Tips for publishers on best practices and potential pitfalls in choosing the right usage analytics solution for 2016
Most publishing companies view usage analytics as being critical to their business and they are not alone. In a recent Accenture Analytics study, over ninety percent of business leaders regard big data as extremely important and central to their digital strategy. Though there is little argument as to the potential value of harnessing usage analytics, the way forward for many publishers is still unclear.
Almost all publishers have COUNTER solutions but many of those solutions rely on an end-of-life technology, NetInsights. More importantly, they don’t drive evidence-based decisions. COUNTER is a good first step, but now both librarians and publishers are looking for more.
As a fifteen-year veteran of publishing who joined Squid Solutions, a tech start-up specializing in usage analytics and big data, I have five year-end tips that will hopefully shed some light on best practices and potential pitfalls in choosing the right usage analytics solution for 2016.
1. It is not an initiative, but a cultural change. In a recent report IDC predicts that by 2020 organizations able to analyze all relevant data and deliver actionable information will achieve an extra $430 billion in productivity benefits over their less analytically oriented peers. This needs to be at the top of the priority list for publishers. This is not another large initiative with a long completion cycle (years), investment heavy and resource rich. It is a way forward that needs to be integrated into the way everyone works. Performance goals need to be measured using your data and the proper tools need to be made available. Are your sales reps going to meetings with the right data? Are they having evidence-based conversations with librarians? Are your customer service representatives monitoring usage and being proactive when problems arise? Is your platform performance being optimized based on analysis of usage data?
2. Own your data and make sure it is independent. A recent Gartner report stated that big data will be one of the main elements of change for businesses by supplying intelligence-driven models. Verify that your solution is not being driven by your vendors’ agendas. Many content platform providers also offer an analytics package. Be warned! How comfortable are you leaving the measurement of the performance of your online platform to the platform provider itself? This could lead to a conflict of interest between your roadmap and the provider’s roadmap. Ask yourself: Who owns my data? Where is it being stored? Is it being used to drive my business?
3. Your solution should be scalable and open. Most publishers are not ready for a system of usage analytics on a massive scale but the solution you put into place today should allow you to build for the future. An open platform is best, something where you can easily integrate data from multiple sources, including entitlements, CRM, online platforms, etc. Your usage analytics solution is going to be inherently limited if you can only harvest data from one source. An open source ecosystem is the best way forward because you are not constrained to what a vendor has to offer. As the organization becomes more proficient in usage data you will want to harness it for forecasting, churn management, product bundling, sales alerts, etc.
4. Democratize your usage analytics. Usage analytics is not just for your IT department or (if you are lucky enough to have them) data scientists. Any system you implement should be easy enough for all parts of the business and stakeholders to use. Relegating business intelligence and usage analytics to one department creates bottlenecks and hinders the culture shift to a data-driven organization. If you have a solution today, ask yourself: Who has access to it? Is it having a tangible effect? How is the information influencing our business decisions?
5. Don’t wait! According to Gartner, the volume of worldwide information is growing at a minimum rate of fifty-nine percent, or to put it another way, all the world’s data in existence today will have doubled in less than two years. See the study here. Waiting another year is not an option. The sooner you put a solution in place the better. If you are not ready to implement a full solution then at the very least put in place a data collection solution ASAP.
Before you crack open the champagne have a good think about how you treat usage data and your current usage analytics solution. Make a New Year’s resolution—I will own my data, and my usage analytics solution will be independent and freely available to everyone in my organization.