Digital Business & Web

Random rants about the rise and fall of digital

This article was originally published in Finnish at my company’s blog.

When meeting new clients, I often face a situation where the company already has one or two Web Analytics theoretically in use, but they are not properly used. Why? Because they lack resources and knowledge.

I often begin the first meeting by drawing a picture very much like the one below. It pretty much symbolizes the situation of most Finnish companies, no matter what the size.

 Transform your company culture!

With the image I attempt to make everyone in the room understand that Analytics does not equal Google Analytics (GA). You can automatize GA to puke reports into your e-mail everyday, but you cannot call that analytics.

In one of the rather big companies I used to work at, I used to work hours and hours a month to import data manually from Google Analytics and numerous other sources and mash them up in a reporting Excel sheet. The finished Excel report would then be emailed to multiple different people across the organization. If you had just one guess: how many of them ever replied to me or asked something about the reports? You got it, none. So basically, I had to waste hours of manual labor every month into garbage that benefited no-one. Had I known better and had the guts back then…

From tools to knowledge, from insights to actions

So, given the example above (and it goes for many other companies too!) — what seems to be the problem? Didn’t the recipients think the digital channels were interesting? Didn’t they understand the importance of analytics?

I’d say the reasons were fairly simple:

  • The metrics in the reports were too general and without context (visits, pageviews, logins, etc.)
  • The reports did not contain textual insight, analysis or suggestions for action
  • Web Analytics was the responsibility of one person (me), it was not my only task and basically all the hours I had for Web analytics had to be spent to fill the Excel report (i.e. no time for actual analyzing!)
  • The company culture in no way supported analytics. The value of web analytics was not seen, because the raport recipients had never seen the benefits of analytics from the perspective of their own little silo

It's analytics, not puking reports!

Today we have tools for Google Analytics that can automatically import data e.g. into Excel or you could write your own application to fetch data from the Google Analytics API. However, these nice possibilities do not tackle the real problem.

Even now, I’m asked from time to time to manually fill and send periodic Excel reports. Even though all the data would be easily available in the web analytics tool, where you could also delve deeper into and slice & dice the data. When facing that kind of question I usually try to suggest another way of working.

Many companies are possessed by the original sin described above. Reporting is done for reporting and it does not lead to actions. Although the first thing is to get the web analytics system up, running and correctly configured, the next step should be to find personnel who are willing and able to use the tools. Ideally, the order is not chronological but parallel. When you have even just one of these torchbearers in your company, it will immediately help to start changing the whole company culture. In time, your company could grow from “I believe” to “I know”. Now that’s something!

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VNA Cards, 1-2-3 homemade DIY

Posted By on Feb 27, 2011

Dear Reader,

VNA cards, tools to DIYI was introduced to VNA cards a week ago at a seminar held at the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s (YLE‘s) facilities. After the seminar the participants were gathered to join a workshop. The idea was to innovate new web concepts using VNA cards. The cards were randomly selected and given to groups of people, who would then mix n’ match the V(erbs), N(ouns) and A(djectives) and try to create ideas for a new web service from that. Some great ideas arose. I became aware of the power of the VNA cards and got hooked.

The VNA cards originate from the game industry, which, no doubt, needs tools such as these. They were developed in cooperation with the Tampere University, or so I was told. The VNA cards are most powerful at helping when no boundaries or preliminary ideas exist. Because using them was both efficient and enjoyable, I wanted to try them myself. @Tuija was kind enough to point me to the right direction, and I got the VNA card templates. Next, I bought cardboard paper and glue, printed out the VNA cards and I was ready to cut & paste — the old way.

Here’s what you need to DIY:

  • 12 sheets of A4 sized (210 x 297 mm / 8.3″ x 11.7″) cardboard paper
  • Glue (don’t make the mistake I did: get a running glue, not a paper glue such as the one on the picture)
  • The VNA cards
  • A good knife to cut the cards out
  • A ruler might be good, so you can flatten the air pockets when gluing down the papers and cardboard

And here’s what to do:

  1. Print out the cards
  2. Glue them on both sides of the cardboard sheet
  3. When the glue has dried down, cut the cards out

The whole thing cost 10.04€ at Tiimari hobby store, and I got a few extra sheets of cardboard, just in case. The knife I already had, but those you can buy from any hardware store. Quite inexpensive, huh?

