“It’s just widgets!”: The Dangers of Oversimplification

You could be a web analytics hero with 100 implementations under your belt, a winner of Kaggle competitions, a creator of your own AI platform, and still be perceived as incompetent because of communication and wording issues.

A few years ago, I was presenting at an event and was speaking with people from many different companies beforehand. I was briefly going into the particulars of the business I was in at that time, and the person I was speaking with cut me off and said, “Yeah, it’s all just widgets. No matter what the industry, everyone is just trying to sell more widgets.” Well…not entirely.

The goal of most for-profit companies is to improve their revenue over time, granted. There might be a number of variations on that theme such as increasing market share, changing the product mix in a desired way, launching in a new geographic area, etc.

There are absolutely also non-profit entities whose true goal may lie within the “awareness” space, simply getting people to perform actions in keeping with public or personal health or read about a condition without a specific financial or donation goal in mind (and, of course, plenty that do have a donation goal in mind required to sustain the organization.)

However, the important thing here (and by “here,” I mean from a web analytics perspective) is that an understanding of general business structure and practices does not equate to a specific group or client’s confidence in your abilities.

The reason you are likely working on a web analytics project is that you have the expertise to do so, or are in the process of getting it, and the group or individual that asked you to does not have that time or expertise. The person you are doing it for is (generally) unlikely to evaluate you on your technical skill during a project unless something majorly breaks. So what do they base their perception on?

Often, it’s how accurately you translate their requirements back to them in language that makes sense, and your demeanor in doing so.

Let’s come back to the widgets. If I am in the healthcare field and have hired you to do an implementation for a patient portal, and I refer to the people on this site as “patients”, how will I feel if you say, “OK, you want more sign-up thingies, got it”? The language may not be quite as crude, but you can begin to form an idea of how this might come across. It’s important that the analytics professional reflect back the requirements in the language that the business is actually using, for reasons of precision and mutual understanding. A happy consequence is that the group or client feels heard (reflective listening skills) and is more confident in your abilities (because you appear to listen and properly use terms that they know about.)

Worth highlighting again: this all happens regardless of your actual skill level in analytics. You could be a web analytics hero with 100 implementations under your belt, a winner of Kaggle competitions, a creator of your own AI platform, and still be perceived as incompetent because of communication and wording issues. Perception is not based on your actual skill level since there is often no benchmark to compare you to in the world of the people you are assisting.

So: if you’re great at technical analytics or reporting, the way to get people to realize it is through picking up on proper wording and tone for who you’re working with. If you’re still learning a lot about analytics and reporting, the way to gain trust to take on larger projects is to create satisfaction on the ones you’re working on now through good communication skills. There is no downside!

 

 

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