Monday, March 05, 2007

Interview with Web Analyst: Michael Notte

Continuing my series of Interview with Analysts, here is my interview with Michael Notte

What is your current position and the name of the company you work for?

I work as a Business Analyst / Project Manager for Web projects at the European Headquarters of a major automotive company, based in Brussels, Belgium – Europe. While my official title doesn’t include (yet) the term “Web Analytics”, people refer to me as the “Web Analytics specialist” or sometimes as “Mister WebTrends” (honestly I prefer the first one (smiling)).

Web Analytics represent 60% of my tasks: I mainly work on the Sales & Marketing websites of our two brands – this represents more than 50 sites over 25 European countries. However the demand of “Web Analytics” is growing in other business areas such as After Sales, Corporate, Human Resources, so a very wide scope.

The other 40% are typical Project management, business analyst duties.

How long have you been working in this field?

Almost 3 years ago. I joined in July 2004 as Business analyst. In the first year, Web Analytics only represented 25% of my tasks.

Tell me about your work, education prior to making a switch to web analytics

I've studied at the University from Louvain in Belgium. I've done a master (5 years), in IT Engineering (or Engineer in Computer Sciences as it is called here in Belgium).
I started to work in 1998 for an IT consulting company in Belgium. I worked as an IT Consultant for 6 years, on Web related projects; mainly as a business analyst / project coordinator (I did some developments in the first years too).

Why did you decided to switch to Web Analytics?

Well, I didn’t really decide to switch to Web Analytics. It just happened. My company was looking for a business analyst for Sales & Marketing web projects. At beginning my job was very typical of a business analyst role: collect business requirements, define functional specifications, follow-up the development,… However at the same time, my company was also insourcing Web Analytics services (i.e. WebTrends 7) originally hosted by an external agency. Page tagging had just been implemented and it needed someone to create and manage reports for the business. I was offered the job and I accepted it because it was something new for me.

At that time I had no idea of what was really behind Web Analytics and that it would be so interesting. And that it would grow as it did (and still does). It literally changed my (professional) life as it opened me an unexpected career path. I’ve never regretted my choice, that’s for sure.

I was at the right time at the right place because I barely knew what was Web Analytics – for me it was just about measuring site traffic :-)

Two years ago in Europe, you would hardly find an offer for a Web Analyst or WA related jobs. And even today, they’re not that many (except in few countries such as UK or Germany). But things are changing.

What, if any, education or work experience helped you in making this transition?

First, my experience as “business analyst”. Even if I’m from a technical background, I’ve always liked to work closely with the business side – understanding their context, their challenges, their problems and trying to find solutions to these. And you really need to understand your business if you want to work as a Web analyst.

Also, working on Web related projects really helped me to have a good understanding on the technical aspect of the Internet, websites & web applications. I really think that it is also very important. While a good web analyst doesn’t need to know all the technical details, some basics are mandatory otherwise he/she’ll struggle at some point when it comes really understand what you’re measuring and how to interpret your results.

What are you responsibilities in your current job? Describe your typical workday.

I’ve (too) many responsibilities (smiling)
These includes:
- Gather business reporting requirements, define KPI’s
- Coordinate implementation of WebTrends tags in the Content Management system and web applications
- Set-up WebTrends reports & KPI dashboards
- Define tagging guidelines & rules for external suppliers & agencies
- Analyse results & support/coach business “web” analyst
- Technology & best practices survey
- Vendors coordination
- Manage/coach new Web analyst
- Follow-up SEO related project & reporting

As I work in a Pan-European context, there’s a lot to do. So it is very difficult to describe a typical workday. It is very varied and every day is a mix of all these things.

A new junior Web analyst is taking over the “day-to-day” work while I will focus more on the “strategy” and “business management” work.

What education is lacking, education or experience that would have helped in your current job?

Some “marketing” experience would have certainly helped – especially when I started focusing more on the “business”/”analysis” part of the job. Working closely with the business users and showing strong interest in their work helped me to close the gap.

What web analytics/online-marketing books have you read and/or own?

My library is a bit limited but I’ve the following books: "Call To Action: Secret Formulas to improve your online results"" from Bryan & Jeffrey Eisenberg, Eric T. Peterson’s “Big Book of KPI’s” and “Web Measurement Hacks”.

Which book(s) have you helped in your new job or finding new job?

Without hesitation: Eric T. Peterson’s “Measurement hacks” is a goldmine! It definitely helped me in discovering what was really beyond Web Analytics and all their potential. It also gave me many ideas to apply or test.

I’m really thankful to the persons who offered me the book (smiling)

What were the major challenges you faced or are facing in this industry?

Competition on the automotive market is very high. Especially in Europe, where it (the automotive market) is saturated. This means that to get more shares, you have to conquest new customers from your competition. The on-line channel is playing a more and more important role in the decision-making. Automotive sites have changed from an information research library to a multimedia and interactive experience. Therefore it is really important to provide the best online experience to our visitors. That’s where Web Analytics plays a strategic and important role.

Working in a Pan-European context makes the work more complex – as you’ve to tackle many obstacles either technical or functional – but also there’re so many things to do and learn. It’s great and challenging environment for Web Analytics.

All in all that’s what makes my job so exciting!

How do you make sure you are learning and growing in this field?

First I keep reading various blogs from WA experts – including your blog – or books. I try to attend seminars whenever possible - for the first time I’ll be at the Emetrics Summit in London. This helps me keeping myself up-to-date with the technology and most important with the best practices. I try to apply them whenever possible. I like to test new things and put new ideas in practice.

The WA forum is also a great place. Finally discussing with our Web Analytics agency is also very helpful.

Do you have blog? If yes, what kind of article do you write?

No. I don’t really have the time between my work, my lovely wife and my 1-year little boy. And there’re already many blogs to read out there. What more could I tell to this world? (smiling)

What is your advice to the aspiring web analysts?

To quote one of my company’s values: “Patience and perseverance”. It will take time and experience to get to the first results, to evangelise your management and get some recognition.
When you read books or articles on Web Analytics, it easy to misinterpret Web Analytics as a “magic” solution that will solve all business problem in a quick and easy way. Well, it is not. Especially when this is something new in the company culture. It is even truer in Europe where Web Analytics is still at the early stage (but it is growing faster and faster). So they really need to start small but think big, going step by step – exactly as the Web Analytics process. Begin with the basics and demonstrate their values and then go on to the next step with more elaborated application.
If you’re patient and perseverant, you’ll get rewarded and it will open you a great, challenging and promising career path.

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