The Year of the Analyst

[Originally published in Colorado Biz]

The advent of digital brought with it the incredible measurability of the online channel. When coupled with a recession, where every dollar counts and profitability of every move is questioned, data-informed decisions have become critical to many companies. Analytics is not just reserved for companies at the top, but is becoming a cost of successfully doing business.

It’s not just about the collection of copious amounts of data, but on the integration and use of it. Ultimately, companies need the right resources in place to analyze, interpret and recommend new courses of action. A heavy investment in tools, without investment in people, is seldom successful.

Welcome to the new breed of analysts. Whether companies are hiring a “web”, “digital”, “cross-channel”, “marketing” or “business” analyst, there’s no doubt that it’s a great time to be a data geek.

Increased demand

The demand for analysts is directly related to the growth of online business, aided by the proliferation of mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. The responsibility of the “Web Analyst”, whose role was initially focused just on behavior on a company’s website, has already expanded in scope, evolving to include online, mobile, social and traditional channels, as well as the integration of online and offline.

Those already working in digital analytics can attest to the barrage of recruiter calls to coax experienced analysts over to a new company, as the demand exceeds the number of analytics professionals available in the market.

Greater awareness at the college level

Growing awareness of the profession at the college level will help to (slowly) fill some of this demand. Educational institutions are starting to introduce courses tailored specifically at this new field. The University of British Columbia began offering an award program in web analytics in 2005, and other schools are following suit, with certificate programs or course work within marketing focusing on digital analytics.

The existence of these programs can help make students aware of a career in digital analytics. Programs such as Marketing, IT, Business, Economics, Mathematics and Statistics continue to lay a great foundation for a career in digital analytics, and still represent the majority of the entry points into the field, but these new dedicated courses allow students to learn enough to hit the ground running in a junior role.

An abundance of resources

For someone interested in joining this growing field, there are a number of ways to get involved. The Digital Analytics Association (DAA) has chapters across the U.S. and provides local events, education, conference discounts, research, standards, training, awards, certification and great professional networking opportunities.

The Analysis Exchange is a program that provides a “student” of analytics with hands-on experience tackling the analytics challenges of a non-profit, supported by an experienced mentor. Another option to gain experience is to volunteer your services to a local charity or small business. The availability of free tools means anyone can get their feet wet in this industry.

For professional networking and to talk to those already in the industry, attend a Web Analytics Wednesdays or DAA local symposium, or getting involved via social media. There are digital analytics groups on Twitter via the #measure hashtag, Facebook, Linked In and Yahoo. Ask questions, and you’ll be surprised at who will take the time to answer them.

In addition, companies are creating more opportunities for those looking to break into the field. For example, Red Door Interactive created an internship program that helps students get hands on experience in a variety of areas, including analytics. The interns not only help collect and analyse data, but they learn how an agency works and how to be a part of a cross-functional team.

For companies needing to hire analytics professionals, it can be tough, and it’s not likely to change soon. Good analysts are typically happily employed and frequently recruited, so companies need to be open to developing entry-level or junior analysts on the job, consider internal candidates with compatible skill sets, allow flexible working arrangements (like remote employees) or make an offer too good to refuse. As long as demand continues to exceed the availability of resources, it will continue to be an analyst’s market.

Top Takeaways from eMetrics SF 2012

I was lucky enough to attend eMetrics San Francisco last week, and I have to say, it was one of the best eMetrics I’ve been to.

Typically, these events end up somehow converging around a common theme or couple of themes (without any collusion amongst the presenters!) and this year was no different.

Here are the top things I took home:

1. “Big Data”
Surprise, surprise, talk of “big data” was everywhere. However, data alone is worthless – no matter how much of it you have. In the end, what matters is the insight you draw from it, and the action you take. It’s not about big data – it’s about big action.

Art from Lord Lovett's Social Media session

2. The Art of Analytics
It’s not unusual to hear about the art and science of analytics, or the importance of visual storytelling. What is unusual is having artists on hand to sketch the key themes from a presentation. This unique feature of eMetrics SF 2012 was not only fun and interesting, but showed just how persuasive the “art” of analytics can be.

This message did not end there. Bob Page stressed the importance of combining creativity with data, and Stephen Few applied the key tenents of information architecture and visual presentation of data to dashboards.

