On this blog post, I will discuss the difference there is between standards and standardisation, why it is important to not only follow standards and when it is time to develop your own standards (standardisation).
During my work, I often have this impression that clients are looking for best practices (see Jan Exner blog post about that) and what are the competitors doing. These information are interesting but there is something even more interesting, your processes and your state on the maturity ladder.
There are several (good) reasons that you want to use standards in your implementation (analytics or else). I will review all of them and see if there are any caveat to be mindful about.
The first important point to use standards, best practices or whatever is not coming from your own experience is that you try to re-use the learnings of other companies within your own organization.
This is a good practice, in the literal sense, and I would always encourage everyone to do the same. When doing that, you need to obviously keep in mind if what you are applying is making sense within your organization.
I have seen many times some learning trying to be copied over without the people trying to understand how to apply it within their context.
Another good reason that clients and agencies are re-using standards is to avoid mistakes that are commonly done when you start something from scratch.
This is normal and it is worth repeating that when starting something new, you cannot foresee all possible implication of your implementation and how people will use what you have put in place (or try to use). Using the same old book that has worked countless times is generally a good idea.
Setting the ground level
Standards are what they are : standards things. Doing what others do is good but doesn’t carry you very far. You are setting the basic level of implementation for your service. The main drawback is that you are in a reactive mode, you are looking at what is being made outside instead of focusing to grow your own expertise.
That is it.
Those are the main reasons that you should use “Standards”.
We will now see why I believe you should, on top, use your own standards, by creating standardisation of your implementation instead of copying industry ones.
What I mean by standardisation is moving away from the industry standards, you are developing your own standards. The process is the goal here more than the destination.
Every organization is unique (or should be)
This comes to the core of any organization; why you exist is very unique. I don’t mean the motto that your company is spreading (“Think different”, or “Be creative”). I mean that there is a reason, a competitive advantage, a specific way that your organization operate.
You can start to sell online, but you probably want to differenciate yourself from Amazon if you want to survive.
This reason, the reason you are unique, should run through the organization. The focus of your implementatio should be adjusted depending on what you are focusing on.
What is being used in the industry is nice and ensure a basic understanding of your environment, but the real value of your implementation is not by replicating standards. It is when you start tracking, analysing what could be meaningful for your organization.
Uniqueness doesn’t mean complex
Now that we have set your uniquess, you should start to think of what makes sense for your organization to track, on top of the standards. And this is where the standardization is starting to shape.
Whatever you decide should be easily, replicable and applicable to all levels of the organization.
A solution, an implementation or an analysis that you are the only one to understand is not a workable standard. If it doesn’t help other persons to derive actions or to better understands your busines, then it is not necessary (but it can help).
By keeping your standards simple, it will be better understand, it can be better adopted, it can grow, and you can review them and improve them later on.
We will see later that there is a moment in your organization that I would recommend to start thinking about it.
Simple doesn’t mean basic
When I am preaching for simple solution, it can come to people that we should do / use very basic analysis, tool or process. This is not what I mean. I mean that you are making the tool, analysis or solution is such a way that it is easy to understand and replicate.
Your solution (for example) could be complex, but you should be able to package it so the others can re-use that solution.
For the Adobe Analytics folkds reading this, the example of a Launch Extension is very good in that regards.
It usually starts with a bunch of custom code in your implementation, here and there to take care of your unique implementation. When doing that for one property it is fine (to some extent) but at some point, if you want to scale it, you better create an Extension that will package the solution easily so everyone can do it and you are not the only capable of doing that custom implementation.
Maturity Ladder and Standardisation
I see 3 different stage of maturity for using, creating and spreading standards. In my opinion, it is very important that you have an honest view on your maturity to adopt the correct strategy.
- Learning phase
The first phase is the learning phase. Your organization is not very mature using the tool, analysis or implementation that is used.
This is OK, all organizations go by this stage and you would be surprised by the number of “TOP DIGITAL” organization that are still in a learning phase.
I know organizations that are very successful by staying very good on their basics and purposely stay on a learning phase, for a time.
Finding collaborator on that phase is quite “easy”, because it “only” requires people willing to listen to what others do.
- Standardisation phase
This is the discovery phase, you have good grasp of what is being used in your analysis, report, implementation and you know that this is not reflecting the uniquess of your organization. This is the phase where you will need to start developing things. As explained at the beginning, when you are creating new things, it will get revoked, change and improve countless time. It is impossible to know all facets of the new elements you are creating. This takes time and your organization should be able to “fund” your time to standardize your process / solution / analysis.
The organizational part can be quite a hurdle, lots of companies are happy with a solution to work, they don’t care if it scales or not. This is what block them from entering stage 2. It requires more resources, more time and working on something that already works, to make it better.
“At best, it will work the same way than before but we will save time and resources in the future” : This is the hard sell pitch you are going to give your manager.
You need now to engage collaborator that are passionate about their job but that can also recognize the benefit of other approach.
This is hard because lots of people trained / used to step 1 think that the way they learned is the best way.
- Spreading Standards
You have unlocked a new status. You have new standards that have run for a while and by the time you have discovered that it helped you way more than the old basic standards you used before. You can now entered the new phase, if you wish, to spread your knowledge.
During this phase, you will still learn a lot and improve your standards by confronting your views with other persons in your industries.
This is very hard because you need to keep in mind that your standards are yours and it may be possible that it doesn’t apply to anyone else (or only few other organization).
This is where you can start being an influential factor on how companies operate. Sometimes people listen to you, sometimes they don’t. Everyone has an idea on how things should be standardized and they do not always agree.
Some influencial blogger in Analytics : I already mentioned Jan above, Jim Gordon is one for Launch users, Frederik Werner for Data Analysis, Anne-alytics for a more strategical thinking, and many more.
These people are usually very self-conscious of their limited knowledge even as they are seen as experts by other people. This resource is hard to get and even harder to retain.
Ending this post, I am not sure how helpful this was for you as I do not give you anything that you can applied on your daily work. However, I hope you can now better assess your position (and your company position) on that process.