Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Looking back, peeking ahead

Year end is a good time to think back about what we did. This seemingly simple introspection is a critical step toward the future.

From a professional perspective, I ask 3 simple questions:
  1. Am I increasing my value in the market?
  2. Am I bringing the right value to my employer/clients?
  3. Am I being rightly compensated for my value?
From a personal perspective, the most important questions is "Am I happy at work?"

In this post, I will cover those point and propose to think about "employee engagement" as a method of self assessment.

Increasing market value

My career as taken a huge step forward since I got involved more deeply in web analytics and especially over the last 12 months. For me, the pieces of the puzzle were:
  • Consulting: Sharing, coaching, helping out companies and other web analytics practitioners understand the value of process optimization and analytics.
  • Teaching: Tutoring 3 of the 4 classes for the UBC Award of Achievement in Web Analytics and a 4th one related to business process analysis. I'm also working on a full semester class I will start teaching next fall at Laval University (Quebec city).
  • R&D: The web analytics field being so young, there are opportunities in several areas. WASP is certainly my most known initiative, but I'm also interested in other aspects such as the web analytics maturity model I'm developing, and I have a ton of other ideas to work on.
  • Learning: I think we should never stop learning. Over 5 years ago I embarqued on a long journey to do an ebusiness MBA. Despite the fact I didn't have a University degree; I opened the right doors and demonstrated I could do it: I'm proud to be on the honor roll for achieving an average grade of over 90%. Formal education isn't all, I'm learning everyday as I work with my clients, teach, read, explore and try new things.
  • Starting my own business: This is what I had to do to step into the driving seat of my career, and it turned out to be the best move I could do.
Looking back, the piece of the puzzle fits perfectly together. Of course, the choices should be different for everyone.

About you: Think about your motivations, what drives you out of bed in the morning. In the current economic situation, what would be your winning cards if you were suddenly faced with change?

Bringing value

Did I do a good job bringing value to my clients and students? I think so, but they are obviously the best ones to tell! Voice of Customer isn't just for others! Each class I'm tutoring includes an evaluation form, and I'm closely listening to my clients' comments and feedback.

I know there are some aspects I could improve. Some of them are certainly the consequences of my own personal interests, the numerous opportunities and the workload. At one point, accepting to work with a lot of clients is stimulating but impacts my ability to strengthen the relationship and increase the "share of wallet" with existing clients. However, it's also part of my model: coaching and on-demand consulting rather than retainers and long term engagements.

About you: Do you feel you know what is expected from your work? That you have the right tools to deliver? Do your opinions seem to count?


This is certainly a tricky topic. When some people inquired about consulting rates on the Web Analytics forum the topic was promptly aborted by fear of being perceived as a legal or ethical misconduct. I personally made about 1.5 times the salary of last year despite spending a fair amount of time working on WASP (which isn't bringing significant revenues for now).

But hourly rate isn't what I'm referring to when I think about "compensation". Compensation is something of value you are getting out of your work. It can be an outstanding and pleasant working environment with friends, it can be flexible hours, lots of vacations, excellent insurance and retirement plans. Or it can be as simple as being gratified and feeling good about what you do. It is, in a way, being "happy at work"!

About you: What are your drivers in life? Family? Being healthy? Having fun with friends? Becoming rich? You should strive to work in an environment that offers the right compensations for your personal values.

Conclusion: The Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement survey

The year ahead looks like it will be challenging. The economy is certainly going to affect the way web analytics is being conducted and your job is certainly going to be impacted.

While working for a web agency a while back, and as part of a MBA class entitled "human dimensions of management", I was exposed to the Gallup's Q12 Employee Engagement survey. I conducted the survey internally, anonymously, and the results were catastrophic! Employee retention was really bad, productivity and motivation were low, errors were rampant, profitability wasn't always there and management refused to take action based on the survey results... I left the company a couple of months later.
Proven methodologies and quantified results are not always a guarantee of action!
Being interested in statistics, I would love to know the score for our industry, and the trend over the past couple of months.

The questions are straightforward. As an employee, they should serve as a good starting point for your introspection. As an employer, I would encourage you to ask your employees to take the survey (anonymously, of course!) and take action:
How satisfied are you with your place of employment as a place to work? (Rate 1-5)
  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development. 
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.
(You might also want to check out what The Dashboard Spy has done a while back.)

I think one of the key word in 2009 will be "adaptation". We will need to be able and ready to adapt to an even faster changing environment, handle significant shifts in what our clients demand and expect. I also think experience and being able to handle the multiple aspects of web analytics will become even more important. The dimensions of analytical skills, technological knowhow, communication acumen and broad web knowledge will be leveraged to their full potential.

I could wish you "best of luck in 2009", but luck doesn't always have much to do with it. Our future is in our hands. Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Google Analytics Feature Activation: Event Tracking

"We are happy to let you know that the Event Tracking feature is now available in all profiles for the following Google Analytics Account ID: 123456"

This simple phrase means a lot. It means Google is enabling another feature that raise the bar to a new level and continues to significantly alter the playing field for any low to mid end competitors.

