Reports/Dashboards v Analysis v Training

Reports/Dashboards v Analysis v Training

Was it a little white rabbit that used to complain that there was so much to do, but so little time?  I can’t remember whether it was or not.  Cleary though, I have forgotten what I said two posts ago about writing introductions to my posts that mean that people using Bing are likely to see.  Nevertheless, it does bring me on to an interesting topic of conversation that has been floating around in my head recently.  As an Analyst (or an Analytics Manager actually) I routinely have loads of different things going on at once, requested for by various different people.  Invariably the first thing that people want to see is some sort of reporting and/or dashboard.  I hate this.  I, of course, am a highly skilled analyst and you want me to create you a dashboard.  Why?  Because I am the only person who knows the system.  Ah, now we are getting somewhere.

Dashboards and Reports

I am not going to sit here and tell you management reports and balanced scorecards aren’t useful.  They are, because if you go about doing your job of making more money and the people up high don’t know about it, then you aren’t going to get the recognition you deserve.

Almost three years ago (hey that’s a long time ago in this industry) Avinash was posting about the seven steps to creating a data driven culture.  He blogged about a presentation that he’d given (that must be where I started copying it from) and he talked a lot about HiPPOs.  These are the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.

So if you are having to get the highest paid person to agree to what you are doing, the best way to do this is to give him the facts.  Tell him the KPIs of the site, give him the information that he wants to see, subsidise it with your analysis.  This brings us seamlessly onto:


This is vitally important for your site.  Data alone is nothing.  Giving data to your Senior managers is not very useful – they don’t know what it means most of the time.  They are going to spend half the time guessing and then you end up coming out of your data driven society.

So you provide analysis with your reports and dashboards.  This is clearly a step in the right direction.  Everyone agrees.  Shall we move on?

Well no – because Analysis is ok, but your senior management may  be happy to know why something has gone up or down, where the increase/decrease in traffic has come from, but it doesn’t really tell them what to do.  You are a highly paid professional analyst.  You know the ways that this can work in your favour because you’ve seen it before and you have the full history behind you.

What you need to provide are recommendations.  The Grok has been writing about this recently in a post entitled Too Much Data vs Actionable Insights:

Yet rather than looking for a pilot or investing in flying lessons, many business owners buy into optimization efforts based on sophisticated data gathering capabilities and overly complex testing methodologies.

Why would they do that when they need more actionable insight and situational awareness, and not more gauges to look at?

Because flight instructors are in short supply. And because this kind of sense making, as a so-called “soft skill,” has always been a more difficult sell than hard-core data collection and taguchi testing.

He has identified some real problems in our industry.  There aren’t enough people who know how to look at the instruments to provide the necessary reports.  If there aren’t enough people to provide the necessary reports, then there aren’t enough people to produce the necessary analysis and actionable recommendations.  Our industry has a real problem with this, to the extent that nobody really ever knows what department Analytics should sit in.


I want you to search for Web Analytics in Google (or whichever your favourite search engine is).  Look at all those companies who offer web analytics solutions.  I suppose that is ok, when you type in something generic like that you expect to see a bunch of companies that sell stuff.

Now try searching for web analytics consultants.  What do those consultants offer to do?  Mainly they offer a service that allows you to get them to come in, make sure your analytics is set up properly, like the Grok mentioned before, and then would do some analysis of your site.  Hopefully giving you recommendations along the way, backed up with insights.

(please don’t shout at me consultants, I’m being very general here to get a point across)

Now try searching for web analytics training.  Are we missing a trick here?  All these sites are training course for people to become Web Analysts.  What about the training for people who just need to have a handle on it for their jobs.  Where are the ‘an hour a day‘?  I don’t want to go on a training course to find out all the extensive uses of my analytics tool, how to code it and set up dashboards.  I’ll get an analyst to do that for me.

So what do we do?  As Analytics people we have to be evangelists not just about how cool it is that you can do this stuff, but we need to be able to go out to people and teach them how to do the basics.  I may not be a premier league footballer (far from it as a lot my friends will testify) but when I wander out on a  Saturday afternoon as an amateur, I’ve been persuaded to do it by the Premier League (ok fine, I started playing before the premier league, but you know what I mean). 

How do we do this? 

  1. We need to go into our organisations and tell them that simply getting us to produce dashboards isn’t enough.  Nowhere near enough.  We aren’t the person to do all the work, we need to get insiders in the company to do it.  Whether this be by creating a super group of users that can help where needed alongside their own jobs; doing training courses within the company to teach people how to use the data as well as how to find it; generally becoming an open company in terms of data
  2. We (the web analysts) need to get our vendors to be open about how they collect data, what data points mean and how they can be mapped across tools.  If I am having teach new metrics as well as new ways of finding the metrics, then point one gets lost somewhere
  3. We need to get out there into the companies that don’t have the right people in place to create the dashboards and teach those how to do it.  This means we need to go out into conferences and speak.  Not web analytics conferences, not usability conferences, