You’ve likely heard of many businesses such as Amazon and Facebook that have reached success from their internal digital experimentation programs. And although you know an experimentation program could be powerful for your business, it seems out of reach due to the barriers to business optimization. To overcome these barriers, you and your team must first understand what they are.

Maturity Level: Most Businesses Are in Optimization Infancy

Before we jump into the barriers you must overcome, let’s lay some groundwork about maturity level. All businesses land within a certain level of maturity in optimization. It’s critical to understand where you are in the optimization process, so you can build a process that takes you where you want to be.

In reality, many businesses are still at ground zero when it comes to their optimization maturity level. In fact, only 17% of marketers use landing page A/B tests to improve conversion rates.

This number mirrors our experiences, as most of the businesses that reach out to us are found somewhere in the beginning stages of optimization.

8 Barriers to Business Optimization

There is a set of barriers you’ll need to overcome fairly quickly at the outset of business optimization: the barriers of getting started. As you move forward, you’ll also need to overcome the barriers of growing or scaling your optimization program across your organization.

Barriers When Getting Started With Business Optimization

Getting started is the hardest part of anything new. Business optimization is no exception. You’ll need buy-in and resources. Also, your organization will likely need to undergo a culture change.

1. Lack of Expertise & Knowledge of the Benefits

Optimization is a specialized skill set. It can take a lot of time to obtain the expertise you need for success. And, unfortunately, there isn’t a large talent pool of people who do this work. Even though businesses such as Amazon and Facebook have seen exponential growth due to optimization, the process is still innovative.

In addition to niche expertise, many organizations lack the knowledge of the benefits you can expect to gain through optimization. It’s difficult to obtain buy-in from those who sign the dotted lines without understanding how it can move the needle.

Break It Down:  To combat the lack of expertise, you may need to hire someone internally or ask for help from an external team. To do that, you’ll need buy-in from those in control of company resources. This means you’ll need to champion optimization to build awareness.

2. Lack of Time & Resources

Optimization is impossible without resources. First, it takes dedicated time to make it work—optimization must be a priority. Unfortunately, this work tends to be added to the plates of those who already have a full-time job within the organization. This is a surefire way to decrease morale and turn your people off to optimization.

Second, optimization takes financial investment. For example, you may need to hire an optimization specialist. Plus, you may need to purchase software and other tools to get you going. You’ll also need a dedicated team to help champion optimization throughout your organization.

Break It Down: It’s about results. If you haven’t yet, start running simple tests and building your case. For example, before making a website change, test it. It’s easier to succeed at experimentation at a tactical level. With proven results in hand, you’ll be more likely to get buy-in from your team and then key stakeholders. With buy-in, it’s easier to get the resources required to get started.

“Any level of transformation takes a lot of people. If it’s not a core objective coming from the top-down, it can be difficult to execute well. Optimization takes coordination, collaboration and organization across different departments with unique responsibilities. If you don’t have buy-in, you run into a lot of red tape and friction.”
—Grant Tilus, Sr. Growth Product Manager, Cro Metrics

3. Reliance on an Old Mindset

“This is how we’ve always done it.”

When attempting to start this work, you must expect some hesitation or rebellion. Just like any organizational change, ego has a way of creeping up and derailing your efforts. After all, you’re attempting something new and innovation doesn’t always come with immediate results.

Break It Down: You must be in this for the long haul. Organizational change often requires a culture change that can take some time. Support decision-makers in understanding that although optimization might be new, you’re not going in blind. Every decision you make in a culture of experimentation is driven by data that doesn’t lie. If results or growth benefits weren’t at the end of the tunnel, there would be no reason for a change at all.

4. Inability to Identify the Best Experimentation Ideas

Even after getting the go-ahead, barriers persist. For example, as teams start to test, they often find themselves at odds over which experiments are the most important. This can lead to analysis paralysis, leaving teams stuck.

