#101 Daralytics (with Dara Fitzgerald @ Measurelab)

The Measure Pod
The Measure Pod
#101 Daralytics (with Dara Fitzgerald @ Measurelab)

In this week’s episode of The Measure Pod it’s the end of an era as we bid farewell to our fellow co-host, Dara Fitzgerald. But fear not, he’s not vanishing into thin air; he’ll still be around to gate-crash future episodes now and again. We had the pleasure of speaking to Dara to about his journey into analytics, and some of the changes he’s seen in the industry over his career. We also spoke about the process of setting up Measurelab over 10 years ago, and his advice for anyone wanting to follow in his footsteps.

Show note links:

🎥 The podcast is now available in vodcast (video) format! Watch the episode below, or over on YouTube.

Let us know what you think and fill out the Feedback Form, or email podcast@measurelab.co.uk to drop Dan, Dara and Bhav a message directly.

Follow Measurelab on LinkedIn and on Twitter/X, and join the CRAP Talks Slack community.

Find out when the next CRAP Talks event is happening on LinkedIn.

Music composed by Confidential – check out their lo-fi beats on Spotify.

Master Google Analytics 4 with Daniel Perry-Reed on the next GA4 Immersion 6-week cohort training course. Charity and group discounts available!

Quotes of the Episode:

  1. “…I think a lot of it comes down to timing and the requirement that you’re trying to fill or the need that you’re trying to plug in the market.” – Dara
  2. “…I think that’s such an important factor to anyone within any analytics or data field is the ability to zoom out and understand what the hell you’re doing and why and who you’re doing it.” – Dan


*Please note the following transcript is AI generated.

Intro | Topic | Rapid fire


[00:00:00] Dara: Hey everyone. This is episode number 101. I’m in a weird position this time because, this is my, my last official episode as a, as a co host. Dan and Bhav do their best job of making it out like I’m dying or I’m going to disappear off into the wilderness forever but I might, I might pop back in from time to time and gate crash some episodes.

[00:00:36] Dara: I’m not, I’m not going anywhere. I’m just not going to be. Guest hosting on the, on the podcast anymore. So this, this was a weird one for me in a way, cause I was the, I was the guest, which is the first time I’ve sat in that chair, although it’s the same chair I always sit in, but it, you know, metaphorically sitting in a different chair felt a little bit weird.

[00:00:54] Dara: And I was, I don’t mind admitting I was a bit. Nervous about it, thinking, I’m gonna be a guest. I’m gonna have to, you know, answer questions instead of asking them. And I even had to try and stop myself from writing down questions like I normally do, thinking I’m, I’m gonna be asking the guest. So it was a bit of a different experience, but, but really enjoyed it.

[00:01:12] Dara: Yeah. What did you guys think? Sounds weird. Even asking you what you think when I’m the guest and I’m here talking about this. 

[00:01:20] Bhav: I’m going to kick off with an answer. I thought it was a great episode. Dara, for what it’s worth, I never approached this as death. I don’t know why it transpired that way.

[00:01:28] Bhav: I approached it as graduation. Like, I had the graduation theme playing in my head during the start of the episode. You know, that kind of stuff, right? So I looked at it as graduation from podcast school. college or university or whatever. That’s what I was looking at. And it somehow just turned really morbid at some point. so from my point of view, it’s a graduation. 

[00:01:52] Dan: That would be my bad. I think I turned it around. I think I turned it round into that. I think I mentioned it as a kind of a thing. And then all of a sudden I couldn’t not think of it as a kind of, this is a, you know, the, the end, the end of a rain, anyway, Dara, thank you for humouring us as a guest.

[00:02:09] Dan: It was an awesome episode just to kind of go, just to kind of think about what we just discussed. You put you in the hospital, you’ve got like, we’ll go through in the episode, but you’ve, you’ve got an incredible amount of experience. You’re not going anywhere. You’re just kind of stepping down from the podcast sort of hosting chair.

[00:02:23] Dan: So you reserve the right to come back whenever you want. And we reserve the right to invite you back on whenever, whenever we want as well. And, but as a kind of final point, it’s episode 101. We promised that it would be a hundred. episodes a couple of episodes ago, but that’s before we, we found out we could fit in one extra kind of sneaky episode and kind of bumped you down to 101.

[00:02:42] Dan: But we are, we are going to go, and change things up slightly going forward in the podcast. So not just the fact that they are stepping down as hosts, it’ll be me and Bhav hosting going forward, which again, we reserve the right to change, add people in, and do all sorts of cool stuff.

[00:02:55] Dan: we’re going to go on a fortnightly schedule. We’re going to take a couple of well deserved weeks off and we’re going to go through and. Do more about that more to come on that. So just keep posted, find us on the crap Slack community or LinkedIn and reach out to us. There’s also a podcast at measurelab.co.uk If you have any questions or suggestions, loads of stuff in the show notes, links. 

[00:03:14] Bhav: I’m just going to say, Dara, I hope I make you proud. Effectively. I’m taking your seat, right? so I hope to bring the same wisdom, calmness. and clarity to this episode, these episodes as you brought them. And I love listening to you.

[00:03:27] Bhav: So I’m going to miss you, like having you on the calls on a sort of like regular basis, but hopefully we’ll make you proud. 

[00:03:33] Dara: I’ve no doubt you will. Ah, I’m getting emotional, right? We need to go. Yeah. Enjoy the episode. 


[00:03:39] Dan: All right. That’s it. Let’s jump into the episode before we start getting emotional. All right. Enjoy the show. Enjoy. So Dara, episode 101, your final episode. How do you feel? 

[00:03:52] Dara: I can’t believe it’s been 101. Has it really been 101 episodes? Because if you lied and told me that and it’s actually only been 40, then I’d probably, I’d fall for that. 

[00:04:01] Dan: It has been. I’ve actually got some stats I can throw at you. So first of all, it’s officially 101, 101st main show. We’ve actually done just over 115 in total, including bonuses and, and sound bites and other episodes. So we’ve definitely crossed the hundred mark. And at the time of recording, it was exactly two years and seven months ago that we launched our first ever episode.

