Monday, October 02, 2006

How many stats would a stats analyst track if a stats analyst could track stats?

Does this scenario sound familiar???

You've got 3-5 traffic dashboards to update each week....
One major traffic presentation due each month....
2-4 random employees asking you to pull data for their group and build a dasboard for them each week (by the way..."Make sure those reports are sent automatically")....
and finally train different managers on the value of using web analytics.

Sounds like a pretty busy job in itself, right? Wrong. I forgot one small part......you still need to OPTIMIZE THE WEB SITE!

But how in the world is a web analyst supposed to find the time to optimize the web site when they're spending most of their time pulling data, building dashboards and reports, and training different groups of people within the company? Well, based on my experience as a web analyst, I believe one needs to work closely with their manager, prioritize their work, and be stern. No, not Jim Sterne (although, I'm sure that would be helpful in a web analyst position) but stern as in putting their foot down.

A web analyst should work closely with their manager and keep them informed of their workload. Many times, managers (as busy as they are) don't realize the many different types of reports and dashboards that the analyst has going on at one time. Nor do they realize that the analyst is constantly being bombarded by other managers and employees in seek of a personalized dashboard or report. Prioritization should be a big part of the conversation between the manager and the analyst. If the analyst has a clear picture about high priority goals that need to be met, he/she can effectively use their time to build out the proper reports and dashboards.

While it's very important to build out reports and dashboards, that's only one aspect of being a successful web analyst. The other part comes in being able to optimize the web site. A web analyst needs time to, well, analyze! But he/she can't do that if they are spending all of their time building reports and dashboards for people. This is where the stern part comes in. There comes a time in every web analyst's life where they have to put their foot down and say, "I'm sorry (place a coworker's or manager's name here), I simply cannot build that custom report for you right now because I have some high priority issues to take care of."

A web analyst needs to put their foot down at times, otherwise they'll be up to their ears in building reports. In my case, I wanted to make everybody happy by pulling data and customizing reports for them. However, I soon realized that I needed to be spending more of my time analyzing and optimizing the web site. And we all know that this is where the real fun is at. Running A/B tests or multivariate testing, tracking the success of internal search, tracking the success of promotions, using data to help the development team with page layout and navigation, etc., are all things that make make the job exciting. Why? Because you finally get a chance to see if your analytical assumptions are correct!

Making sure you have time to analyze the site and come up with actionable ideas is extremely important to being a web analyst. Setting aside time to come up with new ideas is what made 3M Corporation so successful. They give their employees the option to spend 15% of their work week pursuing individual projects of their choice. Most of the time, these individual projects result in brand new products for 3M. In 2000, 3M made more than 60,000 products. Nearly 35 percent of its total sales, or about $5.6 billion, came from products that had been introduced during the prior four years, and another $1.5 billion came from products introduced during 2000.

Knowing that little bit of information, think about the success that a web analyst can make if he/she has the time to optimize the web site and come up with actionable ideas. Who knows, maybe you can help your company become the online version of 3M!

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