Migrating Analytics Platforms: A Comprehensive Guide


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If you’re considering migrating one analytics platform to another, this document will help you understand many of the challenges and discuss best practices to ensure a flawless migration.

POV by Gagandeep Singh Bhatia, Senior Associate, Marketing Strategy and Analysis

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Migrating Analytics Platforms: A Comprehensive Guide

  1. 1. © Sapient Corporation, 2013POINT OF viewEvery business, regardless of size, requires multiple tools to understand website performance andcustomer satisfaction—and to gain key context from competitors.Web analytics tools can help you accomplish that by collecting, measuring, and analyzing Internetdata and site visitor records to understand and optimize web usage. They are also wonderful tools formarket and business research.If you’re considering migrating one analytics platform to another, this document will help youunderstand many of the challenges and discuss best practices to ensure a flawless migration.What Does Migrating Analytics Mean?Migration from one analytics platform to another is a business-initiated process. A flawlessmigration is critical to ensure that there is no blackout period within your data, whenever businessopts for the same.Keep in mind that each platform has a different way of capturing data, and as a result, data may varyvastly from tool to tool. However, during the migration, historical data should be conserved in orderto check any data variance between the two platforms. Although the figures may be different, thereshould be some correlation.Having expertise in a variety of web analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Adobe SiteCatalyst,Webtrends, or Coremetrics will help in understanding the impact of migrating between tools before themigration process begins.The main objective should be that the migrations go smoothly, and there is no loss of data or lack ofconfidence in new data once the migration is complete.Migrating Analytics Platforms:A Comprehensive GuideBy Gagandeep Singh Bhatia, Senior Associate, Marketing Strategy and AnalysisPOINT OF view
  2. 2. © Sapient Corporation, 2013POINT OF viewReasons for MigrationThe decision to migrate to another analytics platform can be influenced by a number of factors:Scalability. Depending on the growth of traffic to the site, it may be decided to go for a betteranalytics tool.Cost. Depending on budget, it may be decided to upgrade to a paid version of the tool or move to a freeor lower cost platform.Redundancy. Migrating to another tool may become necessary if an existing tool becomes redundantin the market.Enhanced features. Vendors may recommend that clients move to an enhanced version of the tool toreap further benefits or advanced features.Business requirement. The business may mandate migration to another tool to fulfill an analytics needthat cannot be accomplished through the current solution (e.g., multivariate testing).Roadblocks to MigrationThe following factors might counter-influence analytics migration:Fear of change. Unfamiliarity with the new tool altogether or new features of the tool in an advancedversion may create a fear of change among the stakeholders, and they might resist this change.Cost and licensing. A new analytics platform may involve arranging budgets and costs for new licenses.In the case of migrating to another tool, it can be beneficial if there is an overlap period between thetwo tools before reaching a stable state. This may lead to an increased cost since the business will berequired to pay both analytics vendors for a certain period.Data variance. Depending on the differences in functionality of the new platform, there may be avariance of data between both platforms. To resolve this, the business should agree on an acceptablepercentage of data variance. Each analytics tool is unique in the sense that it has its own KPIs, metrics,and approach to track click-stream data.Implementation time. Migrating to another tool is not straight-forward. It may take months for acomplicated website that is divided into several microsites supported by multiple vendors havingtheir own IT release cycle. In the case of migrating to an advanced version of the same tool, theimplementation time will be less in comparison to moving to a new tool altogether.Approach for MigrationThe approach to be followed for migration can be broadly summarized in the process chart below:
  3. 3. © Sapient Corporation, 2013POINT OF view1. Planning. Planning for migration is initiated well in advance of management’s final decision. Thisincludes an evaluation of other competitive analytics tools available in market or features that theupgraded version of the tool will provide. This also involves getting the people with the right skill set onboard to support the migration, and rolling out a testing plan.2. Benchmarking. Once a plan is finalized, the team starts working on benchmarking reports forpre- and post-comparison and sign-off perspective. The business should choose a lull period forbenchmarking so that any factors contributing to high or low traffic on site can be ruled out.Also, it would be beneficial to close on a certain set of business-critical KPIs rather than trying tocover everything.
  4. 4. © Sapient Corporation, 2013POINT OF view3. Testing and training. Tagging should be validated in a pre-production environment before rollingit out. Kicking off training sessions at the same time would be a good idea since stakeholders willget more time to interact with the new platform. Also, training should be supplemented with a richdocumentation about the new analytics platform, which can be used in case of any queries posttraining.4. Post go-live support. It is imperative to run an exhaustive list of test scripts to ensure that everythingis working as expected from a reporting perspective as soon as the new tool or version goes live.Vendor support must be available during the go-live period so that they can quickly investigate and fixany issues encountered during migration.5. Data reconciliation. With reporting, issues are often not quickly identifiable, and it may take monthsto identify major data variation. Migration completes after reaching a stable state where the businessis happy with the data and analysis using the new analytics platform. This means that data gettingtracked can be either co-related directly with previous data or is within the threshold variance limit setby the business before the migration.Types of MigrationThe following sections outline the processes that should be adhered to while moving from one analyticsplatform to other. Bear in mind that analytics migration is not limited to a new analytics tool only.Depending on the business need, a migration activity may be required even if the analytics toolremains the same.In essence, we can divide analytics migration into three types:1. Migrating to an advanced version of the same analytics tool. Often, a business is not moving toanother analytics tool but to an advanced version of same tool. For example, migrating from AdobeSiteCatalyst version 14 to version 15 or from Google Analytics Standard version to Premium version.Even though migrating to an advanced version within the same analytics tool sounds simple, it has itsown challenges. Having a fool-proof plan will help ensure a flawless migration.2. Migrating to another analytics tool. When the functionality or technology of the site is not changing,and it is just the analytics tool that is being migrated, the complexity increases. Since each tool isdifferent in terms of tracking data and its usage, higher skill sets may be required to manage thenew tool.An example is migrating from Webtrends to Adobe, which requires a completely different set of skills tomigrate and manage the new tool post go-live.3. Migrating to another technology with the same analytics tool. Sometimes a business needs to ensurethe sanity of reporting even though nothing is changing from a tools perspective. This may be due to abusiness decision to migrate to another technology to host the website (e.g., from WebLogic toWeb-Centric Portal).This will require the migration of analytics-related code and tags from one application to another. So,it is crucial to ensure that the analytics code has not regressed post migration.
