So, you can't find enough time to do the stuff you want to do at work because you are very busy? Take heart. It's possible to arrange your work to spend more time on the big questions, but it'll take some work to get there. How? Read on...
Everybody wants to do cool stuff at work! We, the digital analytics folks, love doing analyses, presenting data-driven insights, exploring new tools, convincing the business to launch a new feature / product derived from our analyses, etc. I will categorize these as the "sexy" parts of the job, the parts we wish we had more time for. Now, just like any other job, there are also the not-so-sexy parts of our jobs. That's the focus of this post - the mundane (but don't go away! it ties back into the sexy part of the job at the end).
Whenever I go to an analytics event or talk to someone from the industry, the conversation is always about the aforementioned sexy parts of the job. Now that I am not at an event, I can talk more about one of the the less sexy but probably most important aspects of our jobs: documentation, the backbone of the analytics implementation process, IMHO.
If you think about the analytics process at your company, it would probably look something like this:
I probably wouldn't exaggerate if I told you that (3), (5), (6) and (7) above, i.e., the documentation and QA, are often overlooked and underappreciated because they are considered time consuming! I think they are at least as important, if not more, as the rest of the items above. Let me expand on this.
I completely agree that documentation is not the most entertaining part of what we do. You know what you want to track and you can probably save time (in the short run, anyway) if you have a quick chat or type up a quick email to your implementation team and/or your developers to get the stuff you want implemented so that you don't have to "waste" your time with documentation, but I highly encourage you to document everything you implement.
Assuming that there is a release every other week, there are around 26 releases a year (times the number of platforms you have). Without proper documentation, probably nobody would know/remember what's been implemented in what release. This is the obvious reason. The second one is more strategic.
Tell me if you had a conversation like the one below with one of your product managers:
Product Manager (PM): You remember we implemented this new [amazing] product to increase exposure of the XYZ product category?
PM: Can you get me a report/do some analysis that tells me whether this product is actually performing well? We need to talk to the sales team so that they can start selling it
You: That can be done… but when do you need it by?
PM: End of day tomorrow
You: That is not possible… I am working on [insert a high priority project here]
PM: When can I get it?
You: We'll put you in a queue and see what can we can do...
PM: It's super important because [insert a name with a big title with large salary [aka a HIPPO]] asked for it
You: OK. As I said I will see what I can do about this but I cannot get it to you by the end of day tomorrow
PM: That's too late because the presentation is this Wed.
You: If it's super important, why is this a last min. request?
PM: [Provocative response]
You: [More provocative response]
... and boom there is unnecessary tension between you and your colleague! I am sure this happens to some of you all the time (it used to happen to us a lot but not as much anymore).
One solution (at least a partial one): Self-Serve and Automation!!! Let me type that out again: SELF-SERVE & AUTOMATION. Trust me, because I'm sure you don't want to worry about these type of requests anymore.
At autoTRADER, we've been trying to solve this problem for a while.
And now that we have been properly documenting every single tag on the site and trained pretty much everybody who needs digital analytics data for whatever they are doing, we have enabled product / agile teams to self-serve. It's a definite win-win both for us, the analytics folks, and the product teams.
Do you want to know how your amazing product has been performing? Go to the 3rd tab on the live Master Dictionary spreadsheet (ours lives in Google Drive), see how the implementation was done for your product and pull whatever you need yourself. Do you want to slice and dice the data by date, hour of day, medium, platform? Go crazy, be my guest! Now I can concentrate on my more strategic project!
We've come a long way at autoTRADER.ca. At one point there was only one person (a.k.a., me) who used to do pretty much all of the stuff above (all but coding) but now we have a larger team. Everybody has their own speciality, allowing us to execute the fix I am proposing here. Yes, you need a team to be able to self-serve; if you are a one man show, let this be an incentive for you to make the business case to staff up (more on this for a future post).
This is the framework we've designed at autoTRADER (kudos to my colleague Kevin, who was able to articulate what we wanted to achieve in this two by two framework).
I don't know about you, but we, the Analytics group, want to spend the most of our time on the right side of the framework that has an impact on the larger business opportunities and challenges. However, we used to spend most of the time on the left side of this matrix doing "micro-analyses", where the business impact is usually smaller. I am not condescending the micro analyses at all, but our group's mandate is to focus on the right side.
In order to change this imbalance, we've come up with processes and hired resources to carve up time for the team to focus on the more strategic stuff. We document everything that goes into the implementation and we created a measurement and data dictionary (we call it the Implementation Bible) so that the teams can do their own analyses without being dependant on us. We've also trained the internal teams on our Analytics platforms - how things are tagged, how teams can create and use their own reports through various tools like PowerBI, Supermetrics, Data Studio, GA Dashboards and Custom Reports - in order to create a win-win situation for everybody. They have access to what they want, we spend our time on what we need to spend more time on...
Going back to the beginning of this article, the sexy part of the job is tied to the not-so-sexy part of the job and goes back to documentation. I am aware that documentation is time consuming but it's necessary to move your business forward. I highly recommend that you think about it if you are having issues like we used to!
You don't have time to document? Sure!