CEO Letter To Web Analytics — Response To Eric Peterson’s Memo

In response to the CEO’s letter to Web analytics, Eric Peterson penned a memo from Web analytics back to the CEO. Take a moment to read his letter, then come back here for my reply back:

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To: CMO, CIO, SVP-Ecommerce
From: CEO
Subject: Memo from The Web Analytics Team to “beloved CEO”
Date: May 14, 2007

I don’t know which one of you the Web Analytics team reports to, but whoever it reports to, I want you to find out who wrote that memo — and fire him or her.

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But seriously, thanks for commenting, Eric. We’ve never met, but your reputation precedes you, so I truly appreciate that you would even comment on my post. A couple of thoughts in reply to your memo:

1) “Please tell everyone that from this point on we in web analytics are only going to deliver reports that are going to be used.” Nobody — even the CEO — can dictate that “reports will be used”. The good marketing departments that I’ve seen (this is not just a WA issue), know that some reports will get more attention than others, and work to either minimize their efforts in producing those lesser-utilized reports or getting them killed in the first place.

2) “Keep in mind we are “web analytics” not “web reporting.” For many senior execs in many companies that distinction is purely semantics. Remember when the first batch of VPs of IT were renamed CIO? Having the C-level title on a Monday didn’t make them any more strategic than they were on the Friday before when they didn’t have a C-level title. Lots of departments and positions suffer the same problem. If WA (the web analytics team) wants to do more analysis, it has to figure out how to do that without thinking that it can toss the reporting requirement over the wall to someone else.

3) “Many of your senior lieutenants continue to treat their particular channel as if it were the only source of business”. Bingo — you nailed it. If only WA could find a way to communicate that message in a less-smarmy, more politically correct way than the sarcastic guy who wrote the memo in the previous comment, then WA could be seen as the true strategic resource I believe it could be.

4) “Did you get the memo we sent you about deploying technology that will let us run controlled experiments?” Uh, no. It must have been stuck into that book you sent me which is sitting under the pile of books sent by every other department in the company. Careful here, Eric — memos about “controlled experiments” shouldn’t go to the CEO. The bigger issue here, is “marketing’s civil war” — the fact that the CMO him/herself doesn’t even understand the need for the experiments, because they’re too caught up in their branding efforts. But don’t air marketing’s dirty laundry to the CEO. Ever.

5) “We need you to set the tone and create a mandate to use web analytics to drive our business success”. That isn’t going to happen. The onus is on WA to demonstrate how web analytics can be used to drive business success. I’ll admit that this isn’t going to be easy, but WA needs to pick its places and, probably even more importantly, picks its targets. By “targets” I mean the senior execs in the company who can be supporters and agents of change. It’s similar to the efforts that politicians undertakes. You build support with the right people at the grass-roots level first before going national.

Thanks again for commenting, Eric. Good luck with your consulting business.

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7 thoughts on “CEO Letter To Web Analytics — Response To Eric Peterson’s Memo

  1. Perhaps the senior lieutenants are in fact the smarmy ones – cocky, threatened – whose long history on the ladder makes it particularly easy to knock down those fighting (WA) to swim upstream. I know because I’ve been there.

    The biggest step for me was to: 1) Locate and befriend a senior executive who believed in WA and 2) work with them to refine the wares until they were fully polished. Next step, use their position to send the message up the food-chain, standing alongside as a partner.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Geof. In my experience, most of the time the senior lieutenants aren’t “smarmy”. But often, they’re many years of experience has led them — quite understandably — to see the world in a particular way, and believe that the success of their firm can be achieved in a certain way. Finding the renegade is the way to go when you’re the upstart like WA.

  3. To: CEO, CMO, CIO, SVP-Ecommerce
    From: Web Analytics Team
    Subject: Re: Memo from The Web Analytics Team to “beloved CEO”
    Date: May 14, 2007

    Dear Senior Executive Team,

    We regret to inform you, we quit. Given the organization’s lack of demonstrated commitment to allowing well-vetted data and analysis to assist in our decision making processes, we’ve decided to go across the street to work for your number one competitor. Thanks for spending all the money training us and for sending us to great conferences and the such, our resumes are better for it.

    Sincerely,

    The Web Analytics Team

    P.S. Did we mention we’re all getting a 20% raise because our new bosses actually calculate the return they get from their investment in web analytics? Yeah, because they can determine how much value good analysis brings to the organization through careful controlled experimentation, there are never any debates about the costs associated with doing web analytics. Cool, huh?

