Video: The Responsive City – Stephen Goldsmith @Goldsmithongov at @ChicagoCityData

Stephen Goldsmith of Harvard Kennedy School speaks on the value of data within government agencies

This post features a video of an informal presentation from Stephen Goldsmith. The talk was given in Chicago at the Microsoft Technology Center as part of the meetup group  Chicago City Data User Group.  Goldsmith showed innovation and thought leadership during his roles as Deputy Mayor of New York City and two-term Mayor of Indianapolis. His efforts changed how many cities view technology as a driver of physical and civic improvement. He is now the Daniel Paul Professor of Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The talk centers on the civic usage of data.  A brief 30 minute discussion, Goldsmith noted about the challenging need to use data to improve the discretion of government agency managers.  Goldsmith believed that the data should not be used to embolden bureaucratic processes, but to instead align those processes to serve citizens better and to better deploy precious resources.  Check out his comments and insights in the video below.


I know what analytics is – but how can I use it better for my business?

Pierre DeBois Chicago Small Business Expo
Pierre DeBois speaking about analytics at the 2014 Small Business Expo in Chicago

Most businesses have heard the definition of analytics at some point since 2006 (with Zimana being in business since 2009).  Here is the definition, for those just joining the internet.  Analytics is about the measurement of a system. With respect to small businesses, the interest is in web analytics. Web analytics is the measurement of website performance.

The origins of web analytics is linked with web development.  Originally it was meant to track and help account for webpages being served – in essence, a diagnostic tool.  But with the advent of paid search, combined with newly introduced Javascript tags, marketers realized that web analytics could provide a means to manage marketing campaigns, thus raising results and reducing costs.

The next advancement of importance  are smartphones and tablets. They changed the ways people review websites before making a purchase, because sites are accessed while visitors on the go instead of just at home.  Moreover, websites are increasingly accessed by mobile devices, so the sites have to be mobile-friendly.

If you are starting your business, there are a few ways to start using analytics to confirm how your website enhances your business digital strategy.  Planning for data collection can become complex based on the amount of marketing you have planned, but a dedicated planning pays off in organizing necessary steps, reducing effort needed over time.

If you are unsure where to start, here are a few great starting points if you are just planning to launching a website.

  • Identify how your web presence will be laid out.  Web designers use wireframes to lay our each page navigation, but if you are technically challenged you can do so on a piece of paper. This will also help assess costs for launching and maintaining associated components such as a microsite for an app or an e-commerce cart.
  • Choose your downloadable material for the site – these can be tagged in analytics through features such as event tracking, a minor code typically added to the HTML links for the documents. Tag managers are also available to make tag management manageable.
  • Install an analytics tag is on each page. Most analytic solutions use a Javascript code added into the HTML coding of the page (for Google Analytics, there are several checkers available).  Be prepared to modify the code for e-commerce, CRM, and other  features that are not included with standard reporting (a web developer or analytics specialist should help). Also consider a tag manager to manage a number of tags easily, particularly for complex set ups with cross-domains and e-commerce shopping carts.
  • Consider names for each webpages that includes a highly-trafficked keyword if feasible. You’ll have to keep page name lengths simple for user convenience (and it may depend on the URL you select). Three words in a subdirectory URL is a good rule of thumb to maintain.  So a URL can appear like this example below: 

In this example, three words can be selected to the subdomain, kept relatively short in case a customer is typing the URL or speaking the words into a search window on a smartphone.  Each word can be an opportunity to use a keyword – say “shoe repair” in this instance – or a useful high volume description like “Chicago” to help in local search. 

There’s no one combination that will guarantee success, but the key is develop the most descriptive page names that will aid discovery in a general search engine.

  • Make sure each page title and description are filled out, since those come in handy not only for search engine but in sharing content on Facebook, Google +, Pinterest, and other social media platforms.
  •  Identify a goal page from your website. This will aid reporting on how well people are navigating on your site.
  • Plan your marketing in addition to executing a search strategy.  Search traffic is helpful, but you may need to select marketing for an additional reach to your audience.

How Small Businesses Build An Online Advantage

Chicago Small Business Expo
This analytics workshop in Chicago attracted a large number of small business owners who are working to understand and improve their digital presence, so that their business can consequentially improve as well.

It happens at this time of year. Not just taking a breather with the Christmas holidays , or even reviewing financials.   Each new year has become the perfect time for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) to tighten the links between their online and real-world operations.

Most SMBs know their digital presence is essential to their success, but many don’t understand that once online, their core businesses will have to perform differently than before.

USA Today article on small business trends back in 2012 offered some suggestions. If you are a regular Business Agility reader, these three points highlighted in the article may sound particularly familiar.

  1. Working 24/7: The 9-to-5 workday is a thing of the past. “The Internet, laptops, tablets, smartphones, apps, and software are the main culprits.”
  2. Video: Don’t overlook video on your site. The article notes a Cisco estimate that “online video now makes up 50 percent of all consumer Internet traffic.”
  3. Mobile: In case you’ve been living under a rock, wireless devices are everywhere, and a heralding the Internet of Things age. This means customers and employees will want to connect at all hours, and your site needs to support that.

Another trend that caught my immediate attention was that small businesses fall into one of three categories: understanding social media, not understanding social media, or not caring about social media.

I think the small business that achieves success with social media is one that is prepared to be bold in deriving value from its operations. That value-creation drive makes it fearless in leveraging social media.

The end result is the ability to enact the steps that close a sale — follow up by providing sales material, answer customer questions quickly, and offer information about services that anticipate customer concerns.

Gaining that intensity is possible. The starting point is gathering information on operations and making choices that leverage available assets. This can mean some initial isolation to reflect on honest feedback from employees and take in the status of a business.

This reflection does not mean becoming an isolated, brooding manager who goes to the mountaintop and returns holding stone tablets full of ideas. Instead, small businesses can start with two means to assess its capabilities, especially if a starting point is not entirely clear.

First, SMBs can review their web analytics data to learn what is working well online. As I have noted in many posts on this blog and in other sites such as CMS Wire, analytics can indicate site trends that may reflect how customers are finding and evaluating the business. These trends may also show how customer needs can be further served.

Second, a small business can also review its operations and determine what decisions keep cropping up. A recurring decision can probably be made more simply with a strategic, inexpensive purchase. If employees are on the go, what documents on the cloud should be available? And what is the best way to access them?

Using analytics to review online presence and manage business operations effectively can lead to new ways to become agile and provide true value.