One of the most common pain points that I run across when dealing with strategy for organizations of any size is a lack of education amongst web analytics users. A lack of education in an organization can cause a great deal of pain and frustration, and can pose significant challenges to growing the analytics program and making data-driven decisions.
When I interview stakeholders, I am frequently presented with the following education-related issues:
1. Limited access. Only a few users in the organization actually know anything about web analytics, and as a result, few people have access to their web analytics tool.
2. Limited expertise. Most users do not know enough about the tool or the data that they are working with to perform in-depth analysis.
3. Limited resources. Users with a high-level of knowledge about web analytics are constantly pulled in different directions to field requests for analysis and training.
4. Limited retention. Users who were previously educated often don’t retain enough information to be self-sufficient.
While there is no “smoking gun” approach to educating your users, approaching education as a business process can help to mitigate some of the issues that are commonly associated with one-off and ad hoc training. Education requires a substantial investment of both time and money, so for most organizations, launching a program for continuous learning is often a phased approach. It is important to remember that, as with any other process, creating an education program often requires many small steps and subsequent iterations in order to succeed.
Some important tips for launching an educational program in your organization are as follows:
1. Target your training. Users are most interested in content that pertains to them directly; separate your training efforts based on the roles and interests of your users. For instance, administrators and power users/experts might be most interested in advanced functionality, tagging, and configuration, and are usually not interested in rehashing the fundamentals. Meanwhile, casual users and stakeholders who consume reports typically need more basic information, such as terminology and definitions, interface walk-throughs, and hands-on exercises.
2. Avoid fatigue. Long days of intense training make many users feel as though they are “drinking from a fire hose” – consider splitting your efforts into manageable chunks to allow users a chance to absorb and process the information that they have learned.
3. Train on your dataset. Training on your dataset makes it easy for users to apply what they have learned to their everyday activities, and increases retention. Try to avoid training on “dummy” data whenever possible.
4. Implement ongoing education. Continual education is critical in allowing your users to retain the knowledge that they have gained. Consider adding in regular seminars or “brown bags” that are targeted toward specific topics, such as interface walkthroughs, campaigns reporting, industry updates, and data automation. In a pinch, asking your users for topic suggestions can provide a wealth of ideas and can shift some of the burden from those who are organizing these sessions.
5. Get feedback. Make sure to get feedback from your users. Patricia Kendall, one of our Senior Consultants, mentioned in a previous blog post while feedback can be intimidating, it is key to making any process work in the long term. It is important to get feedback from your users about what is working and what isn’t in order to make your program truly sustainable.
6. Educate everyone. Remember that everyone who touches analytics needs some sort of education, even if they don’t necessarily log into the tool themselves. In general, I find that many organizations struggle to move forward because experts are consistently fielding the same questions day in and day out. The addition of basic training for new report consumers can really cut down on the amount of time that experts spend on these sorts of activities. Documentation of frequently asked questions or the addition of a wiki can also help to ease some of that pain by providing users a consistent resource.
7. Take ownership. Education can be a tough process to get moving because of how many resources it requires. Having a specific resource (or resources) take responsibility for the advancement of your education program provides a sense of ownership, and prevents a lot of back-and-forth that often stalls the development of such a program.
Taking a process-based approach to education will be highly beneficial to your organization.
While I find that it is sometimes difficult to get companies to initiate their investment in education, once you get the process started , education can be a powerful medium for change and can really increase the value and momentum of your web analytics program. I hope that you can apply some of these “quick wins” to your educational program to make the best use of your web analytics solution.
If you have any questions or if you have general comments or feedback, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org