3. Integration
“Data needs to be integrated for a 360 degree view of the customer, blah blah blah, buzz word, buzz word, buzz word.” However, I’m not just talking about data integration, but the integration of different channels into the holistic business goals, and leveraging complementary methodology such as user testing and keyword analytics to enhance analytic insights. The focus this year was on so much more than just the integration of data – it was about the cohesion of all elements of the business.

4.  Evolution
Not only has the Web Analytics Association evolved into the Digital Analytics Association, but our field is clearly evolving to include a more holistic understanding of data from all parts of the business. In addition, client-side stories made it clear that companies are evolving in their own capabilities. This is a long term process with no magic tools, but this evolution is what we need to drive our organisations, our industry, and our own skills and impact forward.

5. Analytics is everywhere
So why are we evolving? Because, in Bob Page’s words, “Data is everything.” Ryan Zander from Sportvision made for a fascinating keynote at the WAA Awards Gala. (And this is coming from someone who could not care less about sports.) Yeah, yeah – Moneyball made analytics all cool and popular. But the data that Sportvision are using (how one inch can affect a baseball pitch!) and the amazing visualisation of that data, showed that analytics isn’t just something that nerds are doing in their dark basements – it is becoming critical to success in almost every industry, and is being put to amazing use.

What were your key takeaways? Did I miss any? 

Related post: eMetrics Tweet Activity

Five reasons to attend the WAA Awards for Excellence Gala

“Why should I attend the WAA Awards for Excellence Gala on March 6th?” you ask.

Here are five terrific reasons!

  1. You’ll be the FIRST to know who the winners of the WAA Awards for Excellence are! Nominate now to back your candidate!
  2. You’ll enjoy a delicious dinner, clink “cheers” with professional peers, build your network and, like, totally meet your new industry BFF.
  3. Been dying to wear that new dress or try out that new eyelash curler? Now’s your chance, and in much more flattering light than the eMetrics general sessions. Don’t pretend you don’t care.
  4. We’ll have a fab keynote speaker, and likely a few awkward attempts at humour by WAA members. (We are geeks, after all.)
  5. All the cool kids will be there. (What? That worked in high school …)

Ready to join us? Register now for the very reasonable price of $90 (WAA members)/$145 (non-members), submit your expense report, then can display this spiffy button to make all your friends jealous. (Though we’d love it if you’d bring them along.)


Snag this and post it to your blog, site etc:

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WAA LA Symposium: Success Stories from West Coast Marketers

For anyone who missed the fantastic WAA LA Symposium, here is everything you wanted to know (and were too ashamed at missing such a fabulous event to ask!)

Future of AnalyticsThe future of analytics: Jim Sterne’s keynote was a great opening to the day and focused on the possibilities of the future. Here’s how the road to success looks:

  • Data will let us predict the future, and data modeling will let machines help us make better decisions.
  • The future of analytics is collaborative analytics – getting the information out there and getting input from the entire company.
  • Ultimately, the future of analytics is up to us, and it’s not the technology that will make it happen – it’s the people who know how to use it.

Success in large organisations: Jorge Laguna from HP and Matt Wright from Keystone Solutions presented a joint client session on the keys to successful testing in large companies:

  • Build relationships within and with other teams – you can’t succeed alone.
  • Recruit the right people internally, but don’t be afraid to bring in external talent that you need to ensure success.
  • Document best practices.
  • Communicate your success.
  • Build a methodology that works for your organisation.
  • Allow the necessary agility to move quickly on opportunities, and the flexibility to allow testing to work for different departments globally.
  • Future-proof your investments, for when you move to new technologies.

Shawn Hushman from Kelley Blue Book talked about the requirements of successful enterprise analytics, including:

  • Commitment of the organisation, technical alignment and organisational clarity on what was important.
  • At KBB, results in analytics drove further demand, until it became a part of the company’s DNA.


