3 Ingredients for a Strong Analytics Team

Web analysts are a nomadic bunch. Because there are more positions than there are analysts, they tend to migrate from company to company. This is especially true for good analysts in high demand.

There are a multitude of reasons why individual analysts leave a company. But there is one consistent element that retains good analysts: vision. A vision for the future and for their potential is a more potent motivation than fear or even success. It's what keeps a team working enthusiastically through rough patches. There are three essential ingredients to this kind of vision.

Ingredient #1. Vision for the Company

Analysts need to believe the company has some kind of focus and that they are contributing to it. Analysts can smell insincerity. No matter how lofty the company's vision, a lack of candor demoralizes analytics teams.

Companies and teams need a vision to know where they're goingAnalytics teams need strategic plans for how they will contribute to the company's goals. Because of their unique position within a company, they can have a disproportionate impact on the company. Teams need to have a plan to realize that potential. That may include steps to win over stakeholders by helping them to understand the value of the team's recommendations without feeling threatened.

Every analysts' daily work should clearly roll up to the team's overarching plan for company domination. That gives analysts patience when they are doing otherwise low-value work.
Their out-sized contribution should be recognized and celebrated. A small team of good analysts can add millions to a company's bottom line. Managers of web analytics teams should make sure everybody else in the company knows it.

Ingredient #2. Vision for Analytics

Helping team members grow as analysts helps them feel valued individually and signals the company's long-term perspective on the value of analytics.

Managers should encourage and facilitate attendance at conferences. They should help analysts create use cases that are worth sharing at conferences. These build an analyst's individual skills, help them to bring valuable ideas back to the company and position the team as a valuable contributor within the industry. This, in turn, attracts and retains top talent.

Collaboration among analysts is valuable because the web analytics industry doesn't really have stable best practices. This is because the industry is still so new, but also because technology continues to advance so quickly that nobody has figured out "the best way" to do most things. Analysts have to have room to continually experiment. Within a team, analysts should be encouraged to share and brainstorm.

Where teams are big enough, managers can make room for analysts to rotate responsibilities and get a rounded set of experiences. When team members are interested in specializing, they should be encouraged to do it and train their peers.

Analysts need to have room for creativity and passion. Layers of bureaucracy and processes stifle and demoralize them.

Ingredient #3. Vision for Themselves

The web analytics team is the ideal incubation area for the company's future leadership. Considering the set of skills and experiences an analyst gains, companies should work hard to carve out a place for them to stay. They come to know the company's most intimate inner workings, how to communicate with every layer of the company and how to make decisions based on data.

Help analysts succeed individuallyCompanies need to create clear career paths for analysts. For those who want to make a career out of web analytics, they need to be given clear opportunities to grow and develop their skills. They should be encouraged to make a name for themselves in the industry and be given opportunities to create white papers and share their findings under the company's name. They should be given opportunities to lead cross-functional teams, and there should be a clear way for them to advance within the team without having to wait for their manager to die.

For analysts looking for eventual careers outside of analytics, they should be shown how valuable their skills would be in other parts of the company. Other teams should recognize the potential value of analysts and should encourage them to eventually join them. They should be given opportunities for trainings and experiences to develop specific skills that would help them transition out of analytics. Managers should help them develop career plans that outline steps for transitioning to other teams.

An Early Trouble Indicator

This is an oversimplification, but it's true: when analysts start asking for more money, the company has already lost them. Of course analysts need to be paid competitively and recognized for the contribution they are making to the company. But when analysts don't see (or stop believing in) the vision, the only thing keeping them from leaving is money. And that can only keep them motivated for so long.

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