Liz Gross, Social Media & Market Research Strategist at Great Lakes Educational LS and the Social Media Measurement instructor at Higher Ed Experts, is one of the 12 higher ed professionals presenting at the 2016 Higher Ed Analytics Conference
In this 3-question interview, Liz tells us about the biggest surprise of 2015, the main challenge using digital analytics and what colleges and universities should focus on in terms of analytics in 2016.
1) What’s the most surprising outcome you experienced in 2015? What did you learn from this experience?
The thing that surprised me most in 2015 was the level of technical detail required to successfully implement analytics in a large, database-driven organization. I work for a student loan servicing company, and most of what we do is tied to customer records or associated data tables.
To collect the right data, at the right time, from the right source, I’ve had to learn a lot about our backend technical infrastructure. I’ll never know as much as our developers, but I have to know enough to have an intelligent conversation with them about what data points I want to tie to our digital marketing and communication efforts.
Anything I can do to make their jobs easier will speed up my timeline for organization-wide analytics. I’ve learned that even though I’m an expert in my field, there are intersecting fields that are just as important, and I have to respect people with expertise in those areas so we can work together effectively.
2) What’s been the biggest challenge at your organization to use digital analytics since you started? How did you deal with it?
I’ve been working within my organization to implement robust analytics (email, website, and social media) that provide answers to key marketing questions since 2013.
The biggest challenge has been developing infrastructure and aligning development processes of multiple teams to create the data we need. I’m blessed to have an incredibly talented team, so analysis of data is fairly easy.
Making sure we have the correct data (i.e., the data that helps us answer key business questions) from all the sources we want to analyze in a central location where the data can be readily accessed has been much more difficult.
I’ve spent a lot of time building relationships with developers, project managers, and subject matter experts to help them understand why we need particular data, and how the subsequent analysis will help benefit the company. With these groups, I get very specific. At the same time, I’ve developed a high-level story for executive stakeholders to explain why we need to do infrastructure work, and what types of data-driven decisions we’ll be able to make once it is completed.
3) In your opinion, what should your higher ed colleagues focus on in 2016 when it comes to Analytics?
Before you get stuck in the weeds of what to measure and how to measure it, make sure you know what key questions you’re trying to answer.
The question drives the analysis. Without an impactful research question, you’re simply doing analytics to report numbers.