Expert Interview Series: Stephane Hamel on the Online Analytics Maturity Model
StÃ©phane Hamel is involved in various
research & development activities with the prime objective of making web
analytics easier; creator of the popular Web Analytics Solution
Profiler and concepts such as
Just-In-Time Tagging and the Online Analytics
Maturity Model. He was among the first to receive
the WAA Certified Web
Analyst title and was
awarded the Web Analytics Association Leadership and Technical Excellence
speaker at the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit
and other conferences, he is also a member
of the International Institute of Business Analysis, on
the board of directors and treasurer of the Web Analytics
Association and plays an advisory role
to a number of agencies and vendors.
In this intereview he explains how companies can use the Online Analytics
Maturity Model to evaluate their current analytics efforts, and also touches
on when and why a company should seek guidance from an outside consulting
1) A lot of companies have an internal analytics team responsible for figuring out what to do with all of their data. At what point do you recommend a company with an existing team to seek out guidance from a consultant like yourself, and how do you begin the process?
If we were to do a classic SWOT analysis
Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) of most web analytics team we could find
many factors playing in. In general, the picture looks like this:
- Strengths: An internal team is best positioned to build for the long term, understand the business, internal factors and realities specific to the company.
- Weaknesses: There are few qualified and experienced web analytics professionals and growing a team from the ground can be a long and tedious effort and in some cases, developing the skills and building the credibility internally is actually more difficult than bringing an external Â“expertÂ” for a while.
- Opportunities: Shifting toward a web analytics career is a fantastic opportunity for employees and a positive cultural change for the business.
- Threats: Market conditions are largely in favor of anyone with decent web analytics experience. There is a real possibility skilled employees will seek for greater challenges or be tempted by more favorable conditions. The other big threat is change management – which is often poorly executed or simply ignored, leading to passive resistance and disbelief of analytics value.
Over the past two years I have studied the factors that makes some companies
succeed at web analytics while so many others fail. The Online Analytics
Maturity Model ( OAMM**) **looks at the six
key process area contributing to a successful web analytics practice:
- management, governance & adoption,
- scope – the size of the playing field,
- objectives – how they are defined & managed,
- team & expertise,
- process – agile and optimized for problem solving,
- and lastly, the tools, technologies and data integration.
After conducting an assessment – a simplified self-assessment is available on
the OAMM website – we are presented with clear indications of strengths and
weaknesses; the actual vs desired state. The goal is to keep a balanced
approach in all six dimensions and gradually grow in maturity. This holistic
approach is excellent to spark discussion with management, educate
stakeholders and work on what needs to be improved in order to fully leverage
web analytics potential.
In conclusion, I think external help can always be helpful – pending it is the
right profile and the right approach. At the simplest, external help can offer
a sounding hear to quickly validate a concept or objective, acute
implementation skills and techniques, additional coaching & training, etc.
More organisations are realizing web analytics isnÂ’t one of their core skills
and for some, the right answer might be to totally outsource the technology
and analysis components to a specialized analytics agency.
2) If a company decides to get outside help, what kind should it be?
There are basically three major dimensions to web analytics, as showed in the
picture coming from the OAMM workshop:
- The business/marketing: defines the strategy and the goals, which are communicated as business requirements & objectives to the technology side. If OAMM dimensions 1,2 or 3 are weak you might request help from a senior ebusiness strategist.
- The technology: understand the capabilities & constraints of the medium, the architecture, and the data collection mechanism to supply the means, tools and data to the analyst. If OAMM dimensions 4, 5 or 6 are weaker, seek for more technical help and someone seasoned at agile development and methodologies
- The analyst comes with his problem solving skills to do a synthesis of the data at hand and communicate back actionable insight & recommendations to the business. And lastly, if dimensions 3,4 or 5 are lower, you might want to look for someone with SixSigma or similar background.
3) Can you give a few examples of huge turnarounds youÂ’ve seen as a result of OAMM improvements?
Many practitioners and agencies looked at OAMM and provided great feedback on
what works and what needs to be further improved. I frequently mention a
maturity model must be used and abused in order to live, adapt and improve
over time. LetÂ’s look at three classic examples:
- Canoe.ca, a large Canadian media company had several good elements but lacked a cohesive approach to implement and manage web analytics on over 200 websites. When a senior manager joined the company and became the champion all key process areas significantly improved – reinforcing the first dimension of OAMM, Management, Governance and Adoption is the most important. More info is available on my blog.
- The practitioner at an European car manufacturer conducted a self-assessment and used the Â“as isÂ” and Â“to beÂ” as a strong discussion point to demonstrate the issues the organisation was facing. The fact OAMM was developed by an independent consultant and is supported by academic background and methodologies makes it agnostic of any vendor or consulting agency bias. It is sometimes easier to convey a message when we can point out the exercise is based on a rigorous approach from someone external to the internal politics and influences – a great way to start the discussion with managers and stakeholders! More information about this case is available on my blog.
- An agency wanted to start their own web analytics practice and I insisted to conduct a maturity assessment before starting off with one of their client. Even when faced with the harsh reality some people insist on ignoring it and I pointed out very weak areas that would likely make the project fail with their client. Sadly, this is exactly what happened – on the brighter side, it demonstrated the model is valid!
The common team in those examples: the tools arenÂ’t really the issue – the
ability to navigate internal politics and get decision makers on board is the
4) How do you go about choosing the right analytics tools for your clients?
It becomes amazingly simple after conducting the OAMM assessment. When you
spend some time thinking about the business goals and how they will be
measured, when you look at the analytical process and available resources, and
when you consider the scope of work, you can more easily identify which
solutions will have the best fit. Of course, my own hands on experience and
knowledge of the market makes it easier for me to point out solutions that
will cater to the right maturity, market and vertical. I have witnessed many
cases where totally unrealistic scope & objectives lead companies to chose
high-end solutions only to fail a year later because they didnÂ’t invest enough
in the process and resources… and usually, practitioners and managers alike
will point out to the tool not being Â“good enoughÂ” and seek another quick
One of the area IÂ’m looking into right now is to use OAMM to map out various
vendors and agencies and highlight which key process areas they are the best
5) Any parting thoughts youÂ’d like to leave our readers with?
There are really two school of thought: Â“web analytics is hardÂ” vs Â“web
analytics is easyÂ”. My position: web analytics is not any harder than so many
other things businesses have to deal with.
Depending on the source, technology related projects are unsuccessful between
60% and 80% of the time – CIO magazine states only 32% of the
projects are delivered on time, on budget and with the required features.
After all, Web analytics, and everything related to the Internet, involves
Every analyst should print out the definition of Â“analysisÂ” on
Wikipedia and read it once per day:
_Analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance into smaller
parts to gain a better understanding of it. _If web analysts canÂ’t make their
own job easier, do they really expect to be able to optimize much more complex