Running the Numbers: Centralized Vs. Decentralized Analytics
Central control is necessary up front
Decentralization is good and happens over time
Centralization is eventually required again
And now, on with our show....
Should you open the doors to the Web analytics tool, let everybody do their own analysis and draw their own conclusions? Or should you retain tight control over the data and spoon-feed those who initially showed no or little interest in the process, but are only looking for numbers to support their conclusion-du-jour?
The answer is yes; each in their own time.
When a pendulum is first set in motion, it must be brought all the way to one side. In this case, the centralization side. The analytics team must control the tool selection, implementation and interpretation. There is so much to know and so many mistakes that can trip one up when marketing analytics is launched that the task should only be handed to trained drivers on a closed course wearing seatbelts and helmets.
Step by step, these experts can venture into the business units with golden nuggets of statistical truth and entrance the uninitiated with their insights. Once the pupils are sufficiently hooked on the idea, senior management can be persuaded to invest more resources. At that point, centralization can begin in earnest.
The analysis team can recruit new members, upgrade the tools and expand their purview. This is the time to establish processes and procedures, set standard definitions and create a corporate understanding of how to draw the most valuable insights from the available data. The central team will reign supreme -- for a while.
Eventually, the central team will not be needed as each business unit acquires a taste for the value and the ability to go it alone. The page tagging process will be streamlined, familiarity with the tools will improve and critical thinking will become part and parcel of the marketing milieu. Each group will bake analytics into each project as a matter of course and all will be well -- for a while.
Remember that pendulum? Now that the pendulum has swung all the way over to the decentralized side of the arc, there is trouble afoot. Nothing is immutable; how people capture data, cleanse data, take measurements and interpret the results change over time. Why's that so bad? What's wrong with each business unit doing their own thing to optimize their own marketing in their own way? It drives the CMO crazy.
The CMO (or other sufficiently high-up individual) needs to be able to compare apples to apples. As soon as she sees that Group A's numbers do not line up with Group B's numbers, there will be hell to pay come budget allocation time.
Should your organization's analytics be centralized or decentralized?
Yes; each in their own time.