Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from up north

Joyeux Noël! 
     Merry Christmas!

Pictures I took while skiing at Massif du Sud this morning.

I'm sure this is where Santa takes all his Chistmas trees!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My take: Web Analytics Without Borders - learn, collaborate, help

"I'm not sure how I landed here". This was a way of saying that growing in the online analytics industry is often like a long path with several crossroads that could have lead somewhere else, high mountains and challenges to tackle, a sense of accomplishment, but also a down to earth knowledge the road ahead is full of surprised and opportunities to learn. On this path I met several new friends and mentors who were kind enough to help me and point the right direction. I also did my share of mistakes, had bad experiences, stupid managers and occasionally met self-proclaimed prophets. The path is different for everyone, but the story is probably similar.

I was a volunteer medical first-responder for nearly three years. During the day I was the techie, the geek, the web architect. At nights and weekends I was volunteering to help others in what is by far the most important: life. Sometimes I was the helpless witness to tragedy, pain, suffering, cries and death. I comfort myself in thinking I made the smallest of a positive difference.

We all have careers, we all are very busy, and we all have our own objectives. There is nothing wrong in trying to grow our career and work hard to make a good living. It's even better if we can become better persons along the way.

This, in essence, are the reasons of my involvement in the Web Analytics Association - Save The Children "Web Analytics Without Borders" project: to genuinely and sincerely help.

How it got started

In July I got an email from Adam Laughlin, newly appointed web analyst at Save The Children, asking about  using WASP to check the quality of the Google Analytics and WebTrends implementation on I though providing a free license was a small way to help out. One thing leading to another, and I guess because of my role as a tutor of the UBC Award of Achievement in Web Analytics, Adam asked me about tips to define good online objectives and a strategy to increase outcomes for the children. I suggested he take a look at the concept of Web Analytics Maturity Model as part of a problem solving approach to help SaveTheChildren. We quickly got into a very interesting discussion about learning, sharing and helping. I recommended he came to eMetrics to have an opportunity to learn from thought leaders, particularly Alex Langshur, president of the WAA and PublicInsite, who has done a lot of work for non-profit organizations, as well as meet with fellow practitioners. He had no budget - we shared a room.

At about the same time, two involved members of the WAA, Daniel Waisberg and Kris Groulx were working on a similar idea. We quickly saw the opportunity to work together for the greater good of everyone: analysts, the WAA and NGOs.

Web Analytics Without Borders (WAWB)

We spent a lot of time defining the goals of WAWB, how it would work, how we would offer guidance and mentoring to help WAA members who wants to learn in a real, large-scale and representative environment. Over the years tutoring at UBC, following the analytics forum and getting personal emails I've continuously heard this kind of request. It's fairly easy to get volunteers, it's slightly harder to get dedicated volunteers, and a whole different thing to get organizations, even NGO, to "open up the kimono" and show the naked truth about their numbers. For that, I thank and salute the willingness of Save The Children to participate in this project.

We discussed the project at the WAA Board retreat in September. Sadly, we didn't have time to go through the final details and get Board approval to launch the project. We were getting ready to launch it officially in November, then December, then January... The WAA being open, some information about it was publicly available and I had already talked about it on my blog in September.

Next steps for WAWB

We are already accepting volunteering efforts from WAA members and in January we will roll-out the collaborative environment. Why WAA members only? Because we believe in the WAA mission: "lead and support the members by providing quality education, developing standards and best practices, conducting research and advocating for issues that advance the industry". In order to achieve this mission we rely on volunteers, people like Adam, Daniel, Kris, myself and so many others. Maybe even you!

The project is built along principles similar to crowd-sourced or open source software projects. There will be various ways of getting involved and contributions will be reviewed and commented through peer review and mentoring. As Adam stated, "Save the Children will share team goals, processes, scope, and objectives, allowing WAA members to become part of our team". Participating volunteers will have access to web analytics tools, but success isn't much a matter of tool, but much more a matter of structured efforts and change management.

Education is about gaining knowledge and competencies, such as mastering the concepts of statistics, marketing and technology in order to truly understand what web analytics is all about. This is the UBC program and other universities mission (for the French-speaking community, check out the new full-semester, MBA-level online anallytics course: "MRK-6005 Analytiques Web"). Training, on the other end, is more about acquiring specific skills, such as hands on learning of how to use Google Analytics. Generally, employers will look for trained people, while employees will seek education as a way to advance their career. The balance between the two is important to increase and sustain your value in the market.

And how does one prove its value in the market? That's the WAA Certification objective. It is a way for those who have achieved a certain level of experience and expertise to be recognized. Because there is still no unique path to become a proficient analyst, we need an independent, unbiased and credible way of evaluating our market value: the Web Analytics Association.

The WAWB doesn't replace education or training, it offers a playground and opportunity to help children in need grow up safe, educated and healthy, and better able to attain their rights.

If you want to get involved, become a WAA member and send an email to waa.membership[at]webanalyticsassociation[dot]org.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What's holding back web analytics?

About everyone in the web analytics industry knows Eric Peterson. He's been an early evangelist. He wrote the "Big Book of Key Performance Indicators", which, to this date, remains an excellent reference for anyone starting in the field. He also leveraged a fantastic idea from June Dershewitz called Web Analytics Wednesday.

Eric asked on Twitter:
"What do you think is holding the #measure industry back? Pls share!"
Replies were plenty.

Incidentally, two days earlier, someone for whom I have the utmost respect spent an amazing amount of time shedding light on the web analytics industry. Joseph Carrabis is an amazingly bright person who is somewhat of an outsider to the web analytics industry, and thus, can shed a different light on it. He looked at us, collectively, asked questions, and shared some very interesting thoughts in Part 1 and Part 2 of "The Unfulfilled Promise of Online Analytics". Joseph is an observer, a listener, a thinker, and a very honest and respectful person. Joseph opened up a conversation.

Back to the Twitter thread

@immeria: @erictpeterson wht's holding #measure back? My take is the Web Analtyics Maturity Model Nevr got feedback from U abt it

@erictpeterson: @immeria I'm not a believer in the value of models. I worry that they are the new "Web analytics is easy."

@immeria: @erictpeterson What's holding back #measure? Additional comments in my nod to @JosephCarrabis at #measure

@immeria: @erictpeterson never claimed WAMM would make #measure easy, but certainly easier. It's a start, don't you think?

@erictpeterson: @immeria let's agree to disagree, shall we? Either way, glad you got an A+ on the thesis paper. Congrats!

@immeria: @erictpeterson Solving problems when #measure is "hard": 1) acknowledge the problem 2) understand it 3) act to solve it. WAMM helps do that

I waited and thought about this thread because I simply don’t get it. I was to reply privately but decided to post a public response instead. The comment “let’s agree to disagree” is what Wikipedia defines as a "thought-terminating cliché". Hopefully, this will be a way to continue the conversation because without conversation, there is no learning, and no evolution.

So, what's holding back web analytics?

My opinion, based on 18 months of study on top of over 20 years of experience that led me to this industry - looking at other fields of expertise and interviewing practitioners around the globe - it turned out there were some clear patterns. The result is a proposal for the Web Analytics Maturity Model - a document where I ask for feedback and peer review.

I received and continue to receive amazing feedback about it. Even when something looks wrong, people offers very constructive feedback. That's perfect: it's the goal of peer review. Very few people ever said something against this work. "I don't believe in models, they are the new "web analytics is easy"" and bold claims like "I'm a maturity model atheist" are really the exception and as you guess, offer no solution.

There seemed to have a level of consensus in previous research (lets not call them “models”) and among the feedback I gathered.

What's holding back web analytics is:
  1. A lack of trust, engagement and support from management: the 1st "pillar", or critical success factor.
  2. Unrealistic or undefined objectives & scope: the 2nd & 3rd key success factors.
  3. Nonexistent change management, politics and bad communication.
  4. Lack of process and best practices: the "Team & expertise" dimension of the model.
  5. Difficulties in taking action, going into a continuous improvement process that brings positive outcomes. The 5th dimension of the model.
  6. Technology was the least important of the factors leading to a successful, positively accepted web analytics program.
Joseph concluded to similar issues when he said "So far three matrix elements — time, a lack of leadership and realism — have been identified". If they were to be regrouped, the Twitter replies to Eric would pretty much fall in one of the above six categories.

People can tell me I'm off track with the Web Analytics Maturity Model - everyone is entitled to an opinion. But critics should lead to suggestions. The concept of a model - although not perfect and obviously open to improvement - as proven a valuable tool to facilitate assessment of organizations web analytics status and spark constructive discussions. That being said, I repeat, a "model" is NOT a black magic recipe to success. I'm also warning that using the model as a comparison tool between organizations is not necessarily a good use of it.

Let's continue the conversation

I'm open to any and all types of comments, positive or not, as long as they are respectful an not bold unilateral statements. I invite people to collaborate and participate in the conversation, either here or through Joseph's excellent threads. Tweet @immeria or feel free to email me privately at

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A nod to Joseph Carrabis: The unfulfilled promise of online analytics

<Side Note>

I'm not sure how I landed here.

  • I had poor grades in high-school.
  • The career adviser said I shouldn't apply in computer science - I had no chance. I did anyway.
  • I loved computer science. I was a hacker - yes, it was me who shut down the mainframe to get exclusive access to finish my homework...
  • In 1986 I had to pick an internship. I picked an obscure Unix/C research project with University of Montreal while my classmates headed for IBM/Cobol and Fortran in banks and insurance - I was crazy!
  • "Unix will die" they said, "C will never pick up". But I was on the Internet in 1986 - before the Web ever existed.
  • Work - Unix sys-admin and Oracle DBA. Then HTTP & Mosaic - it was natural.
  • Logs, like any other computer system. Unix scripts to automate; soon enough the data was in Oracle.
  • Web development, web strategies, ebusiness, measurement & optimization.
  • Needed more business & management credibility - I did my MBA.
It's been over 20 years. I'm still a child in a candy store.

< End of side note >

The chasm

The Internet was built on collaboration, the early days of the Web were, as  is  was web analytics. The web analytics industry is at a crossroad. Vendors are fighting for a share of the pie, competing for the latest cool feature while trying to capture as much profits as possible from their clients and locking them down along the way. Newbies are flocking to the field, just as it was some time ago for the Web - anyone and everyone is an expert. Self proclaimed gurus ego are inflating exponentially with the number of "friends" they have.

We are craftsman. We improvise custom solutions to old problems - optimizing processes, measuring success, managing change and politics. We pride among ourselves for finding new clever ways of measuring social media and inventing new metrics nobody else understands when we can't even get five minutes with senior managers to improve their business.

We go at conferences, gang in discussion forums and Twitter to convince ourselves we are so right - we know what's wrong and how to solve it. The "outsiders" can't understand, they don't get it - so we think.

The unfulfilled promise of online analytics

Joseph Carrabis "The Unfulfilled Promise of Online Analytics - Part 1" was thought provoking and several people contributed to the conversation - it's a shame some people retracted or didn't even participate. Joseph, with his unique style and outsider perspective, published the second part. Anyone in the analytics space should read it - vendors and gurus must read it - and comment.

Joseph takes great care in being respectful and always ask for permission and opinion before quoting or talking about someone. As soon as I got his email I took a glimpse at it - thinking I would get back to it later... then I stopped everything else and read the whole thing.

