Many factors prevent Web analytics from being effectively deployed but one that recurs all too often is the issue of ownership. A recent discussion thread on the Web Analytics Forum provides a valuable inside look into common tensions and struggles between business and information technology (IT).
I agree with Craig Sullivan’s post* that Web analytics should be “owned by the complete business at an Exec/Board/Senior management level”.
This is easier to accomplish (it’s never easy!) if Web analytics began life in the organization with senior management’s participation. In many cases this is not how Web analytics ‘arrived’. Web analytics often enters the organization for a specific functional purpose, well before the role of Web analytics is clear to the rest of the organization, and definitely far below senior management’s radar. And because it’s only recently that the business benefits of Web analytics are clear, in many organizations, it is often IT who has acquired a Web analytics tool for its specific (right-minded) reasons, and therefore ‘owns’ the tool.
The tool might be serving IT very well, fulfilling its original limited purpose. However, as business-side interest in Web analytics grows, conflict arises if:
- This tool can’t easily provide the reports that marketing or other business groups need (not surprising because this wasn’t part of the initial requirement).
- It’s expected that IT should provide all the reports, because they own the tool, because they brought the tool into the organization.
When this happens, politics rears its head and business groups begin to question whether IT should own the tool.
Rather than beat up on IT for being non-responsive or uncooperative, shouldn’t we step back, and agree on what we’re trying to accomplish? Then define clearly the gap in tools, capability or processes and determine what’s the best next step needed to close the gap?
Reports circulated without annotated business-relevant interpretation are unlikely to drive meaningful action. Therefore, in most cases, unless the IT group contains technical people with significant business-relevant experience, it’ll be difficult for them to meet the rising need for business analysis.
What’s next? Senior level sponsorship (general manager, VP or CEO) to create and nurture analytics in the business, with a close working relationship with IT. Depending on the organization, this might be in marketing, customer service, communications, e-business or a separate business analytics group.
Senior level commitment is needed because analysis often leads to change or testing recommendations that affect more than one functional group. And if you’re going to get any return on investment from the analytical reports and people and the findings they are generating, change has to be tested and implemented.
* Destination page no longer available