I’ve been proud to call myself a web analyst ever since I realized there was a title for it. It’s an emerging field full of talented people. Frankly, it’s the future of business management, and a web analyst possesses a critical skill set and mentality for any company to have.
1. “WEB ANALYST” IS A MISNOMER
I’ve suspected this for some time, but I worked in a bubble and mostly assumed everybody knew what the title meant. I had a discussion recently that helped me understand that I was wrong.
I was discussing an online business manager position with a coworker. When he described what was expected, I told him that it sounded like he was looking for a good web analyst. He stared at me confused for a second before saying, “No, I need more than an analyst.” Then he described the job to me again with an emphasis on being a business owner, proactively finding areas that needed work and doing more than just pulling reports.
One problem is that the title itself has the wrong connotation. It gives people the wrong impression of what the position entails. Generally speaking, an analyst is somebody skilled at analyzing a specific kind of data. Yet, a web analyst worth his salt will do much more than analyze web data. He will act as a consultant, a politician, a marketing expert and a manager. He will be skilled at understanding not just web data, but how it relates to offline data, business data, competitive analysis and marketing efforts. A good web analyst is trained to stand in the center of all of these data sources, to synthesize them into something that makes sense and then to make accurate recommendations for how to improve.
2. WEB ANALYSIS IS BECOMING A COMMODITY
The law of supply and demand has worked in my favor for years now. Companies need people who understand how to optimize their online efforts. There are very few people who can fit that description. Therefore, those people can command a disproportionately large salary.
Web analysts today come from a variety of disciplines and have largely taught themselves. Stories about how web analysts stumbled into the field are entertaining in their variety and color. Many web analysts will readily admit that they were surprised to find themselves one day labelled as web analysts. Necessity had brought them abruptly into the position.
A tectonic shift is happening right now in the web analytics industry. Now there are college classes in web analytics. Training programs and certifications continue to multiply. People in the marketplace see these opportunities, understand that web analytics is the future and flock to the things that will make them a “qualified web analyst”.
Skilled, experienced web analysts today are good because of a certain mindset as much as because of things they learned from trainings or conferences. In other words, with the influx of newly minted web analysts, the connotation of the “web analyst” title will increasingly fit the reality. Web analysts will become a commodity. Analysis can be outsourced. It’s already happening with impressive results.
Pay for web analysts will decrease. It will become increasingly difficult to sell the nuanced argument that an experienced web analyst is better than somebody who just graduated with a degree in web analytics, because web analysis will increasingly be seen as the being good at using web analytics tools.
3. THE TITLE “WEB ANALYST” IS LIMITING
When I have called myself a web analyst in the past, I used it as shorthand to describe a set of skills for which I thought the market was looking. Essentially, I meant that I was a business manager, qualified because I’m an expert in the field of web analytics. In other words, my skill set includes the ability to make sense of large data sets and see what is relevant in a sea of information, but also the ability to translate that understanding into recommendations, to drive business changes, to manage people and complex processes and to interact with multiple departments and evangelize my recommendations. Strong web analysts are decision-makers by training. That’s why they are consistently frustrated that their work is not more valued and that they are not brought into more discussions.
The title “web analyst” anchors me to a certain kind of technology instead of a certain skill set. I learned that calling myself an analyst limits the kinds of positions for which I would even be considered. It suggests something less than what I contribute. The clearest career path for an analyst is to become a super analyst or to manage other analysts. Neither of those things appeal to me.
Also, because the position of web analyst is becoming a commodity, I sense an urgency to detach myself from it. Being attached to a certain kind of technology means that I risk becoming outdated in the same way that a company would be hesitant to hire somebody who has been coding websites since 1997.
WHAT THIS MEANS
This is more than just nomenclature. I’m not a web analyst because I don’t fit the picture people get in their heads when they hear the title, but also because I do much more than a web analyst does. I’m a decision-maker and business owner. I operate at a manager level.
This represents a shift in the way I think about what I do and where I’m going. The future of the industry is to eventually envelop the entire thought process of companies. Web analytics will be one of the things every company does, because it’s stupid not to. It won’t be the privileged purview of a specific set of “analytics ninjas”. It will be something that managers understand and drive the business by. Eventually, all managers and directors will know enough of web analytics to know what kinds of questions to ask and how to find those answers. They still won’t find those answers themselves, but they will know how to direct future analysts to get them.
The near-term future for skilled web analysts is to become those managers that understand the bigger picture of how to leverage web analytics in a business. The first step in that process is to shed the title of a web analyst.