There are several gems in his document:
  • Please remove my comment
    It takes a lot of honesty and tact to talk about those who requested their comments be removed...shame on them for a) not standing by their opinion and/or b) not accepting they might be wrong.
  • The Setup to Fail Syndrome
    "There is also a need to recognize what's achievable when (so people aren't set up to fail) and how to promote faster adoption of an agenda". It reminds me of a book I read: "The setup to fail syndrome", by Manzoni and Barsoux. I read that when, at a particular job, I went from "fame" to "looser" because the context changed (got a new boss). Success is also (mostly?!) a matter of context...
  • I'm playing, don't bug me
    "Management repeatedly asking difficult to solve questions results in they're being ignored by analysts until the final results are in. By that time both question and answer are irrelevant to a tactical business decision".
    "This means such institutions - which require experienced practitioners to survive - will only be able to afford low quality/low experienced practitioners to help them. This can be likened to a naval gunnery axiom: "The farther one is from a target, either the larger the shell or the better the targeting mechanism" and companies will opt for larger shells (poorly defined efforts) rather than better targeting mechanisms (experienced practitioners)." 
  • Let's find something cool to do
    "We're suppose to be solving problems. But I can't figure out what problems we're suppose to solve."
  • Act quickly, think strategically
    I loved the prognosis/diagnosis example and "Investigation takes time and only certain businesses can afford time because unless the science is working at overcoming a business obstacle, it's a cost, not a profit."

A maturity model

I'm grateful Joseph mentioned and acknowledged the usefulness of my work on the Web Analytics Maturity Model to advance the field. When Jim Sterne introduced me during the WAA annual members meeting he said "I don't know how to present Stéphane", referring to the fact I have a technical background and recently completed my MBA... but mostly, I guess, because of my passion for the field and my willingness to share. Others have publicly or privately acknowledge my work and provided honest feedback - positive or not. Ultimately, there is no evolution without collaboration.
I asked Stephane if he believed WAMM provided a metricizable solution with universally agreed to objective measures (I told Stephane that I wasn’t grasping how WAMM becomes an "x + y = z" type of tool and asked if I’d missed something). Stephane replied "…no, you haven’t missed anything, because it is NOT a x+y=z magical/universal formula, that’s not the goal. The utmost goal is to enable change, facilitate discussion, and it’s not ‘black magic’. A formula would imply there is some kind of recipe to success. Just like we can admire Amazon or Google success and could in theory replicate everything they do, you simply can’t replicate the brains working there – thus, I think there is a limit to applying a formula (or ‘brain power’ is a huge randomized value in the formula)."
Then there are "maturity model atheists" - those "who've been there, done that"... Such positions gives very little room for discussion. My feeling is they are standing so high on their pedestal, busy working with the top organizations, that they've lost empathy with those struggling to make things happen - at their scale and with the capacity they have.
One key element to remember is "you can excel along any axis... but to be successful you need to excel evenly along all axes... so far three matrix elements - time, a lack of leadership and realism - have been identified".

"So there better be a 'right way to do it', at least as far as delivering results and being understood are concerned, because without that the industry - more accurately, the practitioners - are lost". I hope we will find this way together, honestly collaborating and being open minded, because I love what I do.

If we don't? "any industry that succumbs to promise and hype will ultimately end in disappointment".

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Job: Web Analytics and Optimisation consultant - Bell Web Solutions - Montreal

Bell Web Solutions is looking for a Web Analytics and Optimisation consultant for its Montreal office. The selected candidate will be in charge of providing solutions to clients concerning performance tracking for web sites (e-commerce; media portal; financial services; etc.) and other online activities (interactive campaigns). Services offered span from key performance indicators definition, web analytics tool implementation (Omniture; Webtrends; Visual Sciences (HBX); Google Analytics; etc.) to reporting and analysis of collected data.

About Bell Web Solutions

Bell Web Solutions, an excellence centre focused on the Web, is part of a Bell Canada division called Bell Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Solutions. Bell Web Solutions has more than 200 professionals in communications, strategic planning, marketing and Web technologies. The excellence centre integrates the expertise of CESART (now Bell Web Solutions), specialized in interactive marketing for the past 10 years.