Understanding the Multi-Channel Customer: Kristin (Toomey) Shanks from Petco not only succeeded by featuring her adorable puppy in her presentation, but by sharing Petco’s success in understanding their multi-channel customer. Petco’s analytics found that:

  • Multi-channel customers (for example, those who shop both in-store and online) are more valuable, spending 3x that of a single channel shopper.
  • Petco didn’t just measure the overall lift due to shipping prices and policy changes, but segmented to see the impact on shopping behavior and the shift from in-store to online, to truly understand the incremental lift.
  • Shanks readily admits this kind of analysis is not easy for them – they too struggle with data silos. But understand their multi-channel customer was crucial to understanding and improving their business.

Succeeded in Your Career: Thuy Kim from Experian Consumer Direct shared some of her tips for a successful career in analytics:

  • Keep in mind the different roles you have as an analyst. You should be creative and an information architect, presenting data in a way that is understandable (and, in the case of executives, digestible in under 5 minutes) but also act as a project manager, and of course, an analyst.
  • Don’t forget about building the foundation. Your credibility is based on the success of things you’ve done before.
  • Analytics leaders, stop to think – why should anyone be led by you? What are your team seeing you do, even if you don’t say it?

Success in Education: June Dershewitz from Apollo Group (University of Phoenix) and Scott Rutherford from the University of California, Irvine discussed some of the challenges faced by the use of analytics in education. (For example, imagine trying to measure the long term impact of whether use of a mobile app leads to higher grades and graduation!) Some of the successes they shared included:

  • UCI’s use of data to decide go/no go on courses ensures that they remain profitable in the face of state cutbacks.
  • Education is able to learn from other industries (for example, finance) in how important the investments in analytics facing them will be to their future success, and justify accordingly

AccuracySuccess in data accuracy: Jon Narong from discussed the importance of data quality, and how the right team structure has helped their organisation to succeed.

  • Analytics is considered a critical production data source, not a secondary concern.
  • Splitting their analytics team into Business and Technical Analytics has allowed deep immersion, less distraction from the team’s core focus and organisational confidence in their data.

Success in Social: Social was definitely a focus at the event, with not only a social media panel but also a great closing keynote from John Lovett at Web Analytics Demystified. Success in social for 2012 is going to involve:

  • Moving from “what can we measure?” to “what should we measure?”
  • Leveraging learning from different channels. For example, success in social, as in email, isn’t based on the size of your “list” (email addresses, Facebook fans) but on what you do with it from there. How do you market to the audience you’ve built?
  • But we are at the whim of the social channels – what metrics they’ll provide, and what they’ll allow to be tracked.
  • In 2012, social media will need to focus on proving value, instead of just experimenting and defining basic metrics, with companeis moving from the “hype” to truly considering their objectives.
  • As John Lovett pointed out, “it’s frickin important to set goals” and you must align your strategy and goals with your corporate culture – “corporate culture will eat strategy for breakfast.”
  • Make sure the social work you are doing is actually right for your customers (and never forget that social customers are just a percentage of your customers – keep it in context.)

Web Analytics Association logoDid you miss the WAA LA Symposium? Don’t forget about the great ways that the WAA can help you succeed in your career, by providing local events, education, research, standards, training and certificates, not to mention building your professional network. Check out some of the upcoming Symposiums to find one near you:


Honey Badger Don't Care

Things I didn’t know until the LA Symposium:

  • Jim Sterne is a huge fan of Hello Kitty (well, so say his browser history.)
  • The honeybadger is a totally relevant to an analytics event.

PS. A few little Twitter stats … 

The WAA LA Symposium saw:

  • Tweets from 87 unique users
  • 351 tweets during the event timeframe (Wednesday 1/18 from 12.30 through 5.30PM)
  • 32% retweet rate
  • That’s approximately 64 tweets per hour
    • For context, other recent events have generated:
      • 250 tweets per hour (Accelerate)
      • 103 tweets per hour (eMetrics NYC)

Top topics:

WAALA Word Cloud

Top users:

Top Tweeters









Download the Twitter archive for your own analysing fun!


Career Development for Digital Analysts: WAA Resource Available

Are you a new analyst looking for a way into the digital analytics industry? An analyst looking for advice on how to grow in your role or be promoted? Looking for a new opportunity?

For the past year, the WAA Membership Committee has been working on an initiative to provide WAA members with information regarding careers in the digital measurement industry.