  5. 5. © Sapient Corporation, 2013POINT OF viewBest Practices for Analytics MigrationTo minimize migration issues, the following best practices should be followed when possible:Set a clear baseline prior to migration. Benchmarking existing data for various business critical reportsor dashboards can help in evaluating how data behaves post migration. In absence of a baseline setprior to migration, it becomes difficult to challenge data reflected in the new version of the tool.Agree on acceptable data variance. The business should agree on acceptable data variance since twodifferent analytics platforms will never work in the same way. Post migration, one can expect changesin data trends. Also, it is natural that the number of visits for the first month will increase whenmigration happens from one tool to another.Review current business requirements for reporting. Asking every stakeholder who is a recipient ofany dashboard or report if they will need similar reporting post migration will help clean the long listof scheduled dashboards and reports. Getting a picture of all mandatory business requirements willresult in prioritizing the critical pieces of the reporting.Revisit analytics tags. Since the format of tags is different across analytics tools, it may be a goodopportunity to revisit the tagging and get rid of tags that were never used while on the previousplatform. Also, new tags that cater to recent business requirements must be added at this time.Creating a phased-migration plan, which prioritizes the implementation of the new platform on themost business-critical websites, will help in a quick rollout.Revisit governance process. Migration can be used as an opportunity to improve the governanceprocesses in any analytics project. This can be further categorized into two parts if the migration doesnot involve another analytics tool: Fill the gap: If governance processes are not flawless, this can be a good opportunity to fill those gaps and come up with a robust process prior to migration. Strategize: If there is no set process around governance of the analytics tool, this can be a good opportunity to set up a new one per the updated version or tool.If migration involves another analytics tool, the governance process should undergo a revamp toensure it is aligned with the new tool. This may include user management as well as product orcampaign classification.Conduct robust testing. Robust testing should be done in a development environment to ensure tagsacross all microsites are as expected. Once the data audit and tag validation have been completed, asign-off is provided for taking the migration live.Train before go-live. Training on the new analytics platform for web analysts and business stakeholdersas soon as the new development environment is available can help in understanding the new toolinterface (in the case of migration to a new tool) or help in understanding the new features of the tool(in the case of migration to an advanced version of the same tool). This training must be finished beforemigration actually occurs.This should be followed with documentation of the new product and Q&A sessions with vendors beforethe migration to resolve any queries around tool usage.
  6. 6. © Sapient Corporation, 2013POINT OF viewIdentify the ideal time to migrate. It is advisable to go live with migration when there is no big marketingcampaign running for the business or during seasons like Christmas because the website will alwayshave high traffic during those periods.Also, planning migration to go live on the first day of the month will give a complete picture ofdata variance.Develop a communication plan. Communication is key, and each stakeholder must be given at leasta month’s notice before the migration actually happens. This may be followed by another reminder aweek before the migration. It might also be worth adding an announcement on the landing page of theanalytics tool that is used by business stakeholders or adding a notification at the end of every email(as part of the signature) being sent out to business stakeholders.In the case of a change in the website application platform, although there is no change in analytics,it is good practice to give a heads-up to each analytics user so that one can correlate any trendchanges with the migration.Ensure vendor support. If the analytics tool is not changing, support from the vendor of the analyticstool must be in place for a couple of weeks so that any obvious issues can be addressed and fixedquickly. They will also help in triaging whether a raised issue is actually an issue or is due to a newfeature of the advanced version of the tool, which has to be accepted as a mandate.In the case of migration to a new analytics tool, it is ideal if there is an overlap period for which boththese tools are run side-by-side so that any major data variance for out-of-the-box metrics can beinvestigated thoroughly. Having support from both vendors will help in understanding different waysin which data is being tracked and in ruling out any need of investigation if the variance is due to adifference in the approach or metrics definitions.Validate post go-live. There should be a dedicated development and analytics team to investigate anyissues on the website post migration. This may range from a JavaScript error on a homepage to amajor data discrepancy in the reports.In the case of migration to a new tool, a stability period must be ensured where the development teamis available to make any code change required to fix any reporting issues.ConclusionA migration gone wrong can turn into a nightmare for any business. Having a flawless migration willkeep the confidence and accuracy levels high and intact on the reports and analysis that form the basisfor many business-critical decisions.By following certain best practices, one can ensure that the migration will happen successfully, andthat the business will be happy with the new set of reporting. Planning migration early and developinga long-term vision can help tremendously and can be a good opportunity to improve on the existinganalytics processes.
  7. 7. © Sapient Corporation, 2013POINT OF viewGagandeep Singh Bhatia is a Senior Associate, Marketing Strategyand Analysis at SapientNitro with experience in web analyticsimplementation and maintenance. He currently leads the web analyticsenablement team from onshore for Vodafone UK and is an AdobeCertified professional with SiteCatalyst Implementation as well asProcessing Rules.