[00:04:25] Dan: And that doesn’t count the ones we tried to record beforehand and that never saw the light of day. I would have guessed two years. 

[00:04:30] Dara: I think, yeah, I can’t believe it’s been two years and seven months. I can’t believe I put up with you on a podcast for that long or that you’ve put up with me for that long.

[00:04:39] Bhav: I want to hear the episodes. I never made it like that, I would love to hear the episodes. I never made it. 

[00:04:46] Dara: We did talk about, yeah, we, and this has gone out in the recording now, so we, we, we did talk about having, you know, like a, like a blooper reel. So maybe we do need to dig through the archives and put together something truly horrendous and embarrassing.

[00:05:00] Dan: I don’t know, those first couple of episodes still make me cringe when I think back to them. Just the idea that, because I edited them as well, so there was me learning how to edit on the fly, and then us being super stiff and robotic and not understanding that, how a conversation works. Have you, have you listened back to it? I haven’t been brave enough to listen back to any of the earlier ones. I can’t, I can’t do it. I can’t do it. 

[00:05:18] Bhav: I feel like we should release it as a bonus episode to this. 

[00:05:22] Dan: What, from the archive? Well, enough of the navel gazing. I just wanted to give you a couple of last stats before we jump in and actually talk about what we’re here to talk about.

[00:05:29] Dan: So, at the time of recording, we’ve just hit the 22,000 listens. So in those two and a half, just over two and a half years, 22, 000 downloads, listens, downloads, interchangeable, I suppose in this world, 53 with no guests, 58 with a guest. So we’re almost at 50, 50. So we’ve had 101 conversations, but it’s about 50/50 to have to put up with me for half the time.

[00:05:51] Dan: And of course now Bav compared to having someone else that we can target and, and dig into. Yeah, that’s all the stats I’ve got. I just wanted to kind of launch out there, say, look. We’ve crossed 101. We did kind of announce that it was your last episode, a couple of episodes ago, thinking it would be episode 100 and we’ve managed to squeeze in one extra one.

[00:06:07] Dan: So that’s why it wasn’t episode a hundred. It is 101. we managed to get one at one extra out of you. So let’s jump into what we’re here to talk about, Dara. And that’s to put you in the hot seat as the guest for this episode. You’ve got a lot of experience. You’ve got a lot of industry knowledge, and there’s loads of interesting stuff I want to talk to you about as the guest, so we can take away the hosting responsibilities for you.

[00:06:25] Dan: That’s where me and Av can jump in and grill you, with really hard and maybe unfair questions. but I just wanted to start at the very beginning, as you well know, because you do this most of the time, we don’t like to introduce our guests on this show because we feel like we’re going to forget stuff and make it a bit rubbish.

[00:06:42] Dan: We let our guests do the same. So Dara, tell us a bit about yourself. And how you found your way into analytics and all the way to talking to us today on a podcast about analytics. 

[00:06:51] Dara: Well, I think reading between the lines of what you said, you’re, you’re trying to insinuate that I’ve been around a while. so I’m going to try and give the short version of this story so that we don’t. Bore everyone to death, listening to the full version. And I probably will have said some of this before as well, because, I know we did an episode before where we talked about our journey. So I’ll try and give a bit of a snapshot.

[00:07:11] Dara: So my background before the measure lab was a bit broader. It was more in the digital marketing space. And then I narrowed my focus down to analytics because I’d, I’d always worked with analytics. So I used to kind of run digital marketing campaigns and be involved with web development, website design.

[00:07:31] Dara: But I always had analytics at the centre of it. So it was just always an interest of mine. I heard of this tool called Google analytics. I think I first used it in 2007, I think around then anyway. And that wasn’t my main job at the time, but it was just something I thought, this is great. You can actually use this too.

[00:07:50] Dara: Prove or disprove your theories about how a campaign could be made better, how a website could be made better, whatever. And then I liked it so much. I decided I wanted that to be my full time job. So I headed up an analytics team at a digital marketing agency. And then 10 and a bit years ago, Mark and I set up.

[00:08:09] Dara: MeasureLab. So we thought there was a gap in the market. We thought, and probably still do think, that analytics is often a little bit of a bolt on for bigger agencies, especially kind of bigger full service marketing agencies. So we thought it deserved to be kind of treated, you know, as its own entity and given priority.

[00:08:28] Dara: and have analytics be front and centre. So we set up MeshLab and 10 years later, here I am talking to you about that journey. 

[00:08:36] Bhav: I would have loved to have seen you 10 years ago, Dara. I looked exactly the same. Fresh faced, still looked like 45 years old. 

[00:08:44] Dan: Well, I’ve got, I’ve got a story from back then. I met Dara about 10 years ago. So, before you employed me. Your client in my previous job, when I was working at this analytics attribution tool, and it was your, your, your kind of analytics role in your, in the media agency. And I remember meeting Dara, who looked very different to the way he does now. So if you’re watching this on YouTube, that was less of a beard, less of the grey patch as well.

[00:09:07] Dan: And, and overall, I didn’t recognize you as the longest short of this story. So when I came and interviewed at Measurelab, Dara recognized me and started talking to me and I just. You know, nodded along and said, yeah, yeah, yeah, of course, of course. And I, I fessed up a little bit later after I got the job because I had no idea.

[00:09:23] Dan: I had no idea you were the same guy. It was a really, I dunno, I dunno if you caught me out like right there and then on the spot, but, it was interesting to, anyway, I just thought I’d mention that on the, as a hands up kind of, you caught me out, but, it was a really interesting meeting actually back in the day.

[00:09:37] Dan: Cause I think both of us were coming at it from the analytics perspective, both in our respective fields. I don’t know. It felt like a good conversation back then. I don’t know if anything actually can’t remember the outcome of that meeting, but maybe that’s for the best. 

[00:09:49] Dara: Well, I’ll give our, I’ll give Bhav and our listeners a little treat because, you know, you might think knowing Dan that he has always been obsessed with Google analytics, but actually I think he was a bit against Google analytics in those days.