Now available is the WAA’s Career Guide for Digital Analysts, an overview of careers in the digital measurement industry, including:

  • The types of companies analysts can work for;
  • Typical hierarchy and responsibilities for each role;
  • Educational and skill set requirements, including the importance of emerging skill sets; and
  • Advice for those looking to break into the field, be promoted or find a new opportunity.

This was compiled from the insight of a variety of industry members kind enough to spend some time giving an overview of careers in their area – client, vendor, agency and consulting side.

If you are a WAA member, please use this link to download the Career Guide:
Download the WAA Career Guide for Digital Analysts

You will need your WAA website username or password.

If you have forgotten your WAA website username or password, click here to reset your password.

Not a member yet? Join the WAA here.

If you’d like to read more about the WAA initiatives around career development and encouraging careers in Analytics, please read more at the WAA Blog.

Whose responsibility is online privacy?

Kissmetrics and a variety of its clients have been center stage in the news lately for tracking unique visitor behaviour, despite a user clearing their cookies. Shortly after the story broke, a number of high profile clients removed Kissmetrics tracking, arguably “throwing them under the bus” in the process. Now, Kissmetrics and more than twenty of its customers are facing a class action lawsuit, claiming the tracking violates privacy laws. However, there was  a similar lawsuit in 2009 over the use of “zombie cookies”, with some of the same businesses named as defendants.

This got me thinking, and into a rather lengthy debate/rant/conversation with fellow industry member Lee Isensee, which helped to shape (and refine somewhat!) a few thoughts around the responsibilities of the organisation tracking vs. the vendor providing tracking capabilities. While I find myself defensive of vendors and organisations that are being respectful of customers privacy, in line with the WAA Code of Ethics, the real question is:

Whose responsibility is it to protect consumer privacy – the business using the tracking, or the vendor providing a solution or product?

I can’t help but think – if you, as a company:

  • Choose a method of tracking that (many argue) violates users’ privacy and wishes
  • Don’t disclose the level of detail being collected, or how it will be used
  • Face legal action as a result of that tracking, and settle by agreeing not to use that technology again
  • Later, face accusations of similar tracking (similarly intentioned, though the mechanics perhaps differ)
  • But sever ties with the vendor, essentially blaming them, while claiming your company takes user privacy seriously

What conclusion is there to draw from that? Does it suggest that you, as a business, want to do that kind of tracking, and seek out vendors who provide those capabilities? (It’s a little hard to argue the “but we didn’t know” defense if you’ve faced legal action for this type of thing before.)

If that’s the case (and I understand this is a little difficult in the current climate) why not stand by this kind of tracking, disclose the approach and method, and explain the consumer benefits of it? Why claim to be privacy conscious and blame the vendor when your company has a major privacy backlash. You’ve previously chosen to engage in this kind of tracking (and faced the repercussions!) before? What leads you to do so again?

So if a business is inclined to this kind of tracking, what is the responsibility of the vendor providing it? Do they own a customer’s implentation (post initial engagement) or chosen use of the data? Do they owe a duty to the customers of their clients? What legal duty do they owe? Do they owe a duty to allow opt-out? Or is that in the hands of the company doing the tracking? What ethical duty do we impose? (And how far does that go? To the vendors that support the vendor? Ah, forget it. I’m hearing an Adam Carolla “slippery slope” rant starting as it is.)

I’d argue there’s one level of responsibility, that falls squarely to the company itself. A business decides what kind of tracking to do, and which vendors to use. They owe a duty to their customers. If a vendor is found to use “unsavoury” practices, actively recommending those practices in collusion with the business and disregards industry accepted practices, isn’t it the responsibility of the business to have thoroughly evaluated the vendor?

Something along the lines of: we don’t sue gun companies for homicides. The analytics vendor sells the gun, the implementation is the bullet, the business is the person holding the gun … who ultimately made the choice to shoot the customer?¹

Am I way off base? Where do you think this responsibility lies?


¹  I can’t take the credit for all of this. Thanks Lee for boiling it down to a simple analogy.

Web Analytics Association Boston Symposium

Curious about the Web Analytics Association Boston Symposium that just took place on Monday 5/23? Well look no further for a little fun with Twitter analysis and an overview.

