Building an analytics culture

by Justin Souter on October 1, 2012


I had a fascinating conversation with a web agency recently about analytics and the readiness of customers to make the most of the insights a well-founded analytics setup can produce.

The upshot was this post, with some reflections on how to embed a culture in your organisation – both regarding analytics in general, and also web analytics.

Previous posts: Competing on Analytics

I’ve been checking back with a couple of posts (‘getting started’ and ‘what it means’) from this time last year relating to the Competing on Analytics book.

I like the “Stages of development” pyramid on ‘getting started’ – which correspond to the columns in the table below ‘DELTA and Analytics Maturity. You should be able to click on the table below and it will increase in size.

DELTA corresponds to the graphic to the right: Data, Enterprise, Leadership, Target, and Analysts – i.e. what Davenport, Harris, and Morison suggest your priorities should be (as per the graphic to the right).

DELTA and Analytical Maturity

8 Steps to serving up an analytics culture

This is a tremendous article, seeking to answer the following questions:

  • How do we get people in the organization to understand and adopt analytics?
  • How do we get analytics to drive business impact?
  • How do we get to a point where we are making decisions at the speed of business?
  • How do we get our arms around customer insights and stay relevant to our customers?
  • How do we get a single source of the truth?

The eight bullet point titles are food-related, so here we go.

  1. You are not dining alone – although “analytics have gone mainstream”—effective application is a different story
  2. Whet their appetites – the importance of getting your data in order
  3. Feed them Saltines – i.e. quick wins
  4. Show them how the sausage is made – show how statistical tests translate into business results
  5. Hire a top chef – the right people are a critical component to effectively using analytics
  6. Sell more lobsters – begin at the tactical level
  7. Teach them to fish – give decision makers somewhere to go to get business value from analytics
  8. Eat a balanced diet – balance analytics with business experience

A really useful aide memoire to help embed an appreciation for analytics – and a desire to act on them – in your organisation.

Andrew Chen

Andrew is a an entrepreneur and blogger based in Palo Alto, California, whose has been writing insightful posts for a number of years.

His “5 steps towards building a metrics-driven business” post is from June 2008, and this is his opening section:

Don’t ask me about viral marketing, ask me about metrics

Given my history blogging about viral marketing, I’m occasionally approached by folks who ask me, “For product X, how would you promote it and make it viral?” I think there’s an expectation that there’s a playbook which you can directly apply to every situation.

Unfortunately, there’s no real answer to this – ultimately, I think any advancements that can be made to your business function based on the fact you make very gradual improvements based on creating goals, measuring subcomponents, making hypotheses, and testing them. There’s no better way to do this than to just do it.

He summarises his keys points as:

  • Create clear, measurable goals
  • Make an uber-model that breaks down key variables
  • Collect both quantitative and qualitative data
  • Generate hypotheses around key variables and variable combinations
  • Execute test and control methods, and don’t confuse correlation with causality!

John Lovett – building a culture of measurement

According to John’s bio, he is a Senior Partner at Web Analytics Demystified, Inc.. In this paper published by WebTrends, he outlines the challenge:

In our experience at Web Analytics Demystified, we’ve realized that most organizations are not adequately equipped to leverage the measurement technologies at their disposal for conducting data analysis and using data to drive change within their organizations. Most often, individuals struggle to deliver insights using flawed processes or via short-sighted strategies. Data remains locked within departmental silos and never gains the chance to permeate throughout an organization. Yet, a few savvy organizations like the ones interviewed for this research are breaking the cycle of data underutilization by leveraging a culture of measurement that has been nurtured within their companies.

How to – Quote

I’m reproducing an extensive quote from his post “Building A Culture Of Measurement”, with some suggested next steps:

Once you’ve established what you’re working with, the next step is to develop a measurement strategy that meshes with your culture. I advise my clients to create a “Waterfall Strategy”. I introduced my concept of the Waterfall Strategy in my manifesto, so I won’t attempt to recreate it – here it is:

Strategy Credo #8: Establish a waterfall strategy. By this I mean strategy should flow from the headwaters of the organization and align with the corporate goals set forth by the executive team. Once your measurement team is clear and united on the goals, then identify objectives as the next tier in your waterfall that supports the corporate goals (these are your business promises). The base of your waterfall strategy consists of the tactics. Tactics are the actual campaigns and programs that emerge from your marketing machine (your creative promises).

Each tier within the waterfall has specific metrics that indicate success. These metrics must be clearly defined and baked into the system at all levels to ensure proper measurement. It’s also critical to recognize that neither you nor an external consultant is likely to change your corporate goals, but you can refine the way in which you get there.

The third effort that you must undertake when attempting to build a culture of measurement is to make your data sing. And no I don’t mean going on American Idol or belting out karaoke at your next company function. Here I’m talking about the ability to tell a story with your data. Think about culture for a minute here…it’s built on stories. You need to become a story-teller within your organization and find the narrative within the data.

Communicate to your constituents not with numbers and spreadsheets, but with examples of how their efforts and activities contributed to the success of the organization. In doing this, you will create heroes and legends within your organization who earned their status through data. The next thing you know, others will be knocking at your door and asking for metrics and measures to show the brilliance and success of their projects. You’ll inherit a whole new set of problems when this starts to happen, but we can tackle that at another time.

How to – video & slide deck


I recently attended a Londata event – ‘Using Data to Delight and Excite’. I asked about the readiness of customers to make the most of insights from big datasets.

Alex Craven suggested it was similar to some initial customer conversations from the past, such as “you need a website”, and “you need to do social”. This latest suggestion, “you need to do big data” [or similar], will perhaps be in a similar vein with a sceptical MD!

I hope you have found these insights useful and actionable – I think like any form of change, making the most of data-driven insights will be most successful if it is brought to stakeholders in a way they can understand, learn about, and ultimately benefit from.

Davenport on Baseball

Slightly off-topic, Tom Davenport gives this interesting summary of statistics and data in baseball (to me, anyway!). I’ve sneaked this in as I think it’s rather good ;-)

Previous post:

Next post: