5 steps to successfully implement a tracking system before a product launch
We are all aware of the benefits that go hand in hand with the implementation of tracking/analytics within a digital product; being it a website, blog platform or mobile application. It brings value in numerous fields of business:
- Data aggregation and analytics: providing visibility and understanding our users and what they look for (geographical and device coverage, audience picks during the day, most attractive pages/content and much more)
- UX/UI design monitoring: understanding if our product is used and understood the way we visualised and designed it (the call-to-action (CTA) buttons are correctly used, the navigation and access to certain places is clear for most users, the behaviour is correct for the built functionalities, etc.)
- Marketing and business development insights: opportunity to base the company decisions in terms of marketing and business strategy based on what our users want/look for.
- Data analysis: compilation of data on the user’s behaviour that might lead to personalisation strategies depending on your core business.
This list can be longer, so we all agree how important it is to have a correctly implemented data layer in our products. It might even seem that it is more important to monitor the product and analyse its use than the product itself, and yes, there is some true in that for me.
What can potentially go wrong if all your stakeholders are aligned on the importance of correct implementation of your tracking system? And that’s where all the complexity starts. From my personal experience, I noticed that even the priority of it is very clear to everyone on the project, this topic needs a lot of leadership (exact!) and motivation to push it forward.
You might face multiple constraints:
- Misalignment between different business stakeholders who are pushing in opposite directions depending on their priority
- Absence of the inventory of the tracking tools which are already in place (for larger companies) and its total absence (for smaller players)
- No technical documentation of the current tracking system (so just go and figure it out)
- Time and willingness of your development team to make it happen (and yes, this topic is always left at the end of the development process and quite often taken out of scope in order to meet the deadline)
That being said, I am still optimistic that it can be correctly implemented and developed within the product, if you follow the next 5 steps as a project manager/product owner:
1. Do your research
If the tracking system exists, consolidate as much information as possible: tools in place, technical documentation, stakeholders with knowledge about those tools, interviews with team members who use it and how, identify pain points. It will provide you with a good understanding of what is already in place and various needs.
If you start from scratch: conduct interviews with different stakeholders in order to clarify their objectives and needs, investigate the solutions that are available on the market and identify a top 3 that can fit those needs with a clear budget estimation (keep in mind number of users who need to have access to data, as it can sky-rocket pretty quickly).
Ask your DPO or an external DPO about the rules to follow in order to legally gather behavioural information about the interaction of your audience and your product, how to request the user consent, where to store the data and for how long are really key questions that can totally change the choice to find a solution that fit your needs.
Tip 1: Always document your research, it can be a classical table in pair with PowerPoint presentation providing key takeaways on gathered information.
Download PPT template
2. Align all parties on the objectives of the tracking system and data to be gathered.
Communication and ensuring the common understanding must be handled at every step of the process. Data retrieved from the tracking will then be used to adapt the tactics and strategies of the company. It’s important to organise a kick-off with all the stakeholders that will be using the data for their business activities and align on the objectives of the tracking.
You can already prepare a draft presentation based on the conducted interviews revealing the objectives and the data list of events that you would want to track within the product. It might seem a bit early at this stage, you will see that it will help you to win some time not starting from the white sheet during the kick-off.
Duration: 2 hours as it is the first alignment, and you want everyone to voice out their points, include in the end a voting session to gather the top 3 prioritised metrics that key stakeholders really need.
Tip 2: Include the links to your draft documents in your meeting invitation. You can already ask people to input their elements within them and it will guide them in preparation to this kick-off.
Tip 3: Update the documents after the meeting discussion and send out a recap to all participants including the main agreed-upon; points, priorities, open questions and clear next steps with people responsible for specific actions (basically a to-do list).
Download email template
3. Create exhaustive documentation on the tracking system to facilitate the development process
You can start from including all the information about the tracking tools in place, links to technical documentation and identifying internal stakeholders having knowledge about these tools. The development team will be happy to have this information when the implementation will start.
In case you’re implementing a new tool from scratch, make sure that you have contact details of an account manager of a tool to reach out in case the questions arise.
The tracking of events happens on a page/action basis, so you will need to detail the events to be tracked for EVERY screen or button. You can create a miro board with the map of all screens and put the events you want to track on every page. Some events will repeat on every page, but this way you will be sure not to forget anything. Try to make it easy for the developers to understand, it might help to structure similar concept or similar component event tracking in the same briefing and work with your team to find a clear naming convention. Keep also in mind that the events might differ on web version vs app version and that if you want to compare both, you will need extra attention and specific briefing for the edge cases.
Miro board example with all screens
Tip 4: Challenge this consolidation with your design and development team after it looks complete to you.
Tip 5: Book dedicated slots in your agenda for this consolidation, as you will need time and focus.
Based on your screen mapping and identified events, you’re ready to produce an Excel file with the defined events per page and with their code denomination. You will need the support of your development team, as they will know the best practices of writing the events.
Tip 6: It is possible to go even further in documentation (if you have time) and create a word document with all screens and buttons and code snippets per screen, in that case you can be sure that everything is clear for the development team.
This step will require a lot of time, but it will help you to win it back before the launch.
All documentation should be shared with the participants of kick-off for review, comments and updates. It should be easy to read and understand by anyone.
It’s also important to keep all the documentation up to date whether it is in the Miro board or the Excel document. Don’t underestimate the necessity and the effort needed to have one source of truth, well-maintained and with an easy way to view the history of changes.
Download Excel template
4. Test the events continuously during the development.
As soon as the first events are implemented and you have the testing environment, do not hesitate to start testing them and making sure that the correct data is gathered.
In case you do not have sufficient technical background on this matter, do not hesitate to rely on your development team for testing and monitor the data in tracking dashboards.
Tip 7: Ask all interested parties to test the data aggregation for their events. Make sure that they have access to testing environment of the tracking tools and that they understand the dashboards.
As soon as the product is launched, the testing should continue, and the aggregated data should be analysed to confirm that the implementation is correct. It might require some time after the launch to stabilise the data flow and its monitoring, but it is part of the process.
5. Continuous coordination during the definition and development process of the tracking system.
It can be useful to have bi-weekly calls with all interested parties about the advancement around the definition of events and the development of the tracking system. It will provide more visibility to the team members who are not closely engaged in the topic.
Tip 8: Creating a communication channel can streamline the exchanges and the information sharing where everyone gets an answer to the question at the same time.
Thank you for reading this long article and I hope you find some of the elements useful for you. Do not hesitate to reach out if you would like to discuss the problems you’re facing during its implementation and I will be happy to brainstorm about the solutions.