Let’s start with the data …


  • 159 unique tweeters used the #WAABos hashtag between 5/22/11 9.24PM and 5/24/11 1.08PM
  • There were a total of 911 tweets to the #WAABos hashtag in this time
  • During the Symposium itself (Monday 5/23 from 1PM through 5.30PM) there were 793 tweets from 125 unique tweeters.
  • This translates to 176 tweets per hour, or 2.9 tweets per minute!
  • 87% of the tweets to the #WAABos hashtag were during the Symposium time (Monday 5/23 from 1PM through 5.30PM)
  • 59% of the tweets to the #WAABos hashtag were Retweets and another 18% of tweets contained mention of another Twitter user. (My, we’re a social bunch!)

Top 10 hashtag contributors:

@OMLee 17% of hashtag tweets
@michelehinojosa 16%
@ashkalei 11%
@RudiShumpert 4%
@kdpaine 3%
@CaseyChesh 3%
@jc1 3%
@Exxx 2%
@KeithBurtis 2%
@johnlovett 2%

Top tweet content:

[Ten points if you can find the word “Pirate” in there.]

Tweet locations:

From @ashkalei:  Map of where #WAABos tweets were coming from:

Top Take Homes:

Web Intelligence
Suresh Vittal, Forrester

  • Customers are no longer linear, or staying in neat “swim lanes”. We have entered the “splinternet”, where users can connect via multiple devices, and we start bringing that data together for a more comprehensive view of our customers.
  • We need to move from web analytics to all-encompassing web intelligence.
  • Web analytics platforms are perfectly positioned to evolve into web intelligence platforms. Almost 90% of businesses are using or piloting a web analytics platform, and many use more than one. Now, more traditional online channels (search, display, email) are regularly integrated into web analytics solutions, and emerging channels (social, mobile, apps, video) are starting to be integrated.
  • Merging offline, traditional web and emerging channels will give us a  comprehensive view of our customers, and pave the way for web intelligence. (And yes, it’s complicated!)
  • Be guided by a roadmap, and be sure to consider process and the personnel and skills you’ll need, in addition to the technology. Web Analysts alone will not be enough.

Mobile panel

Raj Aggarwal, CEO, Localytics, Justin Cutroni, Director, Cardinal Path, June Dershewitz, Director of Web Analytics and Customer Insight, Apollo Group, Mihael Mikek, CEO, Celtra

  • Mobile is currently fragmented – apps, different operating systems, web. In a year or two, we won’t even be talking about “mobile” – everything will be connected.
  • Your users don’t differentiate between a mobile and non-mobile experience, so you need to integrate your digital strategies.
  • The Three A’s of Mobile: Awareness, Activation, Activity (Apollo Group, June Dershwitz)
  • But these must also be tied to your overall business strategy.
  • Next problem for mobile to deal with: cannibalisation. Are you stealing from other channels or is this new revenue?
  • Mobile apps or mobile web? Right now, mobile apps are superior because you can integrate with other features of the phone (e.g. address book, etc.) However, HTML5 will rebalance that and it is likely that browser based apps will take off vs. OS-specific applications.
  • Difficulty for analysts is understanding behaviour from mobile to web and other channels, as mobile data typically lives in a silo. Crucial for us to start understanding behaviour of users across channels.
  • We can learn lessons from the web, to speed up the learning curve.

Social media panel

John Lovett, member of WAA Board of Directors and Senior Partner, Web Analytics Demystified, Katie Paine, CEO, KD Paine & Partners, Sean Power, Founder, Author, and Consultant, Watching Websites

  • Social can be many things to many people or organisations. This requires the need for custom metrics and integrations.
  • However, the web analytics problem of silos is repeating itself with social. There is isolated use of social media in the depths, but not across the enterprise. (John Lovett)
  • Great debate between Sean Power and John Lovett: Sean argued social media does not scale – you can’t respond to everyone without hiring people to respond one-on-one. John argued companies like Dell are tackling this by teaching their existing employees how to respond. Sean tested this by tweeting Dell while on stage at the panel, to see how quickly they respond. (19 minutes, if you’re curious.)
  • Do you know what Pirate Metrics are? AARRR!  Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, Revenue:
  • Do we need social media standards?
    • Sean Power: “I don’t think businesses give a s*** about standards.” They care about making money and will do whatever they want.
    • John Lovett: We need at least some standards – definitions of basic, common metrics, even if different tools calculate them differently.
    • Katie Paine: We need standards so we’re not confusing others.
  • What about sentiment analysis? Sentiment analysis is like web analytics – you need the best people, not the best tools. (John Lovett)
  • Need context in social media. A small fly looks terrifying through a magnifying glass – which is what sentiment analysis can do. It’s important not just whether customers are saying something negative, but whether they are more negative about you than your competitors.

Tom Davenport: The New Quantitative Era – Creating Successful Business Change with Analytics

  • Analytics involves moving from descriptive analytics (the “what”) to predictive and prescriptive analytics (the “so what”)
  • In its most basic form, analytics is about making decisions.
  • Using data to make decisions, however, requires mastering analytics, culture and more. It’s no longer sufficient to just be good at one.
  • Become a student of error. Reviewing your mistakes can lead to better decision making.
  • To become successful at analytics, you need to work closely with IT, business decision makers and outside ecosystem members.
  • If you want to make decisions better, it’s not about the math, it’s about the relationships the analyst builds with decision makers.
  • Analytics and the work done should tie to decision. When an analyst receives a request, the first question should be What decision will you make with this data?
  • Skills needed to be a good analyst:
    • Tell a story with data
    • Stand firm when necessary
    • Help from the decision
    • Don’t just identify a problem, fix it
  • The analytics industry has a historical opportunity right now to transform our industries and functions!

Entrepreneurs Panel

David Cancel, CEO and Founder; Performable, Matt Cutler, CEO and Founder, Kibits, Eric Hansen, CEO and Founder, SiteSpect, Jonathan Mendez, CEO,Yieldbot, Dennis Mortensen, CEO and Founder, VisualRevenue

  • Let the market tell you what is right.
  • Everything I’ve done is based on solving customer pain. Can I give you an hour of your day back? (David Cancel)
  • You want a reaction to your idea. “I love your idea”, “I hate your idea”. “Cool” or apathy is not a good thing.
  • Commonly heard: “The last thing I need is another damn dashboard.” What they want is a red phone they can shout questions into.
  • Great companies are bought, not sold. The minute you raise your hand, your value goes down.
  • Charge immediately. From day one. The kind of feedback you get is very different the moment you ask for a dollars. (David Cancel.)

Any other insights that you heard that I missed? Add ’em in the comments!

Want to have at the raw data yourself? This is the archive I used: WAABosTweets052411at0113PM



A heartfelt thank you

On Tuesday, 15 March 2011 the WAA held the inaugural Awards Gala. (For the record, it’s pronounced gah-la. Not gay-la.) It was a wonderful event – a chance to spend time with the lovely people in this industry, and make new friends. The Gala was, in my opinion, a hugely successful experience – I can’t wait to attend the next one.

As a part of the Gala, the WAA handed out the very first Awards of Excellence. The categories were:

Client/Practitioner of the Year
Most Influential Agency/Vendor
Most Influential Industry Contributor
Web Analytics Rising Star
Innovator/Technology of the Year

I myself was so incredibly humbled just to be nominated for the award of Web Analytics Rising Star, let alone become a finalist. Those two alone seemed to good to be true.

Imagine my shock to win …

So, from the bottom of my heart,  thank you.

Thank you first and foremost to the kind soul who even thought of nominating me. Thank you for the WAA members who kindly voted for me to be a finalist. And thank you to the Awards judges, who made such a difficult choice from an amazing list of finalists, who are all so deserving.

I have been working in web analytics for a few years, but really only got involved with the community last May. I have loved every minute I’ve spent getting involved with the WAA, the Analysis Exchange and #measure. I learned more in six months than I had in years prior.

So all I can say is thank you. I really, truly love this community of amazingly smart people. Thank you for welcoming me so generously into it. Thank you for letting me learn with you and from you. Thank you for the time we’ve spent discussing, debating and encouraging each other.

Congratulations to the award nominees, the award finalists and the award recipients. You are what makes this community such an amazing thing to be a part of. I am humbled and grateful for the award, but more thankful still to be a part of such a wonderful community.

WAA Award