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Web Analytics Action Hero

Book Review of: Web Analytics Action Hero

Using Analysis to Gain Insight and Optimize Your Business

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Review of Web Analytics Action Hero, by Brent Dykes (Softcover, 2012)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)


This book can be useful to people in many careers, not just the career of Web Analyst. That statement might seem odd, considering that the title and subtitle say nothing about the Web Analyst career. So before I talk about where this book excels, let's look at where it has some problems.

The target reader of this book is the Web Analyst who works in a large corporation. Most of the text is devoted to the theme of making your case to executives and other stakeholders, so that action can come from your analysis. Thus, the subtitle should be changed to "How to Be a Successful Analyst in a Corporate Environment."

The current subtitle implies that the book is targeted to the typical small business that can't afford to hire a Web Analyst except maybe on the occasional special project basis. The phrase "your business" does not apply to people who are not business owners.

It makes sense that Dyke, who works for Adobe, would have this big company perspective. For the small business, this book is not appropriate.

The bulk of this book pertains to any technical department head, albeit with the backdrop being the Web Analyst. When I was a plant engineer, I knew some of these principles at the start, but had to learn many of them as I went along. They are universal principles that any technical department head or manager should know and practice (emphasizing "should," here).

What this means is if your job involves interacting with senior management, you can disregard the relatively small part of this book that's about analytics and use this book as a framework for better dealing with your management.

When Dyke strays from the career advice and actually "talks shop" about analytics, there is some good information. But anyone with formal training in analysis already knows this stuff. I'm an MBA and found nothing new here, other than specific examples. Someone who's working as a Web Analyst and doesn't yet know this information is probably in the wrong line of work.

Another problem with this book was it needs proofreading. The text contains numerous gaffes in grammar, along with compositional errors that force the reader into "decipher" mode around strangled syntax and other problems.

I noted I found nothing new in the analysis part. That's the same technical stuff that all MBAs learn, unless they go to really bad schools or don't pay attention. In fact, what Dykes presents about analysis isn't even complete; it leaves out many standard tools and techniques. I think if he wants to write a book on analysis, then he should do that. This is not that book.

If he did write such a book, it would not be merely a rewarming of Google's tutorials on Google Analytics. As good as those tutorial are, they don't teach analysis. They teach how to use the tool itself, the same way an Excel tutorial shows you how to use this or that feature of Excel but not how to create a casino scenario with it or analyze the trend in stock price movements with it. In this book, the reader gets a teasing insight into Dykes' high level of analysis competence. A book that focused on developing this would be most welcome.

The career advice is excellent. I have seen far too many (as in, nearly all) technical folks in all specialties lack the ability to properly articulate the problem, the recommended solution, and the need for action. The standard approach is to hide weak analysis behind jargon. Many even go so far as to totally alienate managers via a condition called Powerpointlessness. This involves convincing people to gather into a room, where they sleep while you drone on and read PowerPoint slides. Why people do this instead of trying to actually communicate, I am not sure. Maybe it's a fear of rejection thing, so they don't even try to communicate.

Something that happens in niche technical areas is the technical experts expend so much effort developing their technical skills that they neglect developing the really important assets that can make them far more effective in their own companies and far more marketable when a recruiter seeks to get them a hefty raise by placing them with another employer. Those are assets such as company contacts (for getting the job done right in your own company), industry contacts (vital to the max), interpersonal skills, presentation skills, and listening skills. And quite often, they have good technical problem solving skills but can't apply them appropriately because they are deaf to context.

Dykes addresses these issues in this book. For the technical expert who reads Dykes' advice and takes it to heart, the book easily pays for itself. That's true whether the reader is a Web Analyst or not.

I hope now it's clear that my problem isn't with the content of the book, but with the marketing of it. The Action Hero part of the title does match the metaphor used throughout, but the book really isn't about Web Analytics. Nor does the subtitle apply to this book. If properly titled and subtitled, this book would deliver on its promise.

This book consists of an introduction and eight chapters spanning 223 pages.


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