A Crawl-Walk-Run Model for Data Analysis

I’ve seen a lot of discussions recently about analytics, competing on analytics, and how to approach analytics. Certainly, in the digital age we face a deluge of data, and need software and people to process it, structure it, analyze it, understand it, and act on it. For people like me (who live, eat, breath, and sleep data), it’s an incredible opportunity and amazing time.

For everyone else, it’s a little overwhelming.

Not only is there so much data and “analysis” out there that it’s overwhelming, a lot of it is contradictory. This makes everything even more overwhelming, as now everything has to be compared to everything else. Since every piece of data came from a different team with a different perspective and a different goal, it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Maybe there’s a different lens we can use to look at this, one that puts everyone on similar playing fields and makes it easy to understand where we (and they) are in their analytics progression:

  • Crawl
  • Walk
  • Run

This model integrates 4 key aspects of each stage:

  1. Questions answered by analytics at that stage
  2. Time perspective of the analytics in use
  3. Activities used in the analytics process
  4. Outcome – the level of insight and optimization delivered by analytics at that stage

The table below outlines the 3 stages and how they relate to each of the key aspects.

Crawl - Walk - Run

This is a framework for approaching analytics – most analytical contexts, in fact. I focus on analysis of digital marketing, so I’ll start there. This model can apply to a number of different contexts; I’ve already seen it be valuable in web analytics (the “owned media” context), online advertising (“paid media”), and social (“shared media”). It can apply to email and online PR (“earned media”) as well.

In the course of identifying this model, I have read a few different approaches to analytics frameworks, including:

  • Stephane Hamel’s Web Analytics Maturity Model
  • The MIT Sloan Report on Analytics – the new path to value

I’ll spend the next few weeks with a series that explores this model in-depth – how and where it applies, and how you can use it to understand who’s doing what out there. Specifically, I’m going to start with web analytics, and move from there into two other areas, paid media, and earned media.

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