Today we’re going to talk a little bit about a passion of mine, which is Analytics and Reporting and how to leverage reporting and Analytics better in a larger company.
Meet the data monkeys
We worked with a number of companies that have a dedicated digital analytics team and one of the pieces I feel really strongly about is that a lot of people get relegated in roles where there are a lot of analysts, where they’re just data monkeys… What I mean is that the CEO or executive management says “We want to know the answer to this” or the digital team wants to make a point so they’re looking for data point X, the data monkey goes in, dives in the data, and creates this report that they requested and he’s done.
The problem with that is that if you’re a data monkey, you’re starting backwards.
You’re trying to make the point first and then you look for the data to “prove” a gut feel or assumption. But the process really needs to be the opposite.
First off is, we need to acknowledge as a company that we don’t have the answers to everything. And then ask the questions. The tough questions. That means the questions that really impact the business. Then see how well can we answer the questions with what we have. For every single piece of that we can answer we then build an automated dashboard that takes away all the work.
This way analysts are not spending time just randomly trying to prove a point (which is either made or unmade or forgotten). Rather we take all those pin points, those questions that we want to know and we look for data to either support or verify that or not. But we dashboard that, so we do it in real time and we do it in a way that all the decision makers have bought in to the process.
How the data evangelist operates
So, as an example let’s just say we’re struggling to understand how paid search impacts new customer acquisition. We just don’t know that. So, rather than trying to get a report for what we did in the past year, and making well and say it had an impact or it didn’t have an impact or we had an X percent lift – lets go create that report and then start dashboarding so that it automatically populates dynamically every single month.
And what the impact of this is that you were able to have that same conversation we had the last time with the same words we had the last time and we can see the progression on the management side.
Most of the time that’s what companies are really looking for. They’re really looking for way to get unbiased insight and they just don’t know how to ask that. That’s why it’s really important to be able to dashboard and automate that process, create the conversations with the executive management and do the technical work to automate it.
So next question is how to automate it? Sounds like a lot of work, sounds like a lot more work than just going in, finding the data and reporting on it. And the truth is its not. Because more often than not, you’re going to have to make the same point multiple times, you do it once and you do it right, it’s easy.
How to automate a dashboard
One of the process that we’ve gone through before is that, when I started in the agency world we had somebody who was first building my business even when it was small; we had a couple dozen clients.
We had somebody spending 20 hours a week doing all of our reporting, copying and pasting from ad words, from Bing, all these different places inside, into Excel and then formatting it and it was just a nightmare.
We moved from there to some Excel plug-ins that pulled in dynamically from Adwords and Analytics and Bing. From there we actually ended up moving to a process where we use Google sheets, so we import all the data through API’s and plug-ins into Google sheets. Then we format the data and we’re able to get automatic updates. So we have data broken down by whatever we need it by, or however we’ve agreed upon to report to the client and it works and there’s absolutely no work involved for us.
It takes some time to set up, but it’s absolutely huge. You get that insight, you’re able to share that insight around, you could see how it changes over time and there’s a lot of plug-ins available these days for many different analytic tools and platforms and payment processing, etc. that just dumped directly into sheets, into Google sheets and then you’re done.
I’m not tied necessarily into Google sheets, there’s a lot of dash boarding platforms, there’s XYPH, there’s bunch of these other ones, but what we found for us happens to be Google sheets works really well for this type of process.
So I highly recommend that if you’re stuck in a place where you’re a bit of a data monkey and nobody’s listening to your recommendations and you’re just spending a ton of time doing reporting and it’s starting to stack up and add on you that you change the way you have the conversation:
- Start asking the questions instead of shying away from the questions, embrace them making more painful for the decision makers, clarify it for the decision makers and then go and define what reporting or what data they would want to get to support either assumption whether it’s your assumption versus their assumption, whether it’s executive management person
- Frame it as a question so there’s no ego in there. Clarify the data that you need, then go out and dashboard that data and automate it so that everybody can see the answer and it’s just a non-bias process that gets result.
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