Web Analyst’s Dilemma

Web Analytics Association Certification

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.”

Confucius (孔子) 551-479 BC

Web Analytics Association

The WAA Certification requirement currently consists of a knowledge base developed over time by the Education Committee. Noticeably absent from the Certification agreement is a relationship with the draft WAA Code of Ethics, something which I had expected to be standard procedure for a Certification.

As the WAA moves to professionalize the industry, validation of constituent knowledge has been a focus. I have often been told, and heard other WAA members told, that the goal of the WAA Certification is to be similar to the Project Management Institute (PMI) Certification.

Project Management Institute

Why did the WAA not follow the PMI Certification’s example in requiring adherence to a code of ethics?

“I agree to satisfy and conduct myself in accordance with all PMI certification program policies and requirements,
including this Agreement and the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (as they may be revised from time
to time); “

AACEI

The Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering likewise has enforcement language:

Section 9. Members of the Association of any grade shall support the Constitution and Bylaws of the Association and shall abide by the AACE Canon of Ethics. Any member who violates the Constitution and/or Bylaws or the Canon of Ethics, or is guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interests of the Association or of the engineering profession may be expelled by a two-thirds vote of the Board. Charges against a member shall be prepared in writing and filed with the Vice President-Administration. If the charges are deemed substantive by the Board, a hearing shall be held by the Board upon reasonable advance notification to the member but in any case within 90 days after receipt of the charges by the Board. The member shall have the opportunity of presenting an answer to the charges at the hearing.

National Association of Professional Organizers

The National Association of Professional Organizers through the Board of Certified Professional Organizers have an enforceable Code of Ethics:

As a condition of being awarded and maintaining status as a Certified Professional Organizer®, I voluntarily agree to be bound by and to abide by this Code of Ethics, the Ethics Complaint Procedure for Certified Professional Organizers®, the Bylaws of the Board of Certification for Professional Organizers (BCPO®), and any policies or procedures adopted by the Board of Directors of the BCPO®, as they are now written or may be amended in the future.

I will report to the Professional Practices Committee of the BCPO® my knowledge of an act or omission of another Certified Professional Organizer® in violation of this Code, or of any applicant for certification status in connection with such person’s application. I agree to cooperate with the Professional Practices Committee in the investigation of alleged violations of this Code of Ethics.

I acknowledge and agree that, if found to be in violation of this Code, I am subject to the prescribed disciplinary sanctions of the BCPO®. I acknowledge that, in the event of suspension or revocation of my certified status, all rights and privileges of said certification would be terminated.

They even have a complaint mechanism listed right on the site here.

Clearly this could go on for a while, as every single professional organization which I reviewed for this post had as part of the membership agreement an ethics portion. What the public expects from an organization is that we are strong enough to police ourselves.

Gaming The System

The dilemma facing members at the moment of ethical decision making is whether to follow the rules or not. John Forbes Nash, of ‘A Beautiful Mind’ fame, was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994 for his work on Game Theory which describes exactly what will happen.

The solution without enforcement, every single time, is for the member facing the dilemma to choose in their self interests.

Are we to expect our fellow WAA Certified members to contradict years of empirical research?

Short The WAA Certification

With the increased focus on privacy, there certainly will be firms looking to get ahead by bending the laws to gain an advantage over firms that do follow the law. If the current system without enforcement of ethics continues, it is only a matter of time until someone holding the WAA Certification gets caught up in a compromising situation.

What will be the value of Certification to the other WAA Certified Web Analysts at that point?

Where to WAA?

How can we ever convince the public that we can be trusted with their most private data, if our Code of Ethics is less enforceable that the Certified Professional Organizer Code of Ethics?

In order to validate the impartiality of the WAA to the public, and to ensure the continual value of WAA Certification to constituent members, the Board should develop an enforcement mechanism for Certified Web Analytics to follow the Code of Ethics.

Please contact the WAA Board Member of your choice, or contact multiple, and let your opinion be known.

Technorati Tags: Code of Ethics, Ethics, privacy, WAA, WAA Certification

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4 Responses to Web Analyst’s Dilemma

  1. I suspect it is nothing more than a timing issue. The certification came before the Code of Ethics in the WAA’s case. That being said, I support the notion that anyone certified by the WAA would also be someone committed to the WAA code of ethics.

  2. Jim Novo says:

    Indeed, a timing issue. The Code of Ethics is a pretty recent development, and as far as I know, is not finalized yet. When there’s some agreement on that, the Board could look at tying the Ethics Code to either Certification or WAA Membership overall.

    Down at the practical level, and especially as WA and BI get closer and closer, I think there will be some conflict in the area of how analysts are expected to approach their jobs. I hear too many stories in WA about bending or torturing the data to “justify” an action rather than provide a unbiased analysis of the action, see:

    http://blog.jimnovo.com/2009/06/19/analyze-not-justify/

    and

    http://blog.jimnovo.com/2010/02/09/tortured-data-analysts/

    This hurts the credibility of the profession and I’d like to see more analysts make a stand when they get pressure to manipulate the outcome of an analysis, as described in the second post above. Also, the idea of analysts reporting to the line of business or function they will be analyzing fuels this fire, as described in the first post

    If this kind of pressure is as common as it sometimes seems, it will be difficult to get analysts to sign up for a Code of Ethics, and perhaps that’s why some resist the idea.

    • Jim:

      As the driving force behind Certification your comments are greatly appreciated. You raise very relevant issues which elucidate why a Code of Ethics component is integral to Certification.

      How can we, the membership around the world, make sure that when the Code of Ethics is finalized it is truly attached to Certification?

      The reaction on the Twitter-verse last week when I raised the issue was less than positive. How can we continue to demonstrate the value of enforcement to the members?

      Do we need a separate Enforcement Committee?

      Rudi Shumpert ( @RudiShumpert ) recapped a Web Analytics Wednesday in Atlanta where this issue came up as well:

      http://www.rudishumpert.com/2010/11/18/waw-waa-and-the-atl/

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