Sunday, April 6, 2008

Web analytics is EASY, Easy easy...

If we were shouting out load "WEB ANALYTICS IS EASY" while standing at the top of a cliff we would just hear back "easy, easy, easy..."... That's the kind of reference Eric Peterson used when referring to a recent post of Matt Belkin and myself (although not spelling out my last name correctly and not linking to my point of view here and here...) when talking about the "echo chamber effect". His statement:
You say something for so long, and your buddies all repeat it, that eventually you ignore the reality of the situation and begin to believe something that is clearly not true.
Ouch! That's a constructive comment! Thank you Eric, you just enlighten me. I was lost, you showed me the way. You've been touring the world warning us all that "web analytics is hard". We've heard you load and clear. It must be the absolute truth.

Is there a conversation going on?

Since you didn't post my comment and didn't reply to my email, I'll share my thoughts here instead. (Sadly... it vaguely reminds me of another conversation you had with another thought leader.)

I haven't been in web analytics for as long as you, that's true. But I still have enough experience with complex projects to know that starting up with a preconceived idea that it's "hard", even impossible from what you seem to infer, is a sure way to fail. There's even a whole book on that topic called "The setup to fail syndrome".

Several years ago it was ERP systems, then CRM, now it's web analytics... lots of companies failed, those who succeeded gained a strong competitive advantage. With the economic trouble ahead, we're heading straight into "competing on analytics". You know it, you said it yourself, deploying the tool is just a fraction of the solution: changing the corporate culture is the real challenge. If we say ERP, CRM or web analytics is hard... who is it really helping?

Ok, let's say it's hard, what's next?

In a way, I agree with your statement and the comment my friend Jacques Warren posted on your blog: web analytics is not an easy endeavor. If we want to play with semantic, here's some food for thought:
  • Human nature and leader bias: ask anyone "is your job hard?", regardless of what their actual job is. You are very likely to hear them say "Hell yes!" and they will go on explaining why THEIR job is so hard. In a survey, this is called leader question bias. Inferring a state of mind in the question itself.
  • What is "hard"?: this is a clearly a qualitative value, as human being (and think God we are in a democracy), everyone is entitled to his opinion. And my opinion of something "hard" is when being faced with the unknown and unexpected, mapping uncharted territories where no one else ever succeeded.
    - Landing a man on the moon: yes, that was hard.
    - The first successful heart transplant: yes, hard...
    - Ending hunger in the world: this IS hard
    We know what it takes to succeed in web analytics, and some companies are progressing amazingly well in that space. Again, how is constantly coming back saying "web analytics is hard" helping?

"Web analytics is a process easy"

Why am I saying that? You are the guru, you certainly have a lot of followers (certainly much more than I do!) and that's ok. I'm pretty sure I heard somewhere that "web analytics is a process", heck! to claim a copyright on "web analytics business process" is a pretty strong statement (for those who wonder, check the page footer on so if someone knows how to make it easier, it should be you! Why do you keep on saying it's hard?

Aren't we defining processes to make complex tasks easier?

Web Analytics is a process like any others

Business Process Analysis implies understanding & improving a collection of interrelated tasks which solve a particular issue. Nothing new here... Most businesses face complex and "hard" processes, and the way to make them "easy" is by decomposing them into smaller sub-processes until they are manageable. I strongly believe that bringing the web analytics culture (along with the tools and educating people about it) is not "hard" when you set goals and expectations accordingly.

I prefer to think positively and see every challenge as an opportunity to learn and move forward.

I prefer to act and make web analytics easier to understand when I tutor or when I speak at a conference; when I work with clients to help them learn & understand.

I prefer to think web analytics is easy because "we can do it".

Let's end this rant with a question: Who does it serve to run around saying web analytics is hard? How is it constructive?

(Let's have a beer... or several... at eMetrics!)

Credit: drawing by Aaron J. Louie