Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Engaging IT in your WA strategy

Someone over at the Yahoo! web analytics group was inquiring about when/how to communicate instructions to the IT team to implement the JavaScript tags. As often, my short answer turned into a long ramble about the role of IT in web analytics :)

As a member of the marketing team, there's often the feeling that IT don't understand, they don't get it, or even that they are clueless... The other side of the coin is that IT see marketing like a windmill, changing as the wind change, coming up with weird ideas that are complex, hard, or impossible to achieve on time, with the current technologies, or with the available resources.

When & how to engage IT in your project?

I've been on the IT side for most of my career but I've developed strong business affinities. Here's my top 3 advices:
  1. Make a friend: Find someone in IT, allow him/her to become your champion. That person is likely someone who is eager to learn, a bit on the techie side but wishing to get closer to the business side, and a good communicator. It doesn't have to be a manager, but it should be a leader.
  2. Begin early, repeat often: the sooner you can get IT to the table the better it will be. They will be able to identify the best implementation scenarios: what are the technical constraints & limits, easier and more efficient ways of achieving a task, naming conventions, where and how custom tagging will be achieved, etc. They will often enforce some form of structured process around the project. IT also has access to other sources of data that contain valuable information that can be merged with web data. They know the size of the sandpit and which toys are in.
  3. It's a quest: IT is used to projects with a clear beginning and a clear ending date. However, web analytics is most successful when part of a continuous improvement process. Sooner or later, you will need to have someone in IT who is readily available to participate in your meetings and answer ad hoc inquiries. You will also need the help of IT to make those little tweaks to the tags within a week instead of a month.

What to avoid with IT?

Three things to do, three things to avoid:
  1. Do NOT provide a recipe: Avoid coming up with a point form instruction list (my wife does that all the time, but that's another story!). My advice is be to share & show IT what you want is your goal, not how you think it should be done. Show what you can do with the information gained from web analytics, how it will not only impact your own job, but also that of the whole company. Simply telling them to put a snippet of code without context is likely to backfire because it's "yet another task on their plate" and they won't even know why it's important. If you've followed my advices above, IT will be engaged early and they will know exactly why and where to put those tags.
  2. Information is NOT a walled garden: You've identified an IT champion, right? Share ALL your reports and analysis with him/her! Treat that person as your true partner. The systematic and methodological approach that IT brings can help explain correlations where you don't suspect there is. You're readying up for a presentation? Use your IT buddy to do a rehearsal. And hey! If he don't get what you say, isn't there a chance you will present to people who won't get it either but will be to shy to admit?
  3. Do NOT be condescending: as far as I know, everything related to the Internet makes use of technology... IT will account, at least for the foreseeable future, for as much as 50% of the solution. Don't forget that without technology, your job is totally useless.
Comments? If you are in an IT team, what are the three things you wish marketing would improve? Marketing people, what are the three things you think IT should do to help you out?