Wednesday, August 20, 2008

KAIZEN: a successful approach applied to Web Analytics

KAIZEN = continuous improvement In my first official post(*), I would like to talk about what I think is an important concept and that is part of my blog name: KAIZEN.

Kaizen is a Japanese term and comes from the concatenation of “Kai” (= Change) and “Zen” (= Good). The two together refers to “continuous improvement”. Kaizen is more than a word; it is a philosophy that focuses of continuous improvement through all aspects of life. Doh!

But how does it relates to Web Analytics? As Paul Hostein explained in one of his recent posts, you can address your website optimization process in a Kaizen-way: simply make improvements to your website on a continuous basis. But you can see further than that. How can the Kaizen method help anyone being successful in his Web Analytics project? Well, when applied to the workplace, Kaizen activities aimed at improving all functions of a business. And as far as I know Web Analytics is a function of a business.

Sounds a bit too theoretical? Well, let me talk first about Toyota, where Kaizen is not only a key company value but one of the key factors that contributes to Toyota success story. There was a very interesting article in the New Yorker about that topic earlier this year. The author explains that Toyota defines innovation as an incremental process, in which the goal is not make huge, sudden leaps but, rather, to make things better on a daily basis. Basically Kaizen promotes slow and steady improvements. This fundamental aspect runs counter to the way that most companies think about innovation or change. To quote James Surowiecki, most corporations hope that the right concept will turn things around overnight. There you go. This, I think, often applies to Web Analytics –especially in large enterprises. People expect to turn things around in one go.

You can read lot of things about all the possibilities beyond Web Analytics, its added value, the improved ROI and all the rest. And there are plenty of people out there – especially vendors who will tell you how easy it is and why you should get all their super-features. Then you find yourself embarked in a huge project (usually comes with high costs), trying to deploy complex technology and practices. In the end (if you get there), you will likely find yourself sitting on a mountain of data and no one to figure out what to do with these. Truth will hit you like a train: Web Analytics is NOT easy. Just ask Eric T. Peterson, he will tell you :-) . More seriously, large scale improvements - while attractive - are more difficult to achieve.

Kaizen approach, a key to success?Going for an iterative and incremental approach will make your life easier. First, your goals will be more achievable. Your project will be easier to manage, risks will be lower, costs will be more reasonable (so easier to get money from your boss) and you will deliver results faster. At each step, your experience and skills will grow – allowing you to move to the next level of difficulty progressively.

Maturity is important – no need to provide state-of-the-art analytics if your key users & stakeholders are not prepared nor do have the knowledge and skills to use it. Start with the basics. It will be easier for your audience to understand, it will most likely create interest and raise more questions. From there, move on to more advanced practices. If you make your business users happy, they will ask for more. In the end, it will be much more motivating for everyone.

This is a principle I have applied so far in my Web Analytics journey and it has quite paid off. I have learned a lot. My company has learned a lot. We are learning and developing. There is still a long way to go but each month we are progressing, doing more, getting more benefits from our Web Analytics expertise. We continuously improve.

That is what keeps me motivated, asking for more. Kaizen approach may seem mundane but its application requires commitment, patience and perseverance. All these qualities are key elements for successful Web Analytics (or any project).

Related reading

(*) I already wrote a post on that topic last year as guest poster on Lars Johansson’s blog.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Welcome to Kaizen Analytics!

So that’s it. I did it and started my own blog on guess what - Web Analytics. Yes one more to the long list of WA blogs. The idea has been growing for months and I finally decided to make the final step. So here’s KAIZEN Analytics.

This introduction post will be my “About me & my blog” page before moving on with my real first post. So here we go!

Who am I?
Blog ready to take off!
I’m Michael Notté, Belgian (French speaking), working as a Web Analytics Specialist at Toyota Motor Europe. I’m based in Brussels, Belgium (for those who wonder where is that little country, it’s here). To make the story short, I’m basically managing and developing all Web Analytics related projects & activities for Toyota and its premium brand, Lexus, on a Pan-European level. That's quite a lot of work but very exciting one.

I got enrolled in the Web Analytics Association (WAA) after Jim Sterne pinned me at the London eMetrics 2007 summit. Since then I participated as a speaker at various WAA sponsored events such as the first Belgian Web Analytics Wednesday, WAA Webcast or more recently at this year London eMetrics summit.

Why starting (another) blog on Web Analytics?
That’s a good question. Ok, let’s say it straight – my intent is neither to become the next Avinash / Eric nor to compete with them or other famous “gurus”. I do not do this to become the next “influencer”. It is much more humble than that.

That's it. I'm a new entry of the blogosphereI would never have been able to get where I am in Web Analytics without the help of many people whether from our WA agency or from the Web community. They have been great help. I am really grateful to them. Because I fully share this open-mind spirit of the WA community, I feel it is time for me also to help others who are involved in Web Analytics. When you are struggling, it motivates you and makes you feel less alone, when you hear others who have been through challenges and obstacles you are facing. And how they went through these (when they did :-)).

I don't know if I can say that without looking like a “geek” but I’m quite passionate about Web Analytics. Get me started on this and you will have hard time to stop me. So blogging will help me channeling all this enthusiasm :-)

Finally, one of the things that convinced me to make the step was Avinash’s post on the benefits of blogging. It is all your fault Avinash! ;)

What will it be all about?
You already got it that main topic will be about Web Analytics. More precisely, I will share some of my personal experience, tips, best practices and all this kind of things- the usual stuff.

As a practitioner, I will also share my thoughts on the evolution of the Web Analytics industry, on on-going debates within our community, on articles or whatever related news. Just for the pleasure of discussing such topics with other peers.

Because I’m in the automotive industry, I may talk also about it, about cars, the Internet and web-marketing related topics. So it may not be always about Web Analytics.

Because this blog will come on top of my quite busy private life (note to my employer: no, I do not write my posts during working hours ;-)), I will do my best to post a “full-featured” article regularly with smaller “appetizer” posts in between.

Why the name “KAIZEN Analytics”?
KAIZEN = Continuous improvementAgain, you can guess the “analytics” part of the name. What about the “Kaizen” part? It refers to my current employer where “Kaizen” is a core value, a philosophy. It is a Japanese term that means “continuous improvement”. And because Web Analytics is about “continuous improvement” applied to the online world, I thought it would make a great title for my blog. Wouldn’t it?

I talk more about Kaizen in my first post.

What else?
Blogging is a new experience for me so I'm giving myself a "trial" period to see if it will be a success or not (of course I've clearly defined my own criterias for success :-)). Time will tell.

This introduction post is already too long. If you read it all then I’m already impressed. Thanks for that. I won’t add anything more except that I really hope that you will enjoy the read. It’s time now for the first post!

Thanks to:
Aurélie, René and all the nice folks at OX2. Your help and support is priceless. People from Toyota & Lexus Marketing team for giving me great opportunities. My manager for supporting me in my WA career. The WA community for their help & support.

Special thanks to my wife for her support...and love!
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