[00:10:02] Dara: And I think part of that conversation we had at that meeting was that I was the Google analytics guy. And I was saying, you know, This is a better way to track things, and this is more reliable. And you were saying, no, no, no, GA is nonsense. Nobody trusts any of that. So, amazing how things have changed in the time since. Oh, how the world is different now, Dan. We all know your secrets now. 

[00:10:26] Dan: Hey, you know, one can change their mind. I can change my mind if I, if I have learned facts, and I can change my mind. And I’m not by any way saying that Google Analytics is the be all and end all of. Of life of analytics. But, but yeah, obviously I had to, I was working at a different analytics company.

[00:10:42] Dan: We had our own proprietary technology. So why wouldn’t that be the thing that I said was always better? 

[00:10:47] Bhav: No, fair enough. Brilliant. Well, I mean, I always assumed Dan probably just was born with a Google analytics, like tattoo on his arm. So now we know it’s not the truth. So Dara, I mean, obviously Dan’s known you for 10 years.

[00:10:59] Bhav: I’d love to know from your point of view. how the industry has changed over the last 10 years, what you’ve seen evolve, you know, for better or for worse, would you go back to 10 years ago? 

[00:11:09] Dara: Ooh, that’s a good final question. Would I go back to 10 years ago? No, I think probably not. but at, but saying that, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t like where things were 10 years ago.

[00:11:20] Dara: I think things have become more complicated in a way, I guess. This is, I’m going to give very poorly oversimplified Answers things are simpler than they’re more complicated now, obviously, there’s a lot of nuance to that, but, you know, you could easily look back with rose tinted glasses and say, oh, it was amazing.

[00:11:38] Dara: No one cared about privacy or had to care about privacy. You could track whatever you wanted. It was brilliant, but obviously it wasn’t the blows of loads of issues with that. It was also simpler in terms of we, so, so when we, when we set up Measurelab, we basically built a business around two products, which was Google analytics and Google tag manager and Google tag manager had only just come out.

[00:12:00] Dara: So I think it was probably within the year prior to setting up Google Tag Manager became a thing. It’s hard to imagine now it was ever not a thing, but Google type manager came out and. Google changed from classic to universal analytics. So, you know, this was, this was that time basically where.

[00:12:20] Dara: Google analytics improved the product tag manager, and we built a whole business around those two products and things were therefore relatively simple where analytics in those days, often when you set that to people they did just think of web analytics, and they thought of Google analytics or Adobe analytics.

[00:12:38] Dara: The lines weren’t quite as blurred as they are now with where analytics stops or where web analytics stops and where product analytics starts or where BI starts or engineering or data science, all these terms that are now kind of have started to, or are blended into one. Back then you could just say, I do web analytics.

[00:12:58] Dara: That’s what I do. I’m an expert in Google analytics. I’m an expert in Google tag manager. And that was enough. There was a huge amount of need for that, which there still is, but now it’s become more complicated where you can’t really just get away with saying, I just do that one piece of the puzzle. You’ve got to have that understanding of the, of the whole. 

[00:13:16] Bhav: I think I agree with you. I mean, it was definitely a simpler time. and it makes us, I know it makes us sound older, like back in my days when I was an analyst, you know, I know it’s less of that, you know, But it’s, but it was in play and you’re right.

[00:13:28] Bhav: And I do kind of miss the nostalgia that goes around with how innocent analytics was back then. There wasn’t this complex thing to try to get all data to match up to a hundred percent. And, you know, even now we haven’t got it completely right, but it’s, it just feels like everything is harder.

[00:13:44] Bhav: I don’t know why. I think technology has obviously evolved as well from, you know, Just basic websites to kind of like more complex web applications, which require more advanced tracking and, you know, and tagging. And so, I, I, I would go back a hundred percent. I would go back. 

[00:13:59] Dara: But would you go back permanently or would you just go back for like, you know, a week or a month just to experience it?

[00:14:08] Bhav: Oh, that’s a good question. So like a holiday, right? Yeah. A holiday in the past. Actually, yeah, maybe you’re right. Maybe, yeah, you’re right. Maybe I’d go, just go back as a holiday. I don’t know, it was, like, it was the golden times. I think I would like to live back in that time again. Avinash Kaushik, Kaushik was like the big name in animatics back then, so everyone was, everyone was reading his book so I, I quite liked it. 

[00:14:31] Dan: For, for, I mean, I’m still a fan, the newsletter, it’s still kind of got some nuggets in there that I still find interesting. I still refer back to, What was it? Is a 90-10 rule. Did you read that one whereby you have to invest, within, within your total budget, 10 percent on the tools and 90 percent of the people to get the most out of it.

[00:14:47] Dan: So if you’re paying for a GA 360 licence at a hundred grand a year, you need to be spending 900 grand a year on people to use the tool. Now, I wonder how that’s changed actually, in the dawn of AI and whether or not there’s a difference, around that, but I’ve always used that I might have kind of.

[00:15:02] Dan: Adjusted it to like a third, two thirds or 80, 20 rule, depending on the audience. But it’s just that, that framing that in the way of, and you must’ve had this back in the day, Dara, where it’s like you implement universal analytics, it solves all your problems, but it doesn’t. And so I think this is where, you know, speaking for you, I suppose a little bit, but working with you for the last sort of eight years is that that’s where the business of measure lab comes out of using these products, right?

[00:15:23] Dan: It’s like setting up GA can be done within CNSs, let alone. You know, let alone other kinds of integrations that it has, but it’s, that’s not, that’s not what people need. People think they need to implement it, but actually they need someone to help them understand it and to use it effectively because. Out of the box, it doesn’t do anything.

[00:15:40] Dan: It just tracks stuff with or without the kind of the world of consent limitations and technological kind of nuances. It’s just data is data. it doesn’t do anything out of it. Someone made the analogy the other day I heard about, it’s a very basic analogy, but it still holds true. It’s like data is, is, is like crude oil.

