Web Metrics – Have We Finally Figured it Out?

Data can be captured everywhere on the web, but is there any intelligence that interprets this data and makes it available for critical decision making?

And what do I mean by critical decision making? Those decisions that you have to make when you either build that new mobile app or launch a social media program for your clients. These are the decisions that give you the best return on your investment.

You shouldn’t feel like a metrics failure. In fact, you join most of those struggling with the overwhelming amount of data and lack of information in the web analytics universe.

So, what is the real problem? Part of the problem is that data is really easy to get.  In fact, you can add, subtract, multiply and divide this data to satisfy every potential question about the web.  The rest of the problem relates to the old adage - just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

So…why do we?

Like overachieving hoarders, we collect data and stack reports believing that, someday, an executive will ask a question about the web that can be found buried in your metrics.  We continue this behavior until the monthly report takes three weeks to build and disseminate. We avoid being nimble and agile, because we might “miss something." We collect everything because we are afraid of making the choices about what is important. We fear the answer that we might have to give the executive: “We made the decision that collecting and analyzing the data to answer your question was not a priority, or not cost-effective.”

The key to all of this, of course, is to make logical, rational decisions about what to collect and understand why you are collecting it, by engaging the business and responding to their information needs. These have to be the metrics that give us insight into what functionality we fund on the web to get the best ROI.

There is a simple question that you can ask yourself to determine if the metrics you are collecting have any significance for your business: What action(s) will you take, now that you have the information captured in this metric? Based on this simple question, if the answer is that the metric is  “nice to know,” or it was suggested by a consultant, or “we have always measured this,” or it just flat out “sounds important,” but still doesn’t result in action, then it is just another overhead activity that you can do without.

We don’t want metrics just because we can collect them, or they are nice to have. We want them to relate to business questions that need answers, ones that then lead to actions that positively impact the bottom line.  If you can’t link a metric or small group of metrics to a specific business question, then stop collecting them!

One last thing to keep in mind…..metrics should be dynamic.  Yes, I understand that need to normalize data and capture trends over time.  But as the maturity of your websites evolve, as well as the maturity of the business in leveraging the technologies, your information needs will change. Your metrics should change too.

Collaboration and Social Media – Delivering Results

Collaboration and Social Media can become powerful assets in the IT arsenal to deliver business results. Social computing presents opportunities for IT to promote and support connections, both inside the organization - through technologies such as SharePoint, Jive, Yammer, wiki’s, blogs - and with external partners and customers through the use of online social media tools - LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.

 

The truth is that many companies struggle with where to start with social media and how to move forward. While you may perceive potential value in social media initiatives and pursue those initiatives accordingly, deriving that value and delivering results requires changes to how IT has been approached in the past. IT needs to consider moving away from conventional IT management approaches in several areas.

 

The key areas that will challenge organizations and need to be considered when initiating a focus on collaboration and social media include:
  • Unclear ROI — The business case for social computing typically breaks down because of the unclear nature of how and where social computing will deliver value and how the results will be recognized and measured. This is reminiscent of the history of determining an ROI for email. At that time, email was deployed with limited or no ROI.
  • Availability of Opportunity — The reality is that business units can often identify and exploit social media opportunities before IT. IT needs to sharpen it’s focus, become more aware of how the business partner views each opportunity and gather those requirements so that they are part of the solution.
  • Magnified Risk — Social media diminishes corporate perimeters and controls for information exchange, so organizations must “get over it" and determine a risk profile for social media (more on that later).
  • Consumer Technology Options — Business users may select technologies to connect and collaborate, which may not be corporate-controlled. The organization needs to determine its policies on technologies outside of its control.
  • Rapid Change — Velocity and complexity of social technologies outpace IT's roadmapping capabilities. To remain relevant in the social media conversation, IT organizations often rely on technology-centric "supply push" strategies, when instead they need to quickly understand and respond to "demand pull" from their end users.
Successful delivery of collaboration and social media solutions depend on four user-centric factors:
  1. Understand technology fit with end-user workflows and behavior. You need to map these out and create a view of the future. For example, IT teams are now adding visualization software to the agile process of development so that developers and business customers have a clearer picture of what will be delivered.
  2. Drive use by communicating tangible end-user benefits that can be directly connected to clear business metrics and outcomes (e.g. time saved). 
  3. Apply a risk framework that can evolve and improve as social media changes – set up 2-3 risk factors that will frame the focus on risk.
  4. Collaborate – as silly as this sounds, spend the time to collaborate with your business customer on a solution that will deliver results! Leverage proof of concept and pilots, as well as asking the business customer to come back with examples of functionality that may already be available and used by public social media groups today.
All of the above items need to considered, giving you the runway to avoid the pitfalls experienced by many social media projects.