Continuing my series of interviews with Web Analysts, here is an interview with Jacques Warren.
I am an independent consultant in Web Analytics. My company’s name is WAO Marketing, which stands for Web Analytics & Optimization (well, I guess I’m not so good at branding!), but it is in fact a one-man show. I intend it to stay that way.
How long have you been working in this fields.
I have been in Interactive Marketing for 12 years now, and I decided to focus all my time to Web Analytics 6 years ago. I knew then that it was impossible to be a good Web marketer without making use of all that data. I still strongly believe that analytics, not just Web Analytics, will deeply impact marketing, and how we do business in general.
Tell me about you Interactive Marketing experience, prior to web analytics.
I was in interactive marketing, mainly in agencies. I did have a small company in the 90’s specialized in localizing Web sites in Japanese, and promote them to that market. For many years, Japanese was the second most used language on the Web after English. I believe it lost this title to Chinese, but Japan is still by far the second largest economy. It made sense then to use the Web in the context of international business, although what I was doing was too niched to make a living. My academic background is Sociology. I did some graduate studies, but the desire to travel got into the way of my thesis, and I never finished it. However, I believe that background helps me a lot today, having trained my mind on abstract thought, analysis, and synthesis.
Why focus on Web Analytics?
How can you manage it if you don’t measure it? Back in 2002, after getting fired for not selling enough Web development projects (ah! Those darn 2000 – 2002 years!), I knew that companies could not keep indefinitely throwing money at the Web without starting the hard business questions about the value of all that. It was the beginning of the web normalization; it was time to treat it as another way of doing business. And if it was business, well, then it had to be accountable.
Tell me more about when and why you created your own company?
I actually created my company in April 2007 when I decided to leave Bell Business Solutions, a Bell Canada subsidiary, where I had started the Web Analytics service offer in 2002. We were working with external clients. I had a really good time then, because we were discovering this new field, trying to make it a revenue stream through consulting and reselling WebTrends, and just plainly educating Web managers about the benefits of Web Analytics. So you could say that I have always been on the consulting side of WA. I’m a consultant at heart. I believe I have the required qualities: expertise, communication skills, empathy, and a deep understanding of organizational contexts. If you can’t understand how well (or badly) a company can integrate what you bring it, chances are good that the project will fail. I will confess something to you: getting independent was the best decision I have made professionally in a very long time.
What are you responsibilities? Describe your typical work day.
Well, of course, finding work is, in theory, a good part of what preoccupies me. I say in theory, because my only merit since I left Bell has been to answer the phone. I am amazingly lucky that work comes to me.
So, my main responsibility is to bring maximum value in usually very short time to organizations who need to evolve in Web Analytics. I do a lot of consulting in KPI, dashboard, analysis work, and WebTrends implementation and training. I work with other applications (Google Analytics, Omniture), but only do sophisticated implementations with WebTrends. I was a Premier Reseller at Bell for several years, and although I am not a technical guy, I had to deeply learn
the product. Without my planning it when I started, I turned out to be one of the top WebTrends people here in Canada.
Besides doing the work I am paid for, I spend a good part of my time in meetings, and interacting with managers. Web Analytics is now understood as being crucial, and people want to learn as much as they can, and understand how they can make it a part of their daily practices.
What, in your opinion, are the skills that you think are important for a web
Having an analytical mind? Yes, sure, of course. But a “synthetical” one too, although that word doesn’t exist. Interpretation resides at that level; the big picture that is constructed through all that slice and dice. You must master your framework, here Web marketing. I believe I am an excellent web analyst because I am first and foremost a great Web marketer. Well, this is not the most humble thing I have muttered in years… But it’s true!
Do I need to stress the importance of communications skills? Analytics is done in such context, politics, ambitious people, P&L obsession, etc., that what you communicate is never purely objective, even though “I’m not saying it; the numbers are!”. You will expose people, plans, projects. Sure, you will as well demonstrate success, but companies are run by humans, who have a strong tendency to like status quo, and status.
What, if any, education or work experience helped you in your job.
I am of course an avid reader in everything Web Analytics, but also in business, marketing, etc. I also attend training, such as Stephen Few’s workshop on data visualization. That was Stephen first public class last June, and it had a big impact on my work. As for work experience, well, I had dozens of projects done when I decided to fly solo; that of course made the decision way easier, since I was offering deep expertise and experience to the market from day one.
What education is lacking, education or experience that would have helped?
What web analytics/online-marketing books have you read and/or own?
All of them, and most white papers out there. Of course, one needs to read
outside one’s field to find stuff that could be applied. Recent readings are:
The Power to Predict,
Fooled by Randomness,
The Black Swan,
Super Crunchers, and
Competing on Analytics.
What were the major challenges you faced or are facing in this industry?
Adoption, adoption, adoption. I have been at it for six years now, and doing a lot of education here in my market (Province of Quebec in particular, but everywhere I go). Although I am very happy about how much awareness our field is getting these days, I am still amazed at how little still many companies do with the information they get. Acting upon the findings remains what it is all about.
How do you make sure you are learning and growing in this field.
I read a lot of books as I mentioned before. I also read all the blogs (but not always all the posts) in the field. I also watch for conferences and seminar that will help me grow. Paying for all that with my own money, I am very discriminating, and choosey; I wish I could go to more. If you happen to work for a company that gives you a good budget for that, don’t hesitate to use it
Do you have blog? If yes, what kind of article do you write.
I actually have several, Analytics Notes (http://www.waomarketing.com/blog/) in English where I am more interested in the relationships between analytics and marketing culture.
Web Analytique & Optimisation (http://www.waomarketing.com/blogFR/wordpress/) in French, where I discuss the more basic stuff. The Big Integration (http://www.thebigintegration.com/blog/) in English about the data integration stuff. It’s also got a Forum (http://www.thebigintegration.com/forum/) WebKaiseki no Kiso (http://www.waomarketing.com/blogJP/) in Japanese about basic stuff. But I have neglected that one for a while, since writing in that language demands me a lot of time.
What is your advice to aspiring web analysts?
Understand the web and Interactive marketing first and foremost.
Thank you Warren.