If your business doesn’t already have a digital analytics roadmap in place, or perhaps it’s outdated or weak, the idea of starting over can be intimidating. After all, with a proliferation of data sources and services to crunch numbers and seemingly endless spreadsheets of data to analyze, it can be difficult to know where to start.

1. Be Realistic About Your Capacity to Absorb Change

As a seasoned digital analytics consultant, I’ve helped dozens of businesses begin their analytics journey and helped several agencies develop their digital analytics practice. The first step is always the same no matter the size of the company—be realistic with your expectations when it comes to planning. Flawlessly merging all data sources, creating comprehensive dashboards that are accessible in real-time, and feeling that every customer is well-defined is every analyst's dream, but it shouldn’t be your expectation, especially in the beginning.

Preliminary steps should include:

  • Identifying the stakeholders who should be involved in the extended analytics team—marketers, web developers, IT people, managers, agency, partners etc.
  • Conducting an inventory of currently available data—what it represents, where it resides, how it can be accessed, its update frequency and how far back it goes, audit its quality.
  • Identify the tools currently in use, ranging from Microsoft Excel to databases or online services.

2. Conduct a Self-Assessment 

Understanding your business’s current position not only reveals your internal capabilities, but it can also identify areas for quick improvement. Conducting an assessment is a great second step to developing your strategy. Take a look at the Digital Analytics Maturity Model as an example. The primary benefit of a maturity model is the conversation it sparks. Take it as an opportunity to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and rally the team around a common goal.

Remember that finding out you are at a lower maturity level isn’t a problem. It means you can set the foundations right and have a lot of opportunities ahead.

3. Define Your Objectives

There are endless tools out there and it’s tempting to test many of them, but before signing up for any trials or platforms, you must put in the groundwork to establish your strategy.

Can you answer these questions?  

  • Who are our core audiences, segments, and personas?
  • Do all of our key stakeholders understand our objectives? Have we identified what success looks like?

To define your business objectives, start by mapping your customer life-cycle, including key online activities at each step. Identify which online activities are the strongest signals of contributing to those business outcomes. Once you’ve done that, you can begin tagging. That in itself can be a monstrous process, but taking an agile approach will allow you to gradually refine and improve the quality and amount of tracking.

4. Test Tools That Work for You 

Finding the right tools to meet your business’s needs may take some time, as there are literally thousands of options out there. Don’t be afraid of experimenting. If you test a tool and find it doesn’t offer the features you need or the interface isn’t intuitive enough for your team, move on. And don’t forget, errors are part of the learning process.

Here are four tools with free versions I highly  recommend for your analytics:

  • Google Analytics to analyze your website traffic. It’s free, easy to use, enjoys a very strong user community and tons of learning resources, and a rich ecosystem of third-party tools.
  • MailChimp to manage email campaigns and marketing automation. Includes integration with e-commerce platforms to help with reporting and automation.
  • Google Data Studio to bring your data together and create all-in-one dashboards.
  • Trello to manage your tasks and instill a sense of agile management, foster openness, and transparency.

5. Report and Measure Often

With a business strategy in place, objectives to report against, and the tools to measure progress, it’s time to begin reporting and analyzing your data. But how often should you be compiling and sharing this data with your team and stakeholders?  Your customer lifecycle and your organizational agility should help answer this question. 

If you can’t act on daily data, it might be wiser to think in terms of weeks, or even months. Every organization is different. One thing that can be overlooked when it comes to reporting is who is doing the data collection. The person responsible should have a considerable knowledge of analytics and also encourage engaging external data agencies while building internal capabilities.

While outsourcing during the ramp-up process can be effective, allocating training resources for an internal analytics role should be the desired end goal in the longer term. Like the analytics tools available today, training resources are easy to find. Find a provider that offers the training you need based on your goals and budget. For example, the Advanced Web Analytics Certification Training which I authored for Simplilearn, offers training for a plethora of today’s newest tools.


Remember that if you’re a smaller organization or you’re starting from scratch, you’re not necessarily at a disadvantage. On the contrary, it’s often easier for businesses to establish a process when there aren’t existing processes slowing down your progress. The most important thing to remember is to take an agile approach. A comprehensive and meaningful data strategy shouldn’t be built overnight.

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