Stop Reporting And Start Monitoring

By on 23rd January 2017

In business, we often talk about keeping a finger on the pulse but what exactly that means and how to do it are often difficult to define. In isolation, individual KPI’s are important, however how do we connect it all together? As businesses set their vision and outline milestones toward it, it is critical to measure more than the parts but rather how they contribute to the sum. With the advent of online business and a push toward more collaborative cultures, there are more and more data points to consider than ever before. They are often not necessarily measured in simple numbers either; concepts such as engagement or sentiment add to the noise as well as the complexity.

Finding a solution for Elastic Grid was critical because we have a goal of creating an “Analytical Culture”, that is, one which looks to data to provide insights in order to drive decision making rather than one that looks at data irrespective of decision making.

At Elastic Grid, off the top of my head, we use around 25 different online services for various business functions as well as internal tracking tools. Each of them provide analytical and reporting options for their own context however they have differing degrees of functionality and of course only presenting data in and of themselves. For example, I felt there had to be a better way than rummaging through the under-developed Twitter and LinkedIn analytics pages and grouping it all together in Excel/PowerPoint in order to report on “Social Engagement”. Let alone addressing data from anywhere else. This approach to reporting is laborious and has the fundamental flaw of looking at data too late, often after kicking off the next initiative because that was more of a priority than putting the reports together (hashtag irony).

So, over the past few months I’ve taken it on myself to create a one stop shop for all employees to access metrics applicable to our vision and demonstrate the connection between the different pillars of our business (Scale, Products, Distribution, Positioning, Clients, Staff, Systems) to highlight ways of improving the experience of our customers as a whole in ways that may not be obvious when looking at reports within silo functions.

Creating a data driven culture?

In order to create an Analytical Culture, data must be visible quickly and easily. Everyone should be able to access high level business data (ie, the number of visitors to your website) without having to be the Marketing Manager or CEO. More importantly they should be able to connect to the data in some way and understand how one element affects another. So choosing what goes on a dashboard, in what way is also very important as well as communicating why. Not everyone in your organisation will be a data mining expert but you can humanise data by presenting it in ways that connect to people simply, even if the number crunching behind the scenes is complex.

Keeping that in mind, it’s important to keep things high-level; totals, growth charts, percentages and most importantly, indicators! Indicators are important because data, in and of itself is seldom useful but by creating relevant scoring mechanisms and comparative visuals you can get a lot out of the “at-a-glance” metrics and start having more and more people asking questions before deep-diving into what’s going on. As a simple example, we recently witnessed a huge sudden jump in visitor traffic from mobile devices which would have gone unnoticed if we waiting for someone to dig it up in Google Analytics. We were then able to assess and act accordingly as needed, giving a closer look to responsive layouts, etc.

We have the technology!

There are many tools, such as Klipfolio, which allow you to pull data frequently (automatically) from pretty much anywhere and create reporting widgets you can drop on a dashboard. Klipfolio also provides a library full of useful, ready-to-go ideas covering most of the basic Web and Social Media reports you’d likely be looking for simply by connecting your Google Analytics and Social Media accounts. In regards to indicators, it also provides different options around dynamic changes to UI elements when certain things happen based on what you believe warrants the spotlight.

The real fun begins however when you get into custom business needs. Using APIs and other online services you can generate charts, tables, gauges and anything else you can think of to best present your data for quick and easy reference and take things a whole lot further than marketing. The power of aggregation is that you can connect and compare data from different sources and really start seeing whether your business is more than the sum of it’s parts.

 

dashboards

A collage of our 10 dashboards boards full of custom klips.

The outcome of dash-boarding our business

Our Elastic Grid Klipfolio dashboards now allow us to monitor each segment of our business including:

Positioning: Our brand sentiment, website and blog performance, social media engagement and audience breakdowns from various online sources as well as the performance of our own lead generation campaigns which we run from Elastic Grid itself.

Distribution: The connection between our marketing lead generation data (from our website and campaigns) and our Salesforce opportunity funnel.

Clients: Monitor client health by monitoring projects in progress and which clients are dormant. We can also compare how our client’s channels are performing in terms of campaign effectiveness and the engagement and performance of their partners individually and comparatively.

Products: Our application usage statistics (this includes the data from our own Analytics API for campaign executions by our users) as well as technical support tickets raised by our teams in Freskdesk on the ground.

Staff: We track staff engagement across social media as well as data from collaboration and engagement tools such as 15Five to see how individuals are performing within the wider team and how it is being recognised by their peers.

In short, by sweeping across the various dashboards we have high-level, real-time monitoring of our entire business, from technical data points to human interactions. This allows us to keep our finger on the pulse and act accordingly by removing the need for repetitive and manually generated reports. That effort is instead used to either dig deeper or take a sideways look at things.

Takeaways

  • Automate your reporting.
  • Make data part of the furniture.
  • Build an analysis culture which uses data to make change.
  • Make them drink! If you are looking at data and you’re not willing to change behaviors as a result;
    • a) your either going to get complacent if things are good or
    • b) go insane by repeating yourself if things are bad.

 

This post was originally publishing on LinkedIn Pulse, December 2nd 2016

 

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Lead UX designer and Design Team Lead at Elastic Grid, responsible for the user experience of the platform and the products visual brand. Lorenzo has extensive experience designing simple digital solutions for large, complex commercial projects, including e-Commerce, marketing campaigns and content management platforms.

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