[00:15:57] Dan: you, you kind of, you have it, you can extract it. That’s great. But instead it’s refined, processed, and turned into the kind of usable products. Then it’s not actually useful to anyone as a kind of raw form. And I think that’s the, that’s the element that has always been that kind of missing piece.

[00:16:10] Dan: And I suppose that probably where I lazily just say, call myself an analyst just for that reason of like taking crude oil and turning it into, you know, fuel. 

[00:16:19] Dara: In some ways that’s probably one thing that maybe hasn’t changed or hasn’t changed enough. I think that, you know, there’s two things you made me think of there.

[00:16:27] Dara: One is that this idea that analytics is a kind of one time thing, you know, oh, can you fix my analytics? Can you implement analytics? Can you, you know, give me the answer? this idea that it’s a kind of one off project and you have it set up and then that’s it forever. And obviously that’s just crazy and that’s not the case.

[00:16:45] Dara: But the, the, you know, the, the, the second thing is obviously the over emphasis on that first phase, which is just setting it up or, or, or collecting the data, cleaning the data, whatever. And then so little time comparatively is often spent. Using it, or using it in a meaningful way. It’s kind of like, Oh, success.

[00:17:03] Dara: Let’s all pat ourselves on the back. We’ve collected all this, you know, these huge amounts of data and billions of reports, but what do we actually do? What are we actually doing with it? And I think those two things probably still haven’t changed as much as maybe they should. There’s still too much focus on the upfront and there’s still too much of a belief that analytics is a kind of one time thing.

[00:17:23] Dara: You, you set it up and it just works for you forever as if life was like that, you know, doesn’t sadly, it doesn’t work that way, which I guess is good for people like us cause it keeps us in work. 

[00:17:35] Dan: For sure. And this, this is actually a really interesting subject. I’ll ask you a question about this. So like, you’ve obviously turned a business that survived 10 years with over 20 people doing something like this. And it relies on the idea of setting it up. Isn’t the, the be all and end all. So like, how do you approach that? Like, why do you think that is? And how have you, how do you do it? How do you work with someone that thinks they need, I don’t know, back in the day, enhanced e commerce for, for universal analytics.

[00:18:02] Dan: And then how do you turn that into something that’s actually more meaningful? Like, what was your approach and what was that magic that you added there that enabled you to run a business like this for 10 years? 

[00:18:11] Dara: I’d love to claim there’s some magic, and maybe other people would say there is, but I don’t see it that way. I think it’s quite an organic process. It’s you, you maybe start, you know, you start working with someone on the, on the premise that there’s something that they need to implement or fix or collect or report on or whatever. And you, you almost kind of, this doesn’t sound right, but you almost kind of smile and nod and say, yeah, okay.

[00:18:34] Dara: Yeah, that, that would be, that would be it. That would be enough for you. And then you do that and then. You know, shocker, they then realise they need something else. And then you do that next thing. And then before you realise it, you’re, you know, you’ve been working with them for five years or whatever.

[00:18:48] Dara: So it kind of evolves. It does make it awkward though, because how do you, you know, how do you sell that longer term vision to somebody? And sometimes you can, if they’re already bought in and if they know that it’s going to be a long term situation, but often you can’t, you just have to let people kind of figure that out on their own terms, you know, so you’ll, you’ll gradually show value.

[00:19:08] Dara: In a piecemeal way, and then that. You know, over time convinces somebody that actually it’s something they need to take a bit more seriously and run on, on an ongoing basis. 

[00:19:16] Dan: So here’s, this is something for both of you really, but there’s, for me, I’ve always had this question. I’ve only ever worked either product or I’ve only ever worked platform or agency side.

[00:19:27] Dan: And so I don’t have the, the, the kind of the, the, the full spectrum of kind of awareness of, of client side and, and, and other aspects too. So like when it comes to analytics, whether we’re talking web marketing product or whatever, like. Is that something that can be? Permanently outsourced. Is that something that has to live internally?

[00:19:46] Dan: Like what point, I suppose, even from your current position, Darren, in terms of like, you know, owning an analytics consultancy, are there points where you say to people like, you know, this is now something that an outsourced thing can. Cannot do, or maybe should be always outsourced. I’m, I’m, I’m asking that as, as a kind of like, I am really interested from both of your perspectives, obviously working at an agency.

[00:20:08] Dan: I completely understand the value of an agency is the more heads are better than one, blah, blah, blah, all that kind of stuff that we like long term and just abstracting ourselves from, from being in these positions. It’s like, how does that work? And has that changed like in the last 10 or 15 years? Like, have you seen it?

[00:20:23] Dan: that kind of pro and con list of outsourcing insourcing changed over that period of time. Dara, I have a view on this. Why don’t you go first? 

[00:20:30] Dara: No, no, no. I was, I was interested because I was going to say you should, because I’m going to be so biassed. I’m obviously going to say that there’s always a need for external support.

[00:20:38] Dara: And I can’t tell, kind of, I don’t know if I’m being serious or a bit, or, or, or kind of a bit tongue in cheek when I say this, but you know, I, I do think. I do think there’s always a need, but I think that need changes. And I guess that’s the, that’s how I’ll kind of temper what I’m saying to not just sound like it’s a, it’s a sales pitch, but I think that, you know, you might, you might initially need a lot of support.

[00:20:59] Dara: And then over time, if you start to build that team yourself internally, then what you need help with is going to change. So it could be the nature of the work or the amount of work or whatever, but there’s, I think there’s always a need, just like there’s always a need for specialists. Legal advice or specialist tax advice or specialist marketing support this, you know, this, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to have any team in a business that knows absolutely everything about their, you know, that area of responsibility.

[00:21:26] Dara: So, you know, even if it’s just for a project or if it’s something new and you need some help with some emergent technology, they don’t have to. The skills and the knowledge internally, I think there’s always a need for some kind of expertise on top. It’s just a case of how much you need to turn the top on and for how long, I guess that’s what, which varies based on how you know, establishing your own team internally.

[00:21:49] Bhav: And this is it. I think this is what I was going to say. I think it’s, in an ideal situation, in an ideal world, everything, all this stuff will be done in house and you do it because you’d have unlimited resources, unlimited time. And it was really clear what was required. And the people who were doing the implementation, the analytics were well versed and trained in that.

[00:22:08] Bhav: But the reality of it is teams, companies are always going to be understaffed. And I say this, Having worked in house for nearly 10 years over sort of like, maybe even like 10 different companies, it’s always been a case where the, the amount of work that needs to be done is greater than the amount of resources we have available internally to do it, which is why If, if I could go back, to when I was at Moo, when I was at Gusto, you know, I would love it if I could have just had an engineer, like a web implementation, a tag implementation person at my fingertips at all time, the work, you know, for them isn’t going to be like a full five days a week job either, but it’s going to be bitty things like that spaced out over the course of a year, two years, three years, four years.

[00:22:58] Bhav: And I think this is where, yeah. As a company, having the ability to see the fact that actually analytics is a long term investment, but it’s a long term non full time investment because you have to constantly adapt to what’s happening into your technology. New things are happening in the market.

[00:23:14] Bhav: Whenever a cookie law changes, right, that required adaptation adaptation and that, you know, teams were scrambled and I’m sure you guys will agree, most teams scramble to meet those deadlines right towards the end. What would have been great is if we had someone who we could say, Hey, look. This has just been announced.

[00:23:30] Bhav: Everyone’s moving, you know, GDPR is going to be a thing. We need to change the way we do this. Can you go and solve it? And then you go and solve it over the course of time. So I think analytics is a long term service, but the implementation at least isn’t something that’s needed five days a week, you kind of have half a day a week. When this is why I think if you can bring in house is great, but if you can’t outsourcing is, is, is the easiest way to go about doing it. 

[00:23:55] Dan: So it’s really interesting what you mentioned there in terms of like, you know, reacting to these changes and saying, on top of all those kinds of stuff, I suppose, then, then here’s a question for you, Darren, like over the course of your, your, God, it sounds like you’re dying or leaving or something like that.

[00:24:09] Dan: You’re just, you’re just dropping off a podcast, but anyway, I’m going to ask the question anyway. So what’s the kind of thing, what would you say has been like the biggest change in your career that you’ve seen in the world of analytics that has changed the most? And at the same time, what was also one of the changes that you thought would change the most that actually became a small, insignificant change? Do you have any, anything like that, that comes to mind? 

[00:24:29] Dara: I mean, no, is the short answer. I don’t have anything that immediately comes to mind. thinking on the spot, I mean, all the, like all the, all the kind of updates changes to, to, again, I’m going to focus probably a lot on. GA because that, that is my kind of background, but, you know, when, when, when it did, I mentioned earlier that I, you know, saw, saw things change from classic to universal, and then more recently it’s universal GA4.

[00:24:51] Dara: And it’s like with any product or any technology, when there’s a new version, everybody throws their hands up in the air and panics. And then, you know, five minutes later, everything’s fine. And the world has moved on. So I think the, you know, in terms of the. Changes that haven’t had as big of an effect as maybe people might’ve thought.

[00:25:09] Dara: I’d say those kinds of things, when there’s a new version of something. What has had the biggest effect? I don’t probably, I mean, there’s two things that come to mind and bit, but bit buzzworthy, but you know, all the kind of privacy, privacy, I’m never sure how to say that. I’m never sure how I actually pronounce that.

[00:25:27] Dara: I don’t know if I should say privacy or privacy. So I tend to say both. You know, all the changes around the legislation. That’s probably had, if not the biggest impact, it’s probably been one of the most meaningful. And then the other one is, is, I mean, how could we not talk about AI and that’s still happening?

[00:25:42] Dara: So that’s a change that we haven’t even fully appreciated the kind of magnitude of yet. I don’t even know if I answered your questions. I’ve forgotten what your questions even were now at this stage. 

[00:25:52] Dan: I was just wondering if there was like, you know, there’s these, there’s these things that happen in the industry and they’re just, you can see the industry shift and, it’s not always the things you think it’s going to be, but you think, Oh, this is GA4 is going to shift the industry or it feels big enough in, in the, in the moment that it’s like things are going to change. It’s all changed. But like you said, is there, yeah, whatever we got a new tool, we’re using it. 

[00:26:13] Dara: Yeah I guess, I guess Google has just been thinking a bit more on it. Like Google has done. It’s their, it’s their kind of MO is that they’ll, they’ll, they’ll bring out a product that’s usually half baked, but it completely disrupts whatever market it goes out into.

[00:26:25] Dara: So they did it with Google tag manager when, you know, tag management was a big industry. And then they just came out with GTM and it was like, okay, cool. We’re here now. And we’re just going to, you know, end all of your businesses or make you all have to pivot because we’re going to release this product.

[00:26:38] Dara: It’s free. And it’s going to continually get better over time. The years to come, and then they did it with data studio now look her studio and, and they’ve kind of been doing it and are still doing it with the GCP, you know, the GPs is such a big and growing focus for them now, even though it’s still probably a tiny percentage of their overall revenue, you know, it’s very clear that strategically it’s, it’s massively important to them.

[00:27:02] Dara: So, you know, I think that’s probably that. They’re the kind of changes that I think have rattled people and have maybe had an actual genuine impact on other businesses in different kinds of market spaces over the years when Google just says, Oh, we’re going to move into that space now. Tough luck. 

[00:27:18] Bhav: It’s so true though. When you, you know, when these things are announced, you think your world’s gonna come to an end. When GDPR was announced, everyone was certain that this was the end of web analytics and digital analytics because no one was going to accept cookies or, you know, whatever. And this was going to be a massive impact, but kind of came and went and then Apple announced the ITP and their, their privacy, privacy.

[00:27:39] Bhav: Now you’ve got me confused, Aron. Privacy issues. I say, I think I say privacy, but now I’m doubting myself. And we kind of got over that fairly quickly. Right. We realised that, okay, maybe our numbers are slightly more inflated, but in the grand scheme of things, you know, with the business is businesses are taking on as they should.

[00:27:59] Bhav: So it’s, it’s, it’s got me thinking next time Google or whoever announces something big, I’m going to have to sit back and think, am I overreacting? Like, should we just let this pass? We all do. Yeah, we all do. Yeah. Yeah. It’s human nature, isn’t it? 

[00:28:12] Dan: So a slight, slight change of direction though, but I’ve got one question I’ve been meaning to ask for a while. and I, I, I just want to think that. There’s probably a lot of people that, in a similar situation whereby they might be freelancing or they’re thinking about freelancing or, going into the world of this kind of analytics, marketing product or whatever space themselves. So a question around that, how, how have you managed to take freelance analytics in the world of Google analytics and GTM and turn that into a company that’s survived the test of time, like going to 10 years.

[00:28:44] Dan: How does that transition happen? And, and. Is there any advice you can give to people that might be listening that are thinking about going on that journey themselves? 

[00:28:52] Dara: I’m not sure what you mean. Are you, are you suggesting that I was freelance at one point? 

[00:28:57] Dan: What? No, I, I, I suppose that, but the insider knowledge I have, I suppose, is when you and Mark founded MeasureLab, it was just the two of you and you basically were freelancers and you had a shared maybe email signature, but there wasn’t a kind of quote unquote company there at the time it was.

[00:29:11] Dan: But there is a world, a parallel universe whereby you could have. Continue to work as, in a sense, freelancers under the same name, but you’ve managed to turn this into a bigger company with over 20 people over 10 years. And I feel like that’s a success, especially in the analytics space. That’s a pretty niche that you don’t see very often.

[00:29:29] Dan: And it’s one of the kind of, one of the sort of proud things I’ve got when I talk about where I work is that, you know, we’re a little boutique agency that’s kind of gone, you know, one of the biggest, especially in this, in this landscape. So, yeah, no, no, like, I don’t, I’m not trying to get to a certain answer or anything.

[00:29:44] Dan: It was just really interesting to see that we’ve got a lot of people that start that journey. There’s smaller kinds of agencies and there’s like freelancers out there, but like, if there’s. You know, how does that work? Like, have you got any advice for those people? 

[00:29:56] Bhav: Exhibit A, by the way, just FYI. 

[00:30:00] Dara: I think, again, I’m probably gonna say this to a lot of these questions, like, I’m not sure I’m a believer in any kind of magic sauce or the magic ingredient. Maybe there is something and you don’t appreciate it when It happens to you, but I think a lot of it comes down to timing and, and, and the kind of need that you’re trying to, you know, the, the, the requirement that you’re trying to fill or the, the need that you’re trying to plug in the market. You’re right.

[00:30:25] Dara: I think when we, when we started out, I forget that, I guess, but we probably were like two freelancers who were just sharing an office space and, you know, working on different clients, but there was a lot of collaboration between us. So we’re very simple in a very oversimplified way. We used to kind of say, you know, Mark was the.

[00:30:42] Dara: Quote unquote, technical one. And I was quote unquote, the more marketing focused one or the more kind of analysis focused one. so we would kind of use our skills. They compliment each other, to work on different clients. And then as that evolved, we realised that we needed some help. We brought somebody on board, then we needed other skill sets that we brought them on board.

[00:31:00] Dara: So it kind of always has been fairly organic as opposed to there being some kind of magic. Formula or, or something that kind of, you know, it is, if there’s nothing we did, I don’t think we did anything to drive that demand. That demand was already there and things have changed maybe a little bit now, but still not too much as you kind of hinted at Dan.

[00:31:25] Dara: It’s still the norm for analytics. I think I want to be part of something bigger. Offering and to be clear, I guess I am again talking more about the web, you know, what we would have called traditionally web analytics, different. You’ve got obviously a lot of big kinds of data consultancies and companies who would do kind of much, much bigger data transformation work and bigger data projects, but in the kind of marketing space.

[00:31:48] Dara: Your marketing analytics were always offered by bigger full service agencies. So I think that was always an advantage for us, especially 10 years ago when we were able to say, you know, we have this quote we like to give, which is say, you know, do you want your agencies marking their own homework? and clients would usually say, well, no, we want independent advice.

[00:32:08] Dara: We want impartial advice. So I think that was, if there is a secret sauce, maybe that was something in the early days that, that, you know, helped us to stand out and, because again, like analytics, I think should be, it shouldn’t be used to, to, to push an agenda or to back anything up that there’s already a kind of bias in to say, Oh, we should spend more here.

[00:32:28] Dara: or you should, you know, not do that. It should be looked at kind of independently with a view of, we don’t care what the data says. We’ll just tell you what it says, and then it’s up to you to kind of make your decision based on that. It’s really hard to do that when you’re also selling. Media or when you’re, you know, where you’ve built the website or the app, and then you’re the one looking at it to try and determine whether it’s working or not.

[00:32:50] Bhav: Making notes about how to succeed now. Thanks. I will say, I will challenge you on one thing. Actually, you said there’s no secret sauce. Well, you kind of actually start off with no secret sauce and then you finish with that. Maybe there is a secret sauce, but there was one thing you left out. And I say this from experience, as you guys know, last year, I tried to do what you did 10 years ago, which was.

[00:33:09] Bhav: Start a consultancy or agency, you know, whatever you want to call it. I did it with my co founder, but my co founder left, after a few months, just, you know, it was the right thing for him to do. And what, you know, him, he and I are still very, very good friends. We stay in touch almost every two weeks. You know, we, we will have a chat or something like that, but, Him leaving was a big catalyst for me, for making, and realising that, because I was in a similar situation, whilst I am somewhat technical, Nico was definitely the technical one, and I’m, I was doing the other stuff, so when Nico left, I kind of, I felt deflated, and I felt like I’d lost my, partner in crime, you know, someone who was down in the trenches with me.

[00:33:46] Bhav: And I wonder, had you or had Mark left, would things have been different? And would you have carried on by yourself? Because I wonder if the secret sauce is not so much the service that you offer or, you know, that you are marking the homework of other people, was the fact that you We’re sharing this problem with someone and you guys did it together as a team.