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    Ron,

    Thanks for the creative forum to address some of the ** really ugly ** issues web analytics faces today. All of the points you make are spot-on and I don’t disagree, but I think that the memo above (glib as it may be) is unfortunately true. There are too few talented individuals out there today with experience doing real web analytics. When companies put up roadblocks–each of which are perfectly reasonable when considered microscopically–what you get is an organization that will constantly be at risk of losing the valuable web analytics talent they’ve been able to attract.

    It’s not to say that web analysts are job-hoppers, far from it. Most that I know are well-meaning individuals who seriously want to have an impact inside their organizations. But when over half of the respondents to my recent survey on web analytics (report coming very soon at http://www.webanalyticsdemystified.com) indicate that they’ve thought about switching jobs in the last six months … well, something is going on.

    Agreed, no CEO can dictate that “reports will be used” … but he or she can make sure that senior lieutenants are tracking critical web KPIs by making those KPIs part of their quarterly MBOs. Yes, the difference between “reporting” and “analysis” may be semantic, but like Potter Stewart, I know it when I see it, and I think that senior executives do as well. Silos and technology gaps are real, but it’s not as if the problems (and solutions) aren’t pretty well documented at this point …

    At the end of the day, your comment that the CEO isn’t going to set the tone for web analytics to be successful ** is ** the problem. While I’ve only been a CEO for four days (five, depending on when you read this comment) I have seen enough great web analytics initiatives, supported by bright internal champions, KILLED when the internal winds blow a different direction (kind of like the Kerry campaign last time around, sadly …) In any organization of size, web analytics has to be given a reasonable chance to prove itself as a strategic initiative. You don’t have to boil the ocean; you have to take a thoughtful, process-oriented approach to web analytics.

    I love your blog and any friend of Novo’s is okay by me 😉

    Sincerely,

    Eric T. Peterson
    CEO, Web Analytics Demystified
    http://www.webanalyticsdemystified.com

  4. Nice posts. Those web analytics sure do think a lot of that Eric guy who write and speaks . . . .

    Ron, I like your stance on not throwing too many bones to empower the web analytics. I think one of the most common mistakes for any team in an office is that you wait for permission to do something that no one else knows you have the ability or desire to do. I’ve been guilty of it many times, waiting for the CEO to come in and ask me to put together an amazing product development strategy, or a great reporting schedule, etc. I’ve found that the only way to do it is jump in and make it happen, even if I don’t know everything I need to know, and even if I don’t know if they’ll like it or not.

    So, web analytics guys, do what you think is needed even if you don’t think it will be fully appreciated or understood. Most of us need a visual aid, anyway.

  5. Very true. The renegade senior executive, as few and far between as they are, is the correct personality to seek out.

    Web analytics, being new and shiny, is a chance for these people to prove themselves, show that they’re “techy” and gain bragging rights amongst peers.

    Sure, it’s all about ego, but leveraging that ego can take you, and the business analysis + reporting expertise you provide, a long way. Once you get your foot in the door and the executive gets their pat on the back, you’ll both have more clout in the future. It’s a lot of work, but wholly worth it.

  6. In the just under 5 months that I have been blogging, Akismet has caught 3600 spam comments (2000 of them in the last month). In that time, I have found just 2 comments that shouldn’t have been flagged as spam. One from Jeff Larche, and the other is comment #3 above from Eric. Good thing I look thru those messages (and good thing I don’t click on any of them).

    I want you to know, Eric, that I wrote the initial post/letter because I truly believe that WA has the potential to revolutionize marketing. I wrote it because of the frustration I was feeling that neither party — the WA community nor the established channel execs — were moving the ball forward when it came to establishing WA where I believe it should and could be in many of the firms I deal with.

    Brett’s interpretation of my post is interesting re: “not throwing too many bones to empower” WA. I wasn’t siding with the CEO. I was simply trying to capture his/her side of the story. And trying to tell the WA community that evangelism isn’t the way. Geof nailed it — it’s finding yourself a sugar daddy! I guess “executive sponsor” is the more appropriate term.

  7. Ron: PHEW! I shot that comment off just before I hopped on a flight and then looked to see your response that evening. When the comment wasn’t there I was pretty sure I’d pissed you off 😉

    We’re in heated agreement at this point. Something has to change. I’m all in with my new company, trying to help the “sugar daddies” (mommies too!) take a strategic approach to WA. Yeah, I’m a huge Jim Novo fan.

    Eric T. Peterson
    CEO, Web Analytics Demystified
    http://www.webanalyticsdemystified.com

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