Ross McDonnell of Disney Online is the next X Change Berlin Huddle Leader on our interview list. The basic premise of X Change is pretty simple - it's that the people doing work in a field have the most interesting things to say about it. One of the most challenging aspects of conferences is that they inevitably tend to draw quasi-professional speakers whose best work is either far back in the rear-view mirror or is done in front of an audience. Take a look at Ross' Huddle topics and the challenges he describes, and I think you'll see the kind of difference I'm talking about. I'm particularly taken with his description of his 2nd Huddle (Defining Success). His points here really resonate with me: the late engagement of analytics teams to project measurement is probably the most common mistake in enterprise measurement; and I loathe the term HiPPO. It's widespread use is symptomatic of how far wrong the measurement community has gone in thinking about enterprise reporting. In Ross' description, I hear the voice of someone trying to solve real-world problems not someone trying to create clever tweet-bites.
Could you briefly describe your role at Walt Disney Co?
I work within Disney Online, which covers Disney’s TV and franchise websites and the expanding realm of online and mobile gaming & apps.
My role is to co-ordinate the measurement activities in these business channels, across the EMEA region, ensuring that a consistent and effective measurement framework is in place.
Can you tell us a little about the technology Walt Disney Co is using to measure digital channels? And how is that evolving?
At Disney, we primarily use Adobe’s Digital Marketing Suite of products for our online reporting. We also use an array of other tools for specific purposes, such as for in-game analytics, electronic panel measurement data for competitive intelligence and survey software for Voice of Customer data.
As the web analytics manager for the EMEA region what are your key analytical challenges?
One of the issues that we face, and that many companies face at the moment, is the variety of different measurement tools being used depending on the business unit or resulting from inheritance after acquisitions.
This leads to a siloed view of the data often being used, and reports being generated referencing data from just one source. One of the key initiatives for us later this year will be to begin work to draw these data sources together in a much more structured way.
Your first huddle topic is “Creating Strong Foundations for Analytical Success”. What led you to pick that topic?
As a data savvy analyst, it’s very tempting to rush into creating projects around the next big thing – whether that be social analytics or Big Data. However, the most important data blocks to any analysis are those that are laid down first – the foundations. I found this to be especially the case at Disney, where the general environment is a very creative one and data is not a natural consideration to all.
It’s key therefore that the basic principles, we all go through when defining analytics for a new site, are not forgotten and neglected once in place. Is data quality being maintained? Are the right data points being captured? Are the reports being produced helpful and meeting expectations of management?
This huddle is an opportunity to explore what can be done to keep the analytic foundations stable, allowing scope to build the more pioneering elements of our data stacks on top.
Your second huddle topic is “Defining Success and Securing Stakeholder Buy In”. What will this huddle cover?
I’ve found that one of the basic issues that affects analytics, and indeed analysts, is that they are often asked to measure the success of a project after it has been live for a few weeks; yet may have had no participation or visibility of the project up to that point.
Analytics needs to move up the project cycle and be a core component from the start; when a project is conceived, the measurable goals should be considered from the start. In order for this to happen, discussions with senior stakeholders or senior management are typically required. There are some things that don’t aid this, such as the positioning of the Analytics team (IT vs Marketing) and use of terms such as ‘HiPPO’ – it’s an acronym that enforces communication barriers when the goal should be to remove them.
Having clear goals allows the creation of an analytics implementation plan which can be added to the overall project brief, that can be agreed and signed off by the project sponsor. This will aid, and simplify the case of producing the required clear, timely reporting after the project launch. These reports, together with insight projects can really help to imbed a culture where the use of data becomes second nature.
What are you hoping to achieve through your huddles?
I’m excited about the huddle style of group discussion; allowing me to share my experience with others but also enabling all the participants to learn from each other. It will hopefully be a very collaborative experience!
In addition I’m thoroughly looking forward to being immersed in a micro-community of people with a like minded interest in digital measurement. Finding out all about the common goals and concerns related to measurement activities from some of Europe’s leading companies.
Of the other Huddles at X Change which are of particular interest to you?
Well it’s hard to choose, but one session that stands out for me is “Business Data Integration- Let Your Web Analytics Tool & Other Data Sources Talk to Each Other”. It’s one of our key challenges for the next year, and so will be taking lots of notes at this session!
Another session that sounds very interesting, as it’s not something you would typically come across at a conference, is Ulla Kruhse-Lehtonen’s “Managing an Analytics Team”. I’m sure there would be something for everyone to learn from this – talent in our field is hard to find and sometimes harder to keep. I’d be interested to hear if anyone else manages remote resources, as that’s certainly a different challenge.
Why would you recommend other web analytics practitioners to choose the X Change?
What really attracted me to be part of the X Change conference is the unique collaborative approach of the huddle format. It shows an understanding that the knowledge in the room is going to out-weigh the one or two speakers on a traditional podium; everyone can add their own thoughts, experiences and expertise to the discussion. I’m certainly hoping that frank, honest, use cases are discussed without pressure from vendors or sponsors.
We're about a month away from X Change Berlin, so there's still plenty of time to register and save your seat in the conversation. The chance to sit down and talk deep analytics with people like Ross from Disney or David Williams from ASOS is priceless. Click here to join us!
Thinking ahead to X Change U.S. in September? Click here to register since the U.S. Conference always sells out early!