[00:34:10] Dara: Yeah, 100%. I think, and it is, you’re like, it’s when you say it, it’s so obvious, but it’s easy to overlook that. and I wouldn’t just extend that to Mark and myself. I think in the very early days, you’re right. Had it been just one of us. You’d lack the sounding board. You lack support. You lack somebody who will even tell you when your idea is crazy or when you’re not thinking straight, you need that.

[00:34:32] Dara: You really need someone else who’s bought into it with you. I’m very matter of fact, you don’t need it. There’s lots of people who go out and do things on their own, but I think for me, I needed, I needed somebody else to, to kind of share in that. And I think Mark would say the same. I think we, we both.

[00:34:47] Dara: We’re better knowing that there was somebody else who understood what we were trying to do. but then that, that grew and that, that, that became part of the DNA as well. So, you know, the, the, the growth of the company over time, it’s, it’s not been some exponential kind of explosion of people. And the reason why is because everything’s been quite considered.

[00:35:07] Dara: And the idea has been. To have as much as possible to have the right size team for what it is that we’re trying to do and have the right blend of skill sets and the right blend of backgrounds and experience, because then you become, you know, it’s cliche, but I, I believe in it. It’s the, you know, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

[00:35:26] Dara: And I think, you know, it’s, it’s having people with different perspectives, especially in something like what we do where, you know, you’re trying to solve complex problems and sometimes it’s a moving, you know, moving goalposts as well. You need it. people to think about things differently to you so that you can make sure you’re staying on your toes and, and you know, you’re, you’re continuing to push forward.

[00:35:46] Bhav: Yeah, exactly. And, and you’re right, you know, you, there are lots of people who, who do it by themselves, but I think the difference, and I guess this answers like the question Dan was trying to ask is the fact that you guys did it together meant that you were able to go from quote unquote freelancers into an agency, whereas most people who do it by themselves, they are very capable, but they will stay in the freelancer mode.

[00:36:08] Bhav: And actually when you have got someone who can help you share the workload, share the burden. So whilst they’re picking up the, you know, something on this side, you’re picking up something else, which could have been around growth and clients, finding new clients, which you can’t do if you’re a one man band, right?

[00:36:23] Bhav: So. The need, you know, to be able to grow and get more clients, you need someone who is executing and someone who is going out and looking for those clients. and then as you start to get more of those, then you bring more people on. And I think that starts to become the catalyst, because I, and I realise that right away, you know, when I With, you know, obviously I’m, I’m at Lean Convert and I worked for, for founders, not founder, you know, the three people who started it together.

[00:36:48] Bhav: And I genuinely think one of the main reasons why they’ve succeeded is the fact that they were doing it together. I think had it just been one person, the company wouldn’t have reached a similar state, like, that Measurelab has gone to. 

[00:37:02] Dan: Well, it’s all about accountability, right? I mean, I’m never going to go to the gym by myself, but if I had someone that was accountable for that, I said, I’d meet there, then of course I’m going to go to the gym because I don’t want to let them down or to, you know, vice versa is that they’re accountable to me as well. So a lot to be said for that. Just having another pair of ears and eyes to bounce stuff around on.

Rapid Fire/Outro

[00:37:22] Dan: Oh, well, let’s go in and start winding us down, Dara. And so as you’re very aware, we like to do a rapid fire, at the end of these episodes. And I think you are no exception. You do not get out of this. So I want to ask you a couple of questions, quick answers on your feet. Off we go. So Dara, what’s the biggest challenge, today that will be gone in five years time?

[00:37:44] Dara: I don’t think it’ll be gone, but I think it’ll be dramatically improved. And that’s, I think it’d be a lot. There’ll be a lot less barriers to entry in terms of getting access to data and using data. So I think data, if you want to call it data democratisation, I think it’s going to be greatly improved because people are going to be able to use just their normal, natural language to ask questions and use data to, to answer those questions. So with things like AI and LLMs, I think it’s going to make more people use data, even if they don’t realise they’re doing it. 

[00:38:15] Dan: Awesome. So what will be the biggest challenge then in that five year time? 

[00:38:20] Dara: it’s, it’s, I think it’s got to be still some kind of ethics privacy related problem. I don’t think that’s going to be cracked.

[00:38:28] Dara: And the fact is the legislation will always lag behind the technology. So I think there’s going to be some very stressed legislators trying to figure out how to keep up with the advancements in AI. 

[00:38:39] Dan: Yeah, I like that. It’s like, like you said, ethics always comes first and then eventually that might become law, but, yeah, you have to start with that ethics, especially if you’re feeding big machines, everything you ever know about something and making sure that that’s part of that process.

[00:38:52] Dan: And it’s going to be really important. So here’s the kind of the next couple of questions that you always say sound very similar, but I want to, I want to ask both individually. So is there a myth you’d like to bust? 

[00:39:02] Dara: There’s more than one, but I’ll stick to the rules, and just pick one. I think the myth that data is too technical, I think is the, is the myth I’d like to bust. I think it’s very, it’s a bit of a, can be a cop out to say, oh, I can’t work with data because it’s too technical or it’s too complicated. It can obviously get very complicated, but it can also be very straightforward and easy. and there’s no reason why everybody, and I don’t just mean in the analytics space, everyone in the world can use data to help them make better decisions.

[00:39:32] Dan: Yeah, for sure. I’m going to link in the show notes to Simo’s post from many years ago now of the myth of the non technical marketer. You can’t be in marketing and not technical. Okay. So if you can wave a magic wand and make everyone understand one thing, what would it be? 

[00:39:46] Dara: I think this is meant to be like a piece of knowledge, so I’m going to cheat slightly. It’s not really probably a piece of knowledge, more a kind of characteristic, but I would make everybody be data curious. So I think if everybody was just. willing and interested in exploring data. And this isn’t just in a work context, this could be helping you to use data to make decisions about what insurance provider to go with for your car, or it could be things like looking at, you know, like wearable technology, tracking your own, you know, things like Garmin or whoop, things like that.

