Looking In — Web Analytics

Like many companies, Novell is a far-flung enterprise with most of its 6,000 employees scattered across the globe. To manage this diverse and spread-out population, the company uses its intranet, or InnerWeb (in Novell-speak), to keep everyone in touch and informed.

But without Web analytics (supplied by Omniture), understanding what its employees are reading on their portals and, therefore, deciding what information needs to be presented, would be a seat-of-the-pants exercise in futility, said Kim Eaves, Novell’s director of electronic marketing.

“It would be very difficult because I wouldn’t be making fact-based decisions,” she said. “(Web analytics) allows us to have data to use to make decisions rather than just ‘I think or I feel this is the way things are going and this is what I should do.’ Now I can have real data to say this is actually what’s happening.”

The “this” Eaves is referring to is the placement of links, the Web pages people are gravitating toward, the kinds of information they are accessing and, perhaps most importantly, the information they are ignoring. By using Web analytics, Eaves can move information around the various sites to see if it’s the information itself that is the problem or its placement.

If an important page on, say, a new product upgrade, is not being accessed enough, Eaves can move the page or the link to a different spot on the portal to increase page views. Or, as happens occasionally, if a page is put up and then management decides they would rather the information not be shared, Eaves can ascertain how many people have seen it.

“In the past we would have had no idea whether or not we had five employees see it or 200,” she said.

By having all this data in hand, Eaves can also better utilize her resources.

If an idea for the portal isn’t working out, for example, instead of letting it ride until another idea takes its place, she can drop the idea and move on. Or, since all Novell employees are expected to be knowledgeable about the company’s products and services, product information that has been read by most of the company’s employees, for example, can be relegated to a page on the back burner in favor of new information.

This saves Eaves time and frees up money for other projects while taking most of the guess work out of the equation.

“We track the usage of applications, the usage of static pages, the use of dynamic pages and based on this data we can either expose them better, we can remove them, adjust resources so we are not spending money on pages or applications that aren’t getting usage,” she said.

But Web analytics does more than just track hits and page views. It can also tell Eaves what operating systems employees are running, what plug-ins they have, where they are accessing their portals from and the browsers they are using. Eaves can then use this data to construct pages in the correct formats so most of the company’s employees can view it. It also allows her to track certain projects, such as the company’s move to desktop Linux, which is currently running ahead of schedule.

“In the past, we really didn’t have that data to know whether or not it was okay to use Flash because we didn’t know how many employees actually had that installed on their browser,” she said.

For Bruce Lowry, Novell’s director of public relations, the ability to accurately track InnerWeb usage isn’t so much about managing time, money and resources, but about building a corporate culture in a global enterprise.

“There are other ways to communicate but … [i]f you’re a company like Novell, which is incredibly geographically dispersed, it’s hard to build a corporate culture or a common set of ideas,” said Lowry. “The only way that you can really build a corporate culture … is through providing this single point of access to a set of information.”