5 Minutes with Analytics Conference Speaker, Tim Wilson

Tim is a Partner at Web Analytics Demystified and has been working in digital analytics since 2001. His work portfolio is impressive, and includes having managed the business intelligence team at a $500 million high tech B2B company. He is a well-respected consultant, agency analyst, speaker and industry contributor. In just 5 minutes you will find out where it all began, Tim’s biggest no-no when it comes to digital analytics, and how he keeps up-to-date in a constantly changing industry.

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How and when did you first get interested in what you are doing?

The first was in 2001 when I had taken a new internal role shifting from managing part of my company's intranet to being the business owner of our online community. Somehow, along with that role came ownership of the company's web analytics platform, which was a logfile-based beast called Netgenesis. Managing that platform was a small part of my job, but it intrigued me, and I wound up being on point to replace that platform with a tag-based platform (Webtrends; don't judge; it was a different time).

I took the ownership of web analytics with me when I had another internal role change – the manager of our web marcom group. *That* job was miserable, and I had virtually no time to do anything with web analytics, just as more people were getting interested in the data. I went to our business intelligence group and asked if they had the bandwidth to take over web analytics ownership, as it seemed logical that all of the ’data‘ stuff made sense centralised in one group (which it does, but, oddly, is still rare for organisations to get structured that way). They agreed to take that responsibility off my plate.

As we walked out of the meeting, I made what was, I thought, a throwaway comment: ”You know, the sad thing here is that the web analytics is actually what I enjoy most about my job.” They hauled me back into the room and pitched me on a role in BI, which I jumped at!

That was a lucky break, but I still didn't fully realise I'd found my career ’home’ until I attended The Data Warehouse Institute (TDWI) conference a few months later. I ate up every session I was in … and the rest is history!

What's a big no-no when it comes to digital analytics?

Just one … ?

Probably the biggest mistake I see both analysts and marketers make when it comes to digital analytics – any analytics, really – is expecting the data to both ask the right questions and provide answers.

There is an insidious misperception that has hit the marketing mainstream that, since we have more data than we know what to do with, that all we need to do is dive into the data and start digging for gold. It's actually become an excuse to stop thinking and asking creative questions.

Diving into a sea of data without any idea of what you're looking for or where you're trying to go is a good way to just wind up treading water until you get exhausted and drown. If anything, the explosion of data has made it more important to dive into the data with some real focus.

As an analyst, I want to gather every idea and assumption that I can (my own and those of the marketers I'm supporting), translate them into hypotheses, put some rigor into determining whether the validation of each hypothesis would actually lead to a decision or action, and only then actually dive into the data.

If I could name two, I'd say another big no-no is confusing performance measurement with hypothesis validation. But, I'll stick with one.

How do you keep up to date on the ever-changing landscape of digital analytics?

I'm fortunate in my current role, in that it just happens.

As a consultant, I attend a lot of conferences, so I get exposed to the hot topics of the day. And, I have a mix of clients across industries, so I'm constantly challenged to solve problems that I've never seen before. Those two factors combine to have me naturally involved in social media (the #measure hashtag on Twitter, my Feedly feed of blog posts, and the #measure team on Slack – something any analyst can join at http://bit.ly/AddMeasureSlack), which leads to tripping into all sorts of debates and discussions about how things are changing.

Starting this year, I actually took the fact that I enjoy those discussions so much to a new level by starting a podcast – the Digital Analytics Power Hour (which, with intentional irony, never lasts a full hour) – with a couple of other industry veterans where we tackle one digital analytics topic at a time every two weeks.

But, before I was in my current role, I always tried to carve out time to participate in the online analyst community – the Yahoo! webanalytics group back in the day, Twitter, reading and writing blog posts, and so on. The best digital analysts have an insatiable curiosity, and are drawn to the digital space. So, my take is that there is a natural positive feedback loop: people who are wired to be great analysts are drawn to new technologies and content that explores those technologies, which makes them better analysts. The cycle repeats in perpetuity.

What is something that you wish someone had solved by now?

Well, I started my career in the field of architecture, and I realised before I even got out of college that I lacked the creativity to make that my career. In other words, I lack the creativity to say something particularly interesting or insightful here. I'll have to steal from problems that already have many different efforts under way to solve them, and that have a good shot of being solved in my lifetime.

I'll provide two to make up for the lack of originality:

1) Cheap (to the point of being essentially free) energy that is clean and safe, because that should positively impact a huge list of global problems. 2) Self-driving cars, because, well, that's just going to be so cool!

Android or iOS?

Whichever will make my 16-year-old worry that his platform has jumped the shark (”If my dad is on it, it's probably the lesser option!“). Currently, that means I'm iOS.

So, where can I meet Tim and learn more from him?

The Analytics Conference is the annual Google Analytics user conference hosted by Google Partners, Loves Data in Sydney and Melbourne. It’s a must-attend for marketers, analysts, IT professionals, SEM specialists and social media practitioners. Expect two action-packed days of insights, best practices and ‘out of the box’ thinking to make you question and improve your own digital marketing methods.