by Eric Layland on April 15, 2011
“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
I’ve got a pet peeve. It’s when I hear someone talk about tactics and claim they are discussing strategy. Or vice versa. It happens time and time again and too often it comes from executives and others who should know better.
Let’s for a moment review the definitions of Vision, Strategy and Tactics:
This rings a bell, right? Whether we remember this from our days in business school or had to double check in Wikipedia, we can hopefully agree on this. So why do we so often confuse strategy and tactics?
One likely reason is the blocking-and-tackling nature of managing a complex business or organization in our increasingly fast-paced world (not to mention the added stress of the current economy). This is particularly apparent in the digital space where “your competitor is but a click away” and where new tactics are invented on a (nearly) daily basis. As managers of people and processes we are typically responsible for keeping teams moving forward towards multiple goals. And we’re hyper-aware of what needs to get done today to stay on track. It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day tactics. But to be truly effective, all this effort should be managed within the context of a larger vision and a strategy to support it.
To illustrate this point about strategy vs tactics, let’s look at web analytics, since it is critical to effective digital marketing strategy, planning and execution.
The emergence of the web analytics practice has never been driven by organizational vision and strategy (web analytics firms excepted). It’s extremely rare that a data driven culture is part of the over-arching corporate vision. Often the analytics culture evolves from the depths of the organization. Through understanding, embracing and the willingness to push the analytics mindset up through the organization, a hard fought battle is being won with data. But how do you integrate analytics into the culture of an organization? Add to the challenge that Web Analytics as a discipline is still in its nascency.
Take a look at your organization’s regular web analytics collecting activities. Are your efforts aligned with and supporting a web analytics strategy? Some telltale signs that you’re mired in tactics are easy to spot.
As we enter a new era where data matters up, down and across the organization – and yes marketers, I’m looking at you – we need to embrace analytics strategy and execute supporting tactics. My objective for this post isn’t to school you on defining an analytics strategy but rather to pose questions and get you thinking. You should ask yourself, “do we have a strategy or are we executing a sequence of tactics?” How would you know? To determine whether your efforts are aligned with and supporting of a web analytics strategy, take a look at your organization’s regular web analytics collecting activities. Are you capturing metrics that tie to key performance indicators that help you evaluate progress towards organizational goals? Or are you just measuring everything and producing reports that get shelved at the end of the day? Data collection that does not translate into actionable business intelligence does not follow a strategy.
You can rarely go wrong if you start by asking the six important questions we know we should, but often forget to ask related to; who, what, when, where, why and how.
1. Who is the primary customer for analytics?
2. What critical performance variables are we tracking?
3. When does the recipient expect the deliverable?
4. Where will the organization realize the impact of web analytics?
5. Why are business decisions in need of web analytics data support?
6. How will the loop be closed on business decisions that utilize web analytics?
Upon answering these questions you should have a clear understanding of what your strategy should be and the tactics required to support the strategy. A very generic strategy statement would look like this:
Our organization uses web analytics data to provide timely business intelligence to enable key decision points to be made based on information that enables a competitive advantage.
The strategic statement developed for your organization should be specific to organizational web analytic needs. When you think you’ve got the answer for each of the questions above, have your team ask, “This is important because…” to critically evaluate the answer and drill down to the core need.
Looking for a little more? Read John Lovett’s Defining A Web Analytics Strategy: A Manifesto.
Have you experienced challenges in getting your organization to adopt and embrace web analytics? Share your experiences with us.
For more on the topic of web analytics, check out the following related posts: