It’s an interesting conundrum. Never has our economy been more competitive. Never have companies been under more pressure to make every aspect of their operations ultimately efficient. Never has there been a more tangible link between learning and productivity . . . and yet, the number of organizations that can effectively measure and assess the performance of their learning programs or can accurately analyze visitor interaction with their web-based learning initiatives is less than 12%.

The reasons are easy to explain, but difficult to change.

Analytics is hard. Despite assurances by software manufacturers that their products are easy to install, easy to configure, easy to learn and easy “for anyone” to use, they’re not. Similar claims were made about CRM software and that industry is still haunted by its inability to deliver. Anecdotally, web analytics webcasts conducted by the American Marketing Association routinely draw thousands of learning and marketing professionals desperately trying to learn how to better gage the performance of their programs or understand the behaviors of their markets.

Data collection can be erratic. Regardless of their size, many organizations are plagued with disparate databases and/or the ability to aggregate data on a consistent and continual basis.

Commitment is fleeting. Gathering and analyzing performance metrics is a marathon, not a sprint. Having one “marathoner” in a C-level position usually isn’t enough and having a group of “marathoners” making decisions is rare.

Effective measurement starts in the strategic planning process. Too often measurement is a project afterthought. “This is what we want to do; now how do we know if we’re doing it?” The most effective programs have a circular flow to the strategy-execution-measure

ment process and the anticipated analytics are an integral part of planning.

Doing nothing is not an answer. Without metrics to track performance, the best laid strategic plans and programs are ineffective. Organizations need to know which success factors require measuring, and they must understand the differences between measurements, metrics, and benchmarks.

If you’re currently in the 88th percentile of those who aren’t tracking performance, don’t feel bad, your competition probably right with you. But the percentages are shifting quickly and dramatically, and if your organization hasn’t made a significant move towards performance measurement and analysis in the next two years you’ll be playing a tough game of catch-up. Today’s analytics are far from perfect but, for most organizations, they are both operationally and economically feasible and managers should approach the challenge with total confidence that it can be met.