Monday, July 27, 2009

Web analytics– where should it sit in the organization: in business or in IT?

Where do you think that Web Analytics should sit in your organization?
In this post, I would like to talk about organizing Web Analytics in a company and the important question : who should own and lead Web Analytics competencies? where should these competencies sit in the organization? And what if Web Analytics all started from the IT side?

As a practitioner and based on my personal experience so far, my answer would be: not in IT.

But why do I believe that IT is not the best option for managing and leading Web Analytics competencies within an organization?

Web Analytics relates to business
Basically, Web Analytics is about improving business performances of online channels. This is done by understanding what are the business objectives, by defining appropriate “business-driven” KPI’s, by analyzing and interpreting the figures and taking necessary actions & business decisions.

But do not get me wrong, IT is key player as it is needed for all technical aspects such as hosting and maintenance of the Web Analytics infrastructure (if you are hosting your solution – not the most common set-up), definition of the technical/tagging specification based on business requirements, implementation of the measurement code in your CMS, websites and online applications. And if you integrate your Web data with other systems (BI, CRM...), IT is the one that defines and implements the required architecture & technology.

But in the end this is the business that drives the needs and that uses the data to gain insights. That is the business who takes decisions. That’s the business that normally defines the analytical strategy & long term vision (as it relates to what business will do).

Can IT have “business” mindset”?
Web Analytics requires a strong business mindsetAn important trait of a good Web analyst (or expert) is the “business acumen”:
“Good web analysts know the business and the current business climate. They understand the business purpose and can identify and focus on the business problems and disciplines apart from analytics. They have both a great sense of the data and the business.”
Basically a good Web analytics expert needs to have a strong “business mindset”.

Having “business mindset”, is it something that IT can have? I mean genuinely. I don’t want to be harsh on IT departments but let’s face it, in many cases, IT department mission is to implement technologies, tools, systems, to develop & deliver applications, to make sure everything is up & running and all.

I am talking about personal experience here as I am working on the IT side (no one is perfect :-)). I started as business analyst and I took over the requirements analysis, the reports creation and the coordination of measurements implementation when my company insourced Web Analytics. From there I stepped into the world of Web Analytics and I started developing competencies & expertise while working closely with business.

Explaining to IT why having Web Analytics competencies sometimes feels like this Dilbert cartoonAs we moved from Web reporting to Web Analytics, business demand grew – requiring to make Web Analytics competencies more structured and organized. But doing this in IT is far from being easy. You need to spend a lot more time in order to explain the purpose and necessity of Web Analytics (and why having a dedicated centre of expertise). Already a challenging task! And if you succeed, the next question you may get: “a large part of the competencies are purely business so why should we offer such expertise in IT?”.

Centralization is key!
The main advantage of IT is that it usually has a central view of the needs from the various departments – especially in large organizations where business departments are often structured in silos. I believe that Web Analytics expertise & competencies should be centralized in order that standardized solutions & technology areused by the different departments and to share best practices (all will reduce costs in a significant way while improving efficiency).

Web Analytics should be lead centrally by a team that supports the different business departments (who need and use the data) and that makes the link with the technical side (i.e. IT, vendors & external agencies). A team that would assist & coach business key users in how to better use Web Analytics. I quite like the “Hub’n’Spokes” model proposed by Eric T. Peterson. This is something similar that I wish to develop.

The Hub and Spokes organization model from Web Analytics Demystified

But building such central team in IT is difficult as it mixes business expertise and practices with technological expertise. In most of the examples I have seen from other large companies, Web Analytics competencies are regrouped in a dedicated team that sit on...the business side.

So it is no surprise that I feel like sitting on the wrong side. “So why don’t you move to the other side then?” you may ask. Well, it is easier said than done.

Nevertheless, I am doing my best to improve organization in order to better serve the company growing needs. But changing organization and mindset in a large company is quite a challenge and takes time. Lot of time.

So what is your experience? How is Web Analytics organized in your company? Centralized or decentralized? Do you know examples where IT ownership of analytics does work? I am very curious to hear your experience and it would be more than welcome.

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