.

It then hit me.

This sucks.

I stood in front of the class while presenting and realized that talking about how to better understand web analytics and digital marketing was extremely limiting to their careers. Here I was telling people that a web site was the center of the universe, using web behavior to target advertising is key and tying email campaings to landing pages / conversions were magical – all false, for the most part.

UGH…  I hate “web analytics” and worse, people that have made it their specific career to do those things.

It isn’t that they are horrible people, or that they don’t know how to do their job. I simply hate that they have accepted the fact that their role, in many cases, is limited to JUST digital and perhaps even more limiting, web, analytics.

In October 2011, at eMetrics New York City, Larry Freed (CEO, Foresee) made a simple statement that I wish the entire industry were there so they could listen. “If we are still called the Web Analytics Association next year we will be unemployed”.

There can’t be only one person(s) to blame, right? Nope. Executives need to be looked at as part of the problem. They obviously want the best for the company, even if they habitually screw-up, but they need guidance / assistance to get the most from the company that reports to them.

For the executive to focus on top-line goals of the company the executive can easy lead the business astray as in many cases these goals can be decided in isolation from other factors. Many executives are aware of this risk and as a result create these delusional expectations that end up being interpreted into convoluted processes and plans by the rest of the organization.

It is fine to complain about the problem that needs to solved but before you do that, boil the plan down. What can you do to make the executive(s) more effective. A bottom up organization is driven by experience and real world pains, in many cases bottom down is driven by financial goals and that really is extremely important. How do you help?

Try to remember this every day while at work:

  • Executives want to know the plan of attack/recommendations
    • decision making
    • support of execution
  • Senior management wants to know what has happened and helps prioritize efforts
    • dashboards
    • push supported execution
  • Your manager wants to know what you are doing, if things are going well, can they help
    • reports
    • implementing changes


These, of course, do not encompass everything that each of these groups do but you need to understand them and who your audience is.

Back to my earlier issue with web analysts: somehow your role has been isolated to one (sub)segment of the business and what typically ends up happening is the information you provide lives in the same exact way, in isolation. Worse than working in isolation, the net result of much of this work results in a series of reports or dashboards. Like a horrible game of telephone your report or dashboard, which you spent a lot of time perfecting, goes to your manager or director and upon their review of the information they then deliver their understanding of the information / reports / dashboards to their management where it is likely given less time. Eventually it works all the way up to the executive where they are left with a watered down version of the truth.

It is HIGHLY likely that there is a wealth of information about your customer (or lead/prospective customer) in many other systems. Today, that information may be reviewed by a team of business analysts and they provide their own information (reports / dashboards). The problem isn’t just yours. The difference is that these analysts get grouped into “Business Intelligence”, something that many senior managers and executives are familiar with and trust. These teams also have access to a wealth of solutions that go well beyond reporting. They can do statistical analysis, automated pattern detection, data modeling and many other ways of doing data oriented analysis – all of which can be used for direct interaction with the customer in someway with some level of confidence before the action is even “in flight”.

In the next part of this blog post I will cover how to move from a “report monkey” to a “shepherd”.

My presentation from Accelerate, that may help provide a clue to the next post, is available here (controls embedded):
HTML Presentation

*The EPIC follow-up post lives here: Analysts and Executives and Monkeys, Oh My! (Part 2) 

3 thoughts on “Analysts, and executives, and monkeys! Oh, my! (Part 1)

  1. Thomas Bosilevac (@bosilytics)

    Lee, while it came with much trepidation that I had to cancel not only my Super Accelerator spot but my entire trip to #ACCELERATE I was relieved to know you were my replacement. Your knowledge in this industry runs deep through constant exposure to not only “web” (EECK) analysts but executives, product managers, marketing managers and more. That combined with your amazing communication skills assured me that your presentation would be one not soon forgot … you delivered on my ideas.

    Now to your post. YOU NAILED IT! While working at Webtrends I was constantly battling the fact that we were siloed (from the top down) into “web analytics”. From a fiscal perspective this made sense … they sold web analytics software. Luckily for them they have changed into a much broader product offering…but I was long gone by this point. It was my work at MSFT, leading the Intranet Analysis Team where I was able to take “web data” combined with IT financials, HR data and collaborative sharing stats to make a true change. My mission was not to optimize Intranets, the margin of improvement was too low. Our goals were to
    a) lower IT costs
    b) assure proper reach to target audiences (the legal Intranet had to reach the lawyers…even if that was only 1000 employees – which it was more than)
    c) measure the IMPACT of Intranets.
    This exposed a whole new face of “web analytics” … one that (put simply) combined the data collected from the Intranet’s with all other information at hand to make sound, data-driven, non-political, FACT BASED decisions on strategy moving forward. At the end of the day we shut down sites that were not meeting goals, fired (or laid off) vendors that were not meeting the above objectives, and allowed laymen to make data-driven decisions on what features needed to be built. This is the future … the rest is just history.

    Case and point, if you are just optimizing ad spend, finding the winner of an A/B test or (god rest your soul) reporting on Facebook friends…as Larry Freed and yourself eluded to … I will see you on the street corner. But don’t worry, if you are wearing a WAA shirt, count on me to give you a buck.

    Thanks for keeping it real.

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  3. Pingback: Analysts, and executives, and monkeys! Oh, my! (Part 2) - OMLee, marketing madness

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