We are not bound to measure page views, visits and visitors anymore. We can truly measure significant activities going on our sites regardless of the way we decide to implement them: AJAX, Flash, Silverlight, widgets or others. Although there was ways to track downloads, video plays and other tricks using the regular page views, the side affect was also that some reports and metrics were affected. With events, a page view is a page view and an event is clearly an event.

Using event tracking

  1. Update your ga.js file
  2. Use the _trackEvent(category, action, optional_label, optional_value) function in your code.

    • The category is pretty obvious: Videos, Download, etc.
    • Action should be something like "Play", "Pause", "Stop", or a timestamp
    • The label allows you to distinguish, for example, which video is being played
    • The value is a way to tell Google Analytics about a timestamp, a count, or any numeric value that will be summed and averaged for each action and label
  3. See the results under Content/Event Tracking in Google Analytics

Other cool stuff

A set of new event timer functions _recordStartTime(), _recordEndTime() and mouse over event tracking _trackMouseOver(). I can already imagine scenarios where those calls will come in handy!


  • Max of 500 events per visit... however, this should be plenty!
  • If an event is fired on the first page of a visit, the visit will never be counted as a bounce. A bounce is usually defined as being a single page view, but since you fire an event, there are now two things happening, thus this visit isn't a bounce anymore. That one is a bit more tricky and could significantly affect some reports, segmentation and other calculations.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hillstrom's open letter

I've been following Kevin Hillstrom's blog for a while. Kevin is a very experienced consultant in the field of multi-channel retailing and data mining, having worked for well known brands like Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, and Lands' End. Today, Kevin posted "An Open letter to the Web Analytics Community" where he ventures in some aspects of what I had covered in "Is Web Analytics too marketing centric?"

Kevin knows his stuff, you should definitely read his open letter. And I must say I agree with everything he is highlighting in his post:
  • data integration across channels becomes a must
  • move from reporting ratios to reporting revenues, benefits and costs. As he puts it "You will have to become good at calculating profit"
  • become political by crafting "a story that blends their (executives) challenges with your vision, providing a compelling narrative that the executive takes on as her own vision"
  • learn about all channels, not just the web
  • if something doesn't exist in your current tool, "make it happen", go beyond the tool
  • "stop doing what Google tells you to do", "start looking at your business the way your CEO or CMO wants to look at the business"
He concludes with "success is tied into your ability to link together all data within the company, to be able to tell a compelling story, and to be able to have executives trust you enough to make key business decisions based on your recommendations.". Very well put Kevin! :)

My take

I think one of the issue, just like in the early days of the web, is anyone and his dog becomes an expert at web analytics because they recently stumbled on Google Analytics. Web analytics has a good buzz, it's in high demand, and is quite young... so there are mistakes:
  • seeing the web as a silo, floating by itself in the deep ocean of the Internet, rather than leveraging its unique characteristics to listen to customers wants and needs and continuously optimizing the business
  • pouring money into marketing without optimizing processes, simply because measuring ROI on a PPC campaign is a lot easier than fixing that darn business process
  • thinking in terms of visits instead of being truly customer centric, just because the tools make a poor job at integrating with other sources of data and reports their numbers in visits or inaccurate number of visitors
  • thinking anyone in the office can be their web analytics guru without the proper experience, training, authority level and empowerment
When I do a web analytics maturity level assessment (see here and here), those are the types of issues I can uncover and for which I can propose realistic recommendations.

Kevin, you are right on, and I hope web analytics "experts" will embrace your recommendations as goals for 2009.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Online Customer Engagement Report 2009

For a third year, the Online Customer Engagement Report conducted by e-consultancy and sponsored by cScape Customer Engagement Unit is now available as a free download.

My take

I'm honored to be a contributor to this report. You can read my comments and those of other experts in the field: Alex Smith, Andy Beal, Backy Carroll, Ian Jindal, Jim Sterne, Martha Russell, Matthew Bailey and Peter Mortensen.

What strikes me is the growing gap between those who have defined a strategy and are taking control of it in-house, and those who are just seeking help from external agencies. While the first have established long term goals and will pursue the strategy despite the economic downturn, the later are much more likely to ditch their plan and focus on the very short term. Guess who will get the advantage!


The third annual Online Customer Engagement Report is based on a survey of 1,300 respondents carried out in September and October 2008.

While the importance of customer engagement is widely acknowledged, fewer than half of organizations (45%) have defined a customer engagement strategy. Many are still unsure about how to implement a coherent and practical plan of attack. Only about half of respondents (51%) said that the deteriorating economic climate had resulted in a greater focus on customer engagement.

The essence of customer engagement is seen as being about creating relationships which result in value both for customers and for organizations. Asked about their organization's interest in online customer engagement, 38% of respondents said that it was about "increasing long-term customer value" while 34% said that it was about "increasing value delivered to the customer".

Get more highlights from the report.