I didn’t intentionally save this post about public sector web analytics for Memorial Day – it just worked out that way. On Thursday, June 4th, our own Phil Kemelor is going to be co-presenting (with Ann Poritzky from the National Institutes of Health) a webinar on the state of public-sector analytics. The webinar is based on a Web Analytics Association research project surveying more than a 100 public sector measurement users/consumers about web measurement in their organization. The research is fascinating and if you’re involved in the public sector this is a webinar you should definitely check out.
When Joel and I first started Semphonic and began our web analytics practice, we concentrated on what we knew – financial services. Over time, as our practice grew, we found that many of the techniques and concerns that we’d evolved in financial services were highly-applicable elsewhere – especially for sites that didn’t have the “easy” success measurement typically present in retail. And after awhile, that’s how we began to think about our practice – as focused on sites outside of traditional e-tail. Which is why, when I met Phil, I believed that there was a significant practice opportunity for us in public sector. All the work we’d done in branding, customer support, engagement metrics, functional analysis, and audience segmentation seemed to be ideal.
It’s been nearly two years since Phil joined Semphonic and in that time we’ve built a significant public sector practice I’ve become ever more convinced of that thesis. Of course, I’ve also learned the many challenges of public sector – both in terms of analytics and measurement and in the more mundane aspects of being a consultant/vendor. It's hard.
Measurement of success in the public sector is even more challenging than on some of the most difficult private sector sites and the audiences are often extraordinarily diverse. Both facts present real challenges for good measurement.
We work in many difficult regulatory environments – financial services and pharma for example – but the public sector is on a whole other level. The restrictions on cookies are, of course, both notorious and onerous. But the regulatory challenges don’t end there – they snake in-and-out of nearly every aspect of public sector work. What’s worse, these external factors can easily become an excuse for not doing measurement at all.
Partially because of this, the culture in public sector is not yet fully attuned to measurement. We’ve seen a tectonic shift in the perception, awareness and use of analytics in private sector marketing in the past five years. That’s a critical part of building a successful measurement program – for nothing is ultimately more important to a good measurement program than the culture of the organization.
The public sector is at least several years behind in this respect. Only in the use of more classic primary research techniques like online surveys has public sector measurement really excelled.
When I tell people that we’re growing a public sector practice, their first reaction is often: “That should be great with Obama.” And perhaps it’s true that Obama’s awareness of the online world will accelerate the pace of change. But, to be honest, I think that same tectonic shift from the private sector was already inevitable and underway.
These are exciting times for the online space in the public sector – and that translates into exciting times for online measurement as well. You can register for the webinar now.
[You might also want to check out Phil's very interesting current post on Omniture's Q1 Earnings Call]