Before you can scale your program, you’ll need to have a process for identifying the experimentation ideas that move the needle. Now, hear us out: This is a barrier that will continue for the foreseeable future. Yet, over time and with each test, you’ll start to build a repertoire that will help you zero in on areas and types of changes that are most likely to move the needle. 

Break It Down: Create a prioritization process to determine which tests you should run first. For example, at Cro Metrics, we prioritize our tests based on potential lift, previous test outcomes, technical complexity and which tests align with business objectives. As you complete tests, use your insights to inform where to test next. What matters here is flexibility, as well as a willingness to iterate.

Barriers When Scaling Your Optimization Programs

The barriers to scaling your optimization program share similarities with the barriers to getting started. Why? Scaling requires additional buy-in from the organization as a whole and even more resources for success.

5. A Need for More People & an Increased Budget

You’ve broken down the barrier of initial buy-in which resulted in some resources. But now, it’s no longer a one-person show. Imagine if you’re shoveling coal. If you’re only shoveling so much, the oven could take more. You want to go faster, but you need more people and perhaps a bigger shovel. This takes investment and additional resources.

In this case, it takes more expertise and hands ready to work. For example, you might need to hire additional staff or an agency to supplement your internal team. It also takes additional monetary resources to secure a larger team.

Break It Down: By now, you have buy-in to keep moving. But you must approach those stakeholders for more. The good news is you should also have some positive results and outcomes you can use to state your case. Arm yourself with the success of your program thus far.

You must also hire the right people with the right expertise to assist you in scaling your optimization program. Without the right people, you run the risk of derailing your program, having to start all over again and potentially losing buy-in from stakeholders.

6. Subpar Team Communication & Documentation

Communication is key to a successful scale-up of any program. Without it, problems will keep resurfacing and plans of action will fall apart. Just as important as communication is documentation, especially when dealing with data. Without it, teams can’t make educated decisions or understand their next steps.

Break It Down: Business optimization requires the removal of siloes. This means each team in your organization must work together for success. Create a written optimization plan that includes each team’s responsibilities for moving the program forward. You should also have a shared repository of the program’s impact, so each team understands where they fit in the grand scheme of optimization.

7. Friction & HIPPO

As you start to scale and things heat up, culture will continue to play a critical role in program success. A culture of experimentation enables you to make decisions based on data, not opinion. Yet, you may have stakeholders that question your abilities or methods, leading to friction. You may even have to deal with HIPPO (the “highest-paid person’s opinion”) when making decisions.

Break It Down: Egos and opinions have no place in business optimization. As a champion for optimization, it’s your responsibility to continuously share the message that personal opinion doesn’t matter when it comes to data. You don’t pull the data out of thin air—it comes from your customers. If they ignore the data right in front of them, the result is conversion loss and stagnant growth. 

8. Confusion Regarding Metrics

Finally, there may be confusion as to what metrics to measure as you scale-up. Initially, there’s often a misplaced focus on vanity metrics like win rate.

“Let’s say you have a 60% win rate when you’re running A/B tests and you’ve calculated the ROI as a million dollars. This is great. But how is this any different than having a 30% win rate that results in two million dollars in ROI? The win rate isn’t that important—don’t get hung up on it.”
—Dave Albert, VP of Operations, Cro Metrics

Another misnomer seems to occur around test complexity and taking “bigger swings.” When we analyzed a sample of 5,000 experiments we’ve run here at Cro Metrics, we found no discernible correlation between complexity and impact. Low complexity experiments were on par in terms of win-rate and projected impact. 

Why is this important? Lower complexity tests provide more opportunities at-bat (higher velocity) which compounds learning and the upside of the power-law distribution.

Break It Down: Building a Culture of Experimentation means testing things as often as possible, iterating on those results and driving greater impact. Design your tests to gather specific customer or business insights instead of getting hung up on the wrong metrics.

Optimize Your Business for Growth With Cro Metrics

A high-performing business optimization program is the best way to grow. But that growth may face barriers and blockades along the way. By preparing for them early, you’ll be able to address issues quickly and continue moving forward. 

If you need support building a culture of experimentation within your organization, send us a message today.