Web Analytics 2012: The Year of the Action Hero

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More action is needed in the field of web analytics. Without acting on the data, it’s impossible to create value. If you’re a web analyst or digital marketer, you need to be driving action from your analytics data if your organization is going to optimize its online business. No action, no value. However, it can be daunting and challenging to determine how exactly the data can be consistently translated into action (optimization). Many individuals, teams, and companies are still struggling with this problem today.

Having worked in the web analytics industry over the past several years, I still don’t feel as though we’ve really tapped into the full potential of the technology yet. Sure almost every company today has some form of web analytics tool installed, and most firms are using it for more than just measuring websites (e.g., social, mobile, apps, campaigns, etc.). And while many CMOs may think they’re covered in terms of web analytics and are looking towards the next challenge (e.g., big data), I’d argue that most companies have barely scratched the surface of the value that web analytics can provide to their business. There are definitely organizations that have been very successful in their analytics endeavors – I just thought we would see more of them.

Enter the Action Hero

2012 is going to be different. This is the year when it all starts to come together – and builds momentum. After several years of partial or inconsistent success, more companies are going to turn the corner and realize a greater return from their web analytics investment. I’m not predicting some new mind-blowing technology that will transform the industry (although there’s plenty of that available and in development). Instead, this change will come from human intervention – or in other words, people. The digital transformation will be created and led by brave, intelligent individuals – analysts, technologists, marketers, and executives – who will no longer settle for the status quo of mindless reporting, low accountability, inaction, and everything else that has impeded analytics success.

2012 will be the year of the Action Hero!

My definition of “action hero” is an individual who can extract meaningful analysis insights from the data and translate them into actions that generate significant returns for their company. These individuals become heroes to their organization through the impact their insights have on the business. Managers will want these people on their teams and will clear a path for them so they can do what they’re good at — driving business value.

As I’ve introduced the action hero concept in my new book, various people have confused super heroes with action heroes. While I love movies from both genres (Spider-man vs. Indiana Jones), there is a subtle but important difference between these two types of heroes. Super heroes have superhuman abilities – they can fly over tall buildings, they have x-ray vision, they have herculean strength, etc. They are extraordinary people with talents I can’t relate to. On the other hand, an action hero is “simply an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances, who, despite the odds being stacked against him or her, typically prevails in the end” (Wikipedia).

There are a number of parallels between the film action heroes and analytics action heroes:

  • Both are ordinary people. I’m not saying they’re not highly talented and super sharp, but they don’t possess any superhuman abilities — at least nothing that feels as though it’s coming out of the pages of a comic book.
  • Both types of heroes operate in extraordinary circumstances. If you’ve worked in online marketing for any length of time you know how insane things can get and how quickly things can change.
  • Both have the odds stacked against them. While film action heroes might be outgunned and undermanned, analytics action heroes can run into similar budget and resource constraints.
  • Finally, both are heroes because they don’t give up and are determined to prevail in the end.

Any capable, intelligent individual can become an action hero – it’s not a privilege that is reserved for a limited number of people based on where you went to school, what you studied, what department you’re in, what your role is, how much experience you have, and so on. While I introduce different methodologies, frameworks, and techniques in my book to help people in their action-packed journeys, being an action hero is more of a mindset than just an approach. You may need to think and act differently when it comes to digital marketing and analytics than you may have in the past. If one of your professional New Year’s resolutions is to enhance your career this year, consider becoming an action hero in 2012. Not only will you take web analytics to an entirely new level at your company, but you’ll become a linchpin and change agent with an even brighter future than you could ever imagine.

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