10 Reasons to Hire an Agency for Your Organization’s Analytics

Paul Koch, Former Data & Analytics Director

Article Categories: #Strategy, #Data & Analytics

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Building an in-house analytics team often seems like the sensible choice — but isn't.

“Why don’t we just hire someone in-house for our analytics?” many companies ask. While this strategy may make sense for some, hiring an agency to manage your analytics is often the smarter decision. This article is my impassioned argument for why. I don’t intend it to be self serving, and want you to make the right decision, regardless of whether you choose to hire Viget or another analytics agency.

1. Neutrality and lack of politics #

There are two inevitable facts:

  • Numbers can be distorted for individual purposes.
  • Within any organization, people inevitably have different incentives, conflicts, and challenges.

For example, the media buying agency that reports on its own results is incentivized to use the most favorable attribution models possible. The new marketing director is incentivized to show that the recent social campaign is working extraordinarily well. One division is incentivized to draw budget and website real estate away from another group within the organization. People feel the need to show that their past decisions have been the right ones.

Clients trust data agencies as the neutral third-party to provide objective data and analysis. At Viget, we do no media buying, so you can know that we’re giving you the truth about your performance without questioning ulterior motives.

2. Knowledge of “is this normal?” from working across clients and industries #

Agency analysts get to deeply understand many analytics accounts per year, so they can help you contextualize your data. They have knowledge about what strategies have (or haven’t) worked for other clients. Additionally, they won’t be bogged down by common “gotchas” in analytics implementations or data analysis, because they’ve seen them all before.

3. The crucial support from multiple professionals #

Is your in-house analyst the only analyst? When they get stuck on an implementation or data analysis challenge, to whom do they turn — online posts? Because agencies have multiple analytics professionals who all review each other’s work and provide suggestions, hurdles get knocked down quickly rather than becoming insurmountable.

Unlike in-house analysts, agency analysts also have deeply ingrained working relationships with other disciplines. Whereas your in-house analyst may be exposed to a redesign every 3 years, agency analysts are constantly working with UX, front-end and back-end dev, and designers on site relaunches. Agency analysts know how to work with these disciplines in ways that enhance each discipline instead of conflict with it. At Viget, we can easily pull a UX designer onto an analytics-only project to make or vet recommendations, or bring on a FED to address a tricky coding challenge. (This is one of the reasons to hire an analytics team within a full-service agency instead an analytics-only agency, but I digress...)

4. Expertise #

Making decisions without data is dangerous, but making decisions with wrong data that you think is correct is even worse. We estimate that when we start working with clients, 85% of their analytics setups are broken in some fundamental way (even on projects not specific to analytics, such as redesigns). Often, clients don’t know about the issue and trust the bad data.

Additionally, building an in-house team from scratch can be an exercise in faith. If you don’t already have the analytics expertise when evaluating candidates, it’s almost impossible to know that the in-house team you’re hiring is competent. (Some clients have hired us to help evaluate candidates.)

5. Certification #

Google has vetted us (and others) as Google Analytics and Tag Manager Partners, both organizationally and individually. These agencies have access to a strong partner network that uses internal forums to help each other on a daily basis. Though competitors, the analytics community supports each other because we want to grow the discipline as a whole.

Google Analytics Partners can help you increase your account, property, and view limits or regain access to a lost account in ways that in-house analysts can’t. Partners can often enroll you in betas earlier than you’d otherwise have access. Plus, sometimes what seems like a bug actually is a bug — Partners can efficiently work with Google to report and resolve it.

6. Innovation #

Agency analysts implement many features across an array of clients, whereas in-house analysts are more likely to be “feature blind.” The nature of agency projects lets those analysts push the boundaries of what is possible and experiment with new technology in ways that your in-house analyst may not be able to. Whether it’s Data Studio, the latest API extraction techniques, or interesting data visualization tools, you won’t risk stagnant knowledge from an in-house analyst.

At Viget, we also all attend different analytics-focused conferences and share our learnings with each other, amplifying each other’s knowledge. Plus, we don’t just attend conferences — we also speak at them regularly.

7. Better future-proofing #

The bulk of attendees at events such as the Google Analytics Summit — where Google debuts new features and tools — are agencies. Often, these features don’t launch to the general public until many months later. Because agency analysts understand the product roadmap, they can make smarter implementations today — for example, recommending to hold off on building that home-brewed solution that Google will be replicating in a few months.

8. Efficient, as-needed work #

Analytics should inform decisions and drive changes. Often, even working part-time, we make recommendations faster than in-house design and development teams can implement them. If you are investing in a full-time analyst, but only have the capacity to implement 20% of what they recommend, why are you paying them to work full time?

Agency analysts’ work is efficient and cost-effective; it can be just as productive as someone employed within your organization full-time. Agencies can also scale up or down efficiently.

9. Process and people #

Don’t get me wrong — I know some absolutely fantastic in-house analysts, and you could certainly find one of these people. In my experience, though, an agency has a particularly high concentration of individuals who are intensely focused on not only growing within their discipline, but growing the discipline as a whole. They fight stagnation with a vengeance. They stay with agencies because they love to be perpetually peppered with new and unique challenges. They are skeptical critical-thinkers, but always looking and pushing forward.

Additionally, many agencies have created processes based on years of experience. You get a unique mix of people who push forward with new, innovative, never-before-tried work but who also know how to use a process that maximizes project success.

10. Ability to move with you as you grow #

Whoever said “you can’t take it with you” never hired an analytics agency. As many of our clients have advanced in their careers and moved on to other organizations, they have kept us with them in their new roles. It’s hard to bring your entire in-house team along with you as you grow your career, but it’s easy to keep your analytics agency. These relationships give our clients quick-starts and successes in their new organizations.

What has been your experience working with agencies and in-house analysts? Please share your thoughts in the comments below, and get in touch if you think we might be able to help you!

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