Thursday, December 4, 2008

Things that get on your nerves as a Web Analytics specialist

This post is a kind of follow-up of the a previous one about things that make you day as a Web Analytic evangelist. I originally planned to write it later but circumstances made me write it earlier as I needed some cheap therapy to release some recent frustration & stress. While there are little things that can make me happy, there are those few not-so-little things that I really (but really) hate, those that make me almost lost my temper. 

Out of Order – Please come back later
It's broken man! Do not touch anything!Sometime it happens that our beloved Web Analytics tool simply crashes. That is one of the inconvenient when you host our Web Analytics solution. Software & computer engineering is supposed to be an exact science but well, sometimes systems that are not supposed to crash do. And when they do, it is usually at worst time (like when key users need those precious campaign data asked by their big boss).

Most of the time, outage time is rather limited but what really sucks is that when the beast is put back online, we have to spend an awful amount of time doing quality check to ensure all profiles & data are ok. When you have more than 200 profiles, it takes times and it does not really stands as a definition of the most exciting task in the world.

My toy got broken but daddy fixed it!But last month, the beast did not crash, it simply blew up! Bang! Worst incident ever. All efforts to reanimate it failed. In the end, we had to move everything to a new server, to migrate all data, to reprocess missing days and to double check everything. Once this will be done, we will have to take proper action to make sure this will ever happen again. At least there was no data loss, our provider and IT technical team really helped us to get this sorted out. For a while, I felt like a child whose favourite toy got broken, until daddy fixed it (more or less :-))

The positive side is that when this happens, I get a really good idea about Web Analytics data usage and importance across the company and our national branches. Oh, I also get lot of emails (and even poetry sometimes ;-)) .

Damned little gremlins!
Oh! A nasty little gremlinOn very rare occasions, gremlins come in the system and corrupt some files. And there you go, some report data are gone, vanished! 

It is then time to ask IT operations to dig out some backups, restore the logs and reprocess the missing data and pretend nothing happened. If it is only a week, that’s not big deal. If it is one year of data, that’s lot of boring work for the poor IT guys. While not the worst thing in the world, it is quite annoying and it can damage business users’ confidence in data & tool quality (but not as much when the application hits the wall, I must admit).

When agencies screw it big time
Grrrrr! What the f*** did you do?What is worth than the system crashing? Real data loss (i.e. lost forever)! I am working with many agencies from all across Europe and I must admit that it goes well most of the times when it comes to tagging implementation. But sometimes, they simply screw it. No other word. You have a nice project, you prepare everything, brief everyone, provide whatever is possible and in the end they messed it up: quick & very dirty implementation, last minute changes that break measurements or simply not done due to “lack of time”. 

How can such thing happen?  It seems that few agencies do not really care about measurements (some even see you as a creativity killer when you start asking for measurements) or they feel this is not important (they have other things to finish first in order to meet these critical deadlines). Sometimes (but very rarely) it is simply due to incompetence – they can’t learn whatever efforts you deploy.

That what happens when I lost control ;-)This really gets on my nerves a LOT – not when it happens once as it is part of the learning process (and there is no perfect process) but when it turns into a habit. If this happens several times, it aggravates me to such a point that I have no other choice than having a go at the faulty guys or project manager (I am usually a nice guy – really -  so I hate when I need to shout or write angry emails).

This generates a lot of frustration at all levels: me, the agency and most important the business stakeholders (who don’t get any valid data while spending a lot of money).

Thanks God, it happens less & less as we have defined communication process, tagging standards & guidelines (see a previous post on good practices when working with agencies) And if something goes wrong, we always look first at what are the root causes and see if we can learn from errors (before shouting) and improve, applying the KAIZEN philosophy.

What else?
There are other few things I can add but I will not go into the details:
  • When data quality sucks: everybody prepares & implements everything right and when you get the results you realize that data quality sucks for whatever reason, ruining it all.
  • When people don’t get it: It gets on my nerves when people keeps thinking that Web Analytics is just about counting visitors and putting figures into graphs while you have explained them a hundred times that is much more than that.
  • When I screw it myself: It is easy to blame others but hey, I am human, I do errors too. It frustrates me a lot as well. Here again, I try to learn from these errors and I do whatever is possible to avoid repeating them. 
Pheeeew (sigh). Now I feel better that I have spitted out all the recent frustration. Even if it is not always easy or funny, always try to learn from bad situations so you can avoid these or at least minimise impacts if they occur again. Anyway, shit happens and sometimes someone has to get his/her hands dirty to clean it – it can not always be the others. That's life but what does not put you down makes you stronger. 

In the end, as long as you get more joy with Web Analytics than pain that is what really matters. I usually do but not at the moment but I can't wait to go back to real business!

And you, what does really get on your nerves, as a Web Analytics specialist?

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  1. You seem concerned by agency work, is there anything I should know? ;)

  2. Julien,

    Don't get me wrong. First I am more talking about creative agencies. And as I said in my post "it goes well most of the times". It is really great to work with them. It is just that in the past, I had few troubles with very few ones. It was not frequent but often with the same ones. So quite aggravating when it happened.

    But again, as I wrote in the post, it happens less and less. It has even been a while to be honest :-)



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