Transforming the Politics of Analytics

Transforming the Politics of Analytics
As you build your analytics program, you will no doubt have to work across multiple business units, leading to a boatload of political red tape. As you look to decipher the politics within your organization, there is more than meets the eye (just like the Transformers). 
I’ve been touring the US for our Empower Workshop Series and at the end of the workshop, there is an open discussion panel with all the presenters from the day. In Atlanta, we had a great discussion about organizational politics when trying to build a multi-channel analytics program (if you happen to be in the Houston area on October 10th, sign up for our last stop HERE). During our discussion I posed the question - have you really given any thought to what is really causing some of the politics?  
On the surface, it probably appears that people are being difficult or simply have an agenda or power play in the works. I’ve had the pleasure of working with hundreds of clients to help move their analytics maturity needle forward and what I’ve found is that the majority of the politics revolve around one thing: fear of the unknown.
Education is typically focused on gaining a proficiency in a technology or concept; however, we need to spend time educating stakeholders and coworkers on the bigger picture to shed light on what lies ahead and dissuade the fears. Providing the right level of clarity will ultimately help you achieve the intended results.    
In order to illustrate this, let’s walk through several initiatives that might instigate political turmoil within your organization:
  • Tag Management
  • A/B or Multivariate Testing
  • Reporting Automation
  • Data Integration
Tag Management
Tag Management requires a lot of education throughout the organization - your executives need to understand why this is a major upgrade for analytics deployments and how this will allow for more control and a shortened runway to value. Similarly, your IT team may be afraid of losing control of the tagging process as well as worrying about site performance. The months that go by with a technology on the shelf collecting dust is costing you licensing fees. IT needs to be your partner in crime in tag management. Here are some points to address with IT:
  • Governance will state that IT will have the final production approval for any rules deployed within Tag Management. They will push it to production (click of a button) once it has been vetted within the testing environments.
  • You still may require IT support in creating the rules when things like custom javascript are required and that will help you fortify the partnership moving forward in this new world.
  • The amount of time saved within IT as a result of the new deployment process can be better focused on building out new site functionality and customer experience. You’ll be saving money on analytics deployments and putting money into further innovation of the digital presence.
  • Tag Management improves perceived load time by enabling the deployment of the tagging in an asynchronous fashion, which is actually the only load time that matters in terms of how IT should be aligned for the user experience.
Ultimately, IT hates tagging anyways but you have to educate them on how this will improve their daily work life instead of putting their jobs at risk.  
A/B or Multivariate Testing
The key point to keep in mind when it comes to testing new concepts on the site is that someone designed that site or feature to begin with – you might encounter opposition because there is a lot of pride within the work that you are questioning. No one likes to hear that their baby is ugly (that’s really the root of most politics as you undertake building an optimization program).  So here are a few points to create some clarity:
  • While the initial design may be under performing, you are actually creating an opportunity for the design group to create multiple concepts and ultimately be more innovative.
  • Optimization allows for you to create quicker sprints of content development instead of long, drawn out redesigns.  It’s more fun and gives your creative teams much more freedom.
  • Segmentation and creating a personalized experience is the goal. So, the initial design might actually still work best for certain segments, while varied designs will work better for others.
In the long run, the career path and innovation that develops from a well-built optimization program far outweighs the realization that some of the current layouts may not be performing very well.
Reporting Automation
I’ve written newsletters in the past about how organizations should be spending very little time compiling reports; however, as you look to automate your manual reporting, you need to keep in mind that there are people dedicating a lot of their daily time to that work. In result, if you’re eliminating that need, naturally those folks will feel replaceable and scared about their job security. Here are a few talking points to leverage:
  • Reporting is not the future of your organization. The goal is simply to get the right data to the right people at the right time.
  • The goal is to take the time these folks have spent on reporting and focus that time on actually analyzing the data to derive insights with which to improve the customer journey across your channels.
  • Long term, the people who were undertaking the reporting will actually become the drivers of the insights that are feeding all of your re-marketing efforts. This ultimately will tie them more closely with all of the marketing investments and successes in reach, acquisition and retention.
The reality is that you are creating much better career paths for those that have simply been generating reports for the organization. The sole purpose of collecting data is to act on it, not simply materialize it for others.
Data Integration
Whenever you are looking to integrate two (or more) datasets from different channels, you will be met with resistance. I like to picture the data silos in an organization much like Medieval Times - there are castles throughout the organization that house the data and each “king” is protective of their land. It’s important to remember that much of the resistance you may face is the result of that person either not wanting to corrupt a dataset that they have worked hard to create or simply because they are worried that losing ownership of that data will make them replaceable. To help them feel more comfortable, here are some points of action:
  • Spend a good amount of time painting the picture of how the unification of these two datasets will actually benefit both owners and put them in the spotlight.
  • You’re integrating the data to add more value to the organization, so spend some time helping the data owners understand how their data plays into the program’s ability to generate further ROI for the business.
  • Put forth the effort to explain the source and schema of each dataset to the owners and give them an opportunity to vet out the accuracy of that data so they feel comfortable bringing those pieces together.
No one likes to simply be a cog in the wheel without understanding their full value to the machine. You have to bridge the knowledge gap and get the data owners amped up (to 11, of course) about the future usage of their data for the greater good.   
Path to Enlightenment
Education is the path to enlightenment in your organizations. We are all people and people like to feel appreciated and valuable to the cause. The same is true for folks within your organization that may feel a bit threatened by the progression of your analytics program. However, if you use the tactics I’ve outlined above to create clarity on the bigger picture, you will end up creating allies and not enemies. It’s safe to say that most everyone wants to see their careers progress and become more integral to the organization that they dedicate their time to - you have the power to enable that as you continue down the path of analytics maturity.
Have you encountered organizational politics? Leave a comment below and tell us about it! For further information, I can be reached at


By Bill Bruno
About the Author:

Bill Bruno is the CEO - North America, Ebiquity.

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