[00:40:22] Dara: I think there’s so much data out there these days, like not just in a work context, where if you’re a bit curious about it. Then it can help you improve your life. And that sounds like a big statement, but I think it’s true. I think it can help you make much better decisions in your, in your life in terms of your health and, your finances and, and everything really.

[00:40:40] Dan: So curiosity can kill cats, but it will make improvements to our lives. Yeah. Great for humans. I like that. okay. And the last one, and, our previous host of the show always said this was the, either the hardest or the easiest question to ask at the end. but what’s your favourite way to wind down now?

[00:40:57] Dan: I’m going to give you a caveat here. It can’t be running because we know you’re, we know you’re a runner. We’ve heard that many times if people have listened to the show. 

[00:41:05] Dara: So, this question just got a lot harder. What else do I actually do? Okay. So now I do, I do have an answer. So also something I have unfortunately mentioned on the show before, but I’m a pretty simple guy.

[00:41:19] Dara: It’s not that I do that many things, but being around animals. So I’ve got a lot of rescue animals. So that’s probably my, if I’m not allowed to say running. so I’ve got two snakes in this very room. If you’re watching this. Just off camera, there’s two snakes that live, about three feet away from me, and there’s another one above me as well, in the room upstairs. I’ve got dogs, I’ve got a cat, I used to have chickens, and if I had a little bit more space, I’d have even more animals, anything wacky, weird, anything that needs a home. So yeah, being outdoors, being around animals, that’s probably my, I find it very, very grounding and makes me forget all my problems. So if I’m not working and I’m not running, then it’s probably being around animals. 

[00:42:04] Bhav: How am I just finding this out? Like, I must have missed the episode. 

[00:42:08] Dara: You’re just, you’re catching yourself out here. You’re showing that you haven’t listened to the extensive back catalogue here above. 101 episodes, guys. We used to, Dan and I used to do.

[00:42:19] Bhav: I won’t even catch up on Game of Thrones because there’s too many episodes. I know, I know. I know we only have five, rapid fire questions there, but given that it’s a special episode, and Dan, I didn’t prepare you for this one. I have one more for you. which is, and it’s a bit of a cliche question, because it is one of those ones, that you ask when someone’s moving on, but, I want to ask anyway, what advice would you give to analysts out there who are, and not so much specifically starting on their journey, because that one’s been covered and done a billion times over, what would you give, what advice would you give to the analysts and data professionals Who are kind of like early to mid stages of their career, and on this path towards like data leadership or, you know, whatever your, whatever path they’re on, like, what advice would you give them?

[00:43:06] Dara: it’s hard to not be a bit cliche, I think, but sometimes, you know, cliches are Cliches for a reason, I probably say, you know, don’t forget your audience. I think one thing, maybe this applies more to people a bit earlier in their career, but I do see even very experienced people do this where they think because they can do something that they should do it.

[00:43:25] Dara: And they forget that it’s not about just showing how smart you are. It’s about actually answering the question or it’s about telling a story. so I think, you know, let less is more remember your audience. Make sure you’re actually answering the question you’ve been asked or make sure you’re actually making the point that you’re trying to make and you’re not actually just trying to show how clever you are.

[00:43:48] Bhav: It’s amazing that you said that. That is literally the answer I would have given. so, yeah, that’s, it’s good to know that we’re aligned and maybe one final bonus question. Cause, we went to rapid fire before I got to ask it, which was, would you hire yourself as an analyst? 

[00:44:08] Dara: Can I say yes and no? You can say whatever you like. So, so, so, so the reason I’d say yes and no is if another piece of advice I’d give to people, actually, sorry, I’m going to try not to make this too long winded, but people often look at job description and get scared off because they don’t have all the things on that job description.

[00:44:26] Dara: And I’ve never really understood that because that’s not how people actually hire people. You don’t expect somebody to take every box on the job description. For me, if I was applying, I would probably take so few of the boxes. That I would think, no, maybe I’m not, maybe I’m not the right person to hire in a, if it’s, if it’s an analyst position where you need to have very specific skills, however, I would hire myself if I was looking for somebody who is able to kind of, you know, work their way through all of that noise.

[00:44:56] Dara: And actually just get to the point. So I think what has been a skill of mine as an analyst is I’ve been able to avoid that risk that I mentioned a minute ago about trying to just overcomplicate things and do more because you can. And actually just remember what it is that I’m trying to do and just use data to, to, to make that case.

[00:45:13] Dara: That could be as simple as numbers in a spreadsheet, or it could be a couple of slides, or it could be a conversation. It doesn’t always need to be some complicated piece of work. It’s just about telling a story or presenting a case. Using data. So yeah, a bit of a on the fence answer, but yes. 

[00:45:31] Bhav: No, I think it was the perfect answer, actually and for what it’s worth, maybe that’s the secret sauce actually is the fact that you’ve been able to communicate data To the people you’ve been speaking to in a way that is non technical. Maybe that’s the secret sauce. So thank you so much. 

[00:45:46] Dan: Yeah, I think that was such an important factor to anyone within any analytics or data field Is the ability to zoom out and understand what the hell you’re doing and why and who you’re doing it to. I mean, if someone just needs a number and an email, don’t put together a deck and take three weeks to produce some sort of dashboard. Just give them a number and an email. And I feel like that’s, yeah, that’s a very important aspect of this whole process and a really good answer.

[00:46:14] Dan: All right. Well, Dara, look I have to say it still feels like you’re leaving like us forever and you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re dying or something like that. But it’s not, it’s just, you’re just stepping back from hosting this podcast. You’re still in Measurelab. You’re still doing your stuff. You’re still rescuing animals. All of that stuff is still happening. so we are going to, and we’re making a commitment here. Have you back on as a guest or an interesting conversation, you reserve the, you can have the right to join at any point you’d like in the future, but, for now, Dara, give us, if you’ve got any final words or anything, as we close out the episode. [00:46:46] Dara: Be curious, don’t be afraid to work with data, and yeah, less is more, keep it simple sometimes. And, yeah, that’s it.

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