How to grow your own analytics team

Readers have asked how to start a dedicated Web analytics team within an enterprise. Smart question. In a previous column I said many companies fail to squeeze enough juice from the analytics grape because they don’t assign genuinely committed or qualified resources, or they consign analytics to a committee already tasked with too much else.

Suppose you had a chance to get it right. What kinds of people suit the roles? What skills are paramount? If you had the luxury of creating a new position in these tight times, how would you advertise it? We work with smart, nimble boutique firms and Fortune 100 juggernauts alike. When an enterprise analytics team clicks, it clicks for similar reasons, no matter the scale. Looking at successful teams, I see recurring models, assignments, and action plans.

A good foundation typically includes two starring roles: a manager and a champion.

Technical Lead

Whether they use a software solution or hosted solution, companies I know that successfully use analytics invariably have an analytics technical lead. Key responsibilities include:

* Manage software and servers (depending on tracking tool).

* Manage a “tagging strategy”: Determine the best way to place visitor-tracking tags on Web site pages and ensure those pages show up correctly and consistently in the analytics tool. Work with third-party content providers and partners to tag pages.

* Ensure new pages or site changes carry proper tracking tags.

* Manage tracking tool changes and upgrades.

Analytics Lead

The analytics lead is a champion, an evangelist, an advocate. This person is responsible for promoting analytics’ value throughout the organization. She often has a strong background in business strategy, Web strategy, or both. She has a solid understanding of your particular analytics tool. She knows what data it yields, how to research and troubleshoot, and how to report the benefits in a pithy, accessible way. Key responsibilities include:

* Help key stakeholders define site or section goals. Define the data readouts they need to drive improvements.

* Develop a data distribution strategy featuring weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports, as well as ways to get them in front of stakeholders.

* Help interpret data as a basis for site architecture or design changes.

* Drive A/B testing to solve specific site problems identified through analytics.

Influential Circle and Beyond

These two roles call for very different skill sets. It’s hard for one person to cover both. Organizations that can dedicate two full-time people to these positions typically gain more ground faster in the analytics derby. Then, there’s the influential circle that can make or break a fledgling analytics team:

* Executive management supports the initiative and helps define Web site success metrics at the highest level.

* Web designers, information architects, and developers implement data-driven improvements.

* Business group leads.

As the team gains traction, it can add more analysts, work with outside firms to augment or train (that’s where I typically come in), or even designate analytics “owners” inside each business group to track data reports and marry them to site improvements.

Our goal is to get the whole enterprise focused on analytics. This hardly ever works when a big committee tries to run analytics. To get fast results, start with a dedicated technical lead and an evangelist to spotlight the outcome.