I guess it’s more or less true with every industry, especially with those related to the internet. There are two kinds of service providers, those who promise the world but hardly deliver anything useful, and those who actually put their hearts in and do whatever it takes to deliver something the client really needs.
While today I’m focusing on digital analytics implementations, perhaps most of you can share the experiences from general web development. I’ve been a part of over 50 web projects, from zero to something and here’s something I’ve seen way too often.
Say there’s a company, looking for the right partner to build this next crazy cool web project. They reach out to people they know, a few agencies, maybe some freelancers. Naturally, they all promise one thing, to provide good results at reasonable pricing. Whatever that might be. Too often I see companies turning down slightly more expensive offers by reasoning with something like “Well, all we need is an MVP to see if it really works out for us”. And they go with one of the cheapest offers.
So what happens next? 90% of the stories end in a similar way. They will get a semi-working thing that will soon have issues to be solved. But the provider is nowhere to be found or is asking twice the money to fix what they just produced. Then, it’s always the same, the client goes back to the list of initial offers. And seeks for help from some of the slightly more expensive ones (it has been me more than a few times) to get the setup fixed.
Oh, wait, you guessed it. There’s not much to fix. To cut the costs, or perhaps, because of the little knowledge of the initial supplier, the product is crap. Not only was there no QA, the whole setup was only ever meant to look nice, everything under the hood is better not to be seen our touched ever again. Everything has to be redone, from scratch. Sometimes the company has the resources to do so, or perhaps they don’t and this is where that great project ends. It doesn’t really matter. What matters. is that all of these stories could have a much happier ending if only the decision-making process was a bit smarter and companies saw what’s behind the cheaper offer.
With digital analytics implementations services, the situation is quite similar, sometimes worse. Instead of hiring a proven expert or a known agency, companies often start off by looking for cheaper alternatives. Often it starts with someone from the company trying to set up some tracking, could be a marketing guy, a developer or them both. They might be able to get some data flowing but, in most cases, the setup has no structure and soon it will be a mess.
No better than some analytics novice from your company are usually the implementations delivered by the all-in-one digital agencies. Again, they may know how to install Google Analytics and maybe even configure some of the more advanced features but a good tracking setup is much more than that.
Here’s how I see it. You can’t get a really good data collecting mechanism without proper planning and evaluating of the things that are already in place. This is, unfortunately, the part that so many companies and “experts” try to skip. A structure must be in place before a single setting is changed or a line of code is written. This is especially important if more than one person is involved in the setup process or in any future improvements. Oh, and proper documentation is an absolute must!
Now, I’m not even going into the quality of the actual deliverables because you can distinguish between an average and good provider just by asking about how the process would look like. If it doesn’t include a planning phase or documentation or another round of data integrity check after a month or so, you can be almost certain that the outcome will not make you happy.
Unfortunately, I know that analytics service providers are making cuts on all the “supportive” parts of the project first in order to meet the clients budget and compete on the market.
How could we improve the situation?
As service providers, we should take some time to explain to our clients what the whole process includes and that it’s more than just changing a few settings in Google Analytics or writing some code in Google Tag Manager. We should discuss the long-term benefits of proper planning and good documentation and encourage clients to ask for these things from the cheapest providers.
Of course, talking about it alone is nothing. We must prove that a well-structured tracking setup will provide accurate data, increase efficiency and is a pleasure to work with (we all know the pain of working with poorly structured setups).
As clients shopping for analytics services, we should always see behind the beautiful proposal or the smallest price tag. We need to ask what else goes into building the setup, who is involved in the planning process and how is the documenting managed.
Another thing we need to understand as clients is that the cheapest solution is hardly ever actually the cheapest way for getting a properly working setup. Too often it means you would have to get two setups, that means paying at least twice. One more thing to consider is the time you’ll save when the setup is nicely documented – every future change will be faster and there will be fewer people asking for what a tag in your tag manager is doing.
Thank you for your attention. I know this is something hard to change and it takes so much more than a blog post but it all starts with the right mentality. Business people should be perfectly aware that a good investment pays off. Consider a decent analytics implementation an investment worth your money because I know it is.
Feel free to share this post and don’t forget to express your thoughts in the comments section below.