Ok, so I am a little wistful about Semphonic's first X Change conference in Napa last week. It seemed special...the conversation, the people, the location, the wine... To me it felt more like a gathering of the best and the brightest in web analytics and site measurement; more like a retreat than a conference. And as Gary explains so well in his blog, that was the vision of the event. The atmosphere was relaxed, the ideas were high charged and during the huddles there were lots of great takeaways...not just new knowledge, but inspirations around the process and practice of web analytics. It was the only conference I've attended where after a full day, I actually felt recharged instead of tired.
I led an X Change huddle on the topic Focusing Senior Management on the Business Value of Web Analytics.
My group included analytics managers from American Express, O'Reilly Publishing, JP Morgan Chase, Intuit, Xilinx, HIMSS and WebMD. While many challenges were expressed, I'd say that the they could be grouped in 2 primary categories:
- Obtaining funding and resources support
- Creating compelling metrics for senior management
We discussed a number of ways to address the issues. Not surprisingly, web analytics practice takes a back seat to project management, communication and organizational political savvy as the way to best tackle the situation.
Developing your strategy for dealing with senior management is based on researching your organization...talking to people, asking questions, and understanding the culture.
Let's break this down into 7 key success actions:
- Know your audience – understand what’s important to senior management. In most cases, you'll find that its all about the bottom line. That boils down to the following:
- Making money
- Saving money
- Not losing money (i.e., avoid law suits and fines, fraud and theft detection, security)
- Know your environment- understand how information travels; is it presentations, documents, conversations, or the grapevine? The fact is even though you want to reach senior management, you need to conduct an information campaign directed to them directly, as well as at the grassroots level. Get a poster child success story that can generate grassroots buzz, as well as percolate to the top. While it's important to build processes, the success of any process is in getting cooperation and buy in from participants. With this in mind, do what you can to build your internal networks and relationships. It pays to make friends throughout the organization who you can rely on for favors and information. As one of my former managers told me, "To get things done, make sure you have friends in low places."
- Get their requirements and buy in - find out what senior managers want to know; or do your research and make a proposal on what to analyze; get on the schedule to present in person. If you can't, then refer to Point #1.
- Know your competition – what other information sources compete with analytics for senior management attention – it's best to cooperate and combine with other business intelligence sources within your organization. You can also discredit other data if it doesn't address business goals. For example, if senior management is fixated on page views, you'll need to educate them on the real value of analytics to the bottom line metrics.
- Know how to tell a story – know company objectives and how they translate into operational decisions at your level. One of the key stumbling blocks in making analytics relevant is the disconnect that occurs between the lofty objectives for the organization and how these objectives get interpreted outside the executive suite. You need to demonstrate outcomes that relate to the company objectives; tell the story in language the managers understand, i.e., dollars and cents – money made and saved.
- Present the data formally – create opportunities to give formal presentations; work through established channels such as advisory boards, steering committees, and web councils.
- Present the data through grassroots methods – develop web analytics newsletters, memos, and user groups; conduct training for senior level managers to introduce them to the business value of analytics and why it is important – tell them how much they’re spending on the web; make sure that there are channels going from the bottom up, and that web analytics is credited as the source for data moving to senior managment.
If you manage analytics, you know that it's not simply an issue of getting key metrics understood by senior staff. Your success in communicating the importance of what you do will also yield bigger budgets, and more resources in good times...and help protect you against downsizing in bad times.