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Quick Response Codes & Windows Mobile

Posted By on Sep 1, 2010

Dear reader,

I just read this bit older blog post about QR codes by P. Mertanen.

After having installed, re-installed and finally removed UpCode for several times myself on my Windows Mobile phone (the HTC Touch Diamond2) during the past year, I thought I’d give it one more go. Waddayaknow — I was thrilled to find a QR Code reader that did not crash every single time — namely, i-nigma. UpCode has a version that is supposed to work on my mobile, but every time the camera should be closing in on the QR code, the software crashes and takes down the whole camera, which works again only after a reboot.

The Quick Response Code (QR code) is the “new” 2d barcode that has pretty much replaced barcodes in many products but has also given new grounds for innovation. The QR is used worldwide on bus stops, business cards, product tags, marketing etc. Not that it’s that much more special than the good ol’ barcode, it’s just that almost every handheld owner can now have the reader handy all the time. The QR code has become quite a good tool for measuring multichannel transitions. Take Kiinteistömaailma (a Finnish real estate company) for example. They have used the QR codes on their business cards for a couple of years now, I think. When read, the QR code simply fetches the business card owner’s contact details on your mobile for easy contact addition. It is not a revolutionary innovation but works for the task at hand. If they are measuring the QR reads, they can actually know a little bit more about the impact of their business cards than would have been possible twenty years ago. The bus stops in Southern Finland are also covered with QR codes. By reading one, you’ll see a timetable of the buses passing by that particular stop.

Try out QR codes yourself!

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ISTQB foundation testing certificate

Posted By on Aug 30, 2010

Dear reader,

It so happened that I took a test for the ISTQB foundation level testing certificate today. I don’t know if I’ve passed yet, but I have some mixed feelings about the test. Googling it down after taking the test I found this blog post by James Bach that had some interesting points about the ISTQB as well as other testing certificates.

The test had 40 questions and 1 hour to complete them. On the certificate course, followed by the exam, we were warned of the test being guileful because of the word-play incorporated in it. James Bach had similar comments to say about it. Although I might not agree with everything he says in the blog post, unfortunately I must share Mr. Bach’s take on the test being too concentrated on semantics. Don’t get me wrong, I love semantics and linguistics (especially when it concerns the Germanic language tree), but this test might just put too much weight on that side instead of actually testing how well one knows the subject of testing. Maybe half of the questions were arranged so that additional time had to be spent just to try to understand the question correctly, but the other half consisted of relevant and not deliberately messed up questions. We were also warned of questions with double negatives (e.g. “I do not disagree”) but I don’t think I spotted any (might be my mistake, though). Nevertheless, I think the certificate training course was spot on for the foundation level — i.e. “[..]aimed at anyone involved in software testing”, as stated on the ISTQB website. It gives a good outline for the basic concepts, testing techniques, test planning and tools.

Taking the test soon? Even though I don’t know if I passed yet, I thought I’d share a couple of things you might want to consider when preparing for the test:

  • Memorize the terminology, but also understand the underlying concepts because the test might use a bit stirred up terminology
  • Go through the first answering round quickly and then go back to questions you have marked difficult, this way you’ll ensure you have answered something to all 40Q’s
  • Be alert when reading the questions. Look for double negatives and fully understand the question before answering it
  • It helps to have even a bit of coding background. If you don’t, at least understand this much about flowcharts:
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GAIC certificate previews

Posted By on Nov 5, 2009

Dear reader,

Google has made it possible to share your Google Analytics or AdWords test results. You can decide what information to share and what tests to share, and will be given a link to the results. Here’s a link to my GAIC test that I blogged about earlier.

To create yours, here’s what to do:

  1. Go to the Google Testing Center and sign in to your account.
  2. Click the Manage Your Test Records link.
  3. Click the Add link.
  4. On the next screen, select the information that you want included in the test record. The Description can be any name you want; you’ll be the only one who sees this name.
  5. Click Save. You’ll now see a test record.
  6. Click the Description name to get the link. You can share your test record by copying and pasting the link.(Taken from the GA team’s marketing e-mail about sharing test results)
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