As a strategic partner, the Bell Web Solutions team accompanies its clients from beginning to end and is actively involved in the evolution of their interactive projects. Bell Web Solutions offers a wide range of innovative solutions customized to the needs of its clients. These include: Online Consulting Services, Web Development, Usability and Accessibility, Web Analysis and Optimization, Interactive Marketing and Promotion, and Electronic Delivery Services.

Additional details and application available through Workopolis.

iPerceptions releases WASP v1.30

I'm really happy to announce the release of WASP v1.30, the 1st since I sold the technology to the great folks at iPerceptions.

What's new

  • Changed ownership from immeria to iPerceptions
  • Usual round of bug fixes and minor improvement
  • Added enhanced help for Yahoo! Analytics
  • Detection and handling of Google Website Optimizer
  • Crawl stealth mode for WebTrends, Coremetrics, AT Internet
  • New tools: Netminers, eSearchVision, OpenX, comScore, Rubicon Project, sophus3, beencounter, econda, GoingUp!

What's coming up

Please take 2 minutes to submit a review at and visit the UserVoice page to suggest improvements and cast your vote for the v2.0 features!

WASP v1.30 is available immediately at and is awaiting approval at Or you can simply wait for the automated update notification.

Training: Roadmap to your online analytics success, Ottawa, January 20th

After spending months studying the managerial aspect of web analytics and delivering the Web Analytics Maturity Model, I'm ready to share insight, expertise, best practices and tips to achieve success with your online analytics program.

Course description

This workshop isn't about using web analytics tools or optimizing your marketing campaign. This course is looking at online analytics from a managerial perspective.

So much has been written about why web analytics is valuable and how to make it work technically. The major stumbling block for most organizations is change management and developing the online analytics culture. Once convinced that they need to look at business from a different perspective, companies need a roadmap. The end game is so far off and the next steps are unclear.

Target audience

The course is specifically designed for analysts who are change agent in their organization or web and marketing managers who wants to leverage online analytics.


This workshop will go through an assessment of your online analytics goals and objectives from a business, marketing and web executives point of view. You will learn about the critical success factors and the process that will enable you to plan for future advancement:
  • A method for strategically benchmarking your current situation
  • Identify the pillars of successful data-driven organizations
  • How to determine the resources and investment required to advance to the next level
  • Tips to define realistic online objectives tied to business goals, and how to measure success
  • How to communicate effectively, bring changes and overcome political roadblocks
  • Several real life examples of commonly faced organizational challenges and how to overcome them

Course material

Presentation hands out with annotations and exercises.

About the instructor

Stéphane Hamel is a leading voice for online analytics, helping businesses understand the value of performance measurement and process optimization. With over twenty years of experience, most spent developing web sites and online strategies, he is now teaching a full-semester, graduate level class about online analytics at Laval University (Québec City), as taught over 500 people through lecturing the « Award of Achievement in Web Analytics » and « Introduction to Business Analysis » classes at the University of British Columbia. He is a member of the « International Institute of Business Analysis » and on the board of directors and treasurer of the « Web Analytics Association ». Stéphane received the « Web Analytics Association Leadership and Technical Excellence Recognition » and is a frequent speaker at the « eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit » and other conferences. Stéphane owns a Master in Business Administration specializing in eBusiness.

Helping partner

This event is made possible with the collaboration of:
PublicInsite is a privately held, Ottawa-based consulting firm with offices in Ottawa and Boston, offering Web site performance measurement and other e-services to the public and non-profit sectors.

Event details

January 20th, 8:00am-12:00pm
There will be a Web Analytics Wednesday on that evening.
Crowne Plaza Hotel
Frontenac room
101 Lyon Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1R 5T9
$295 (WAA members can benefit from a $50 discount)
>>> Register now! <<<