Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Firing pixels: web analytics is hard or easy?

In the old days we had an expression for emails that were very emotional, passionate, the virtual equivalent of an hostile conversation where the tone raise as each proponent get entrenched in their opinion. We called those "flame mails" or simply "flaming".

What we are witnessing between two great minds of the web analytics field, namely Avinash Kaushik and Peterson, is much more subtle than flaming. It's more like "firing pixels" at each other. Always polite, always very professional, but at the same time, we can feel a growing level of sarcasm. Using the power of pixels to express their opinions...

Now what? Is web analytics hard, difficult, painful, easy, whatever?
Let me ask this: when have you met someone who said his/her job was a walk in the park, everything was under control, no sweat, watching the game, having a Bud...

Web analytics is hard/difficult/complex

When we look at the whole picture, web analytics is hard and difficult. Hey! If someone can travel the world and get acclaimed for stating such an evidence, it must be true isn't it? Building a house is also hard, difficult and complex if you don't have a blueprint, if you don't have the right set of skills, if you don't have the right material and always change your goals. If it was easy, more companies would succeed, no?

Web analytics is easy

Look at the definition of "business process" on Wikipedia. We keep earing web analytics is a process, not a tool. You will find out that a process has a couple of characteristics:
  1. Definability: It must have clearly defined boundaries, input and output.
  2. Order: It must consist of activities that are ordered according to their position in time and space.
  3. Customer: There must be a recipient of the process' outcome, a customer.
  4. Value-adding: The transformation taking place within the process must add value to the recipient, either upstream or downstream.
  5. Embeddedness: A process can not exist in itself, it must be embedded in an organizational structure.
  6. Cross-functionality: A process regularly can, but not necessarily must, span several functions.
Any process can become overly complex if not broken down into smaller chunks of specific and achievable tasks. This morning, at the Montreal eMetrics Breakfast I presented the WASSUP approach (more on that in an upcoming post), so obvious, so simple, so easy. Most people will say there's nothing new, and they are right! We already know the theory and the concepts.

So tonight I'm taking position: web analytics is easy, we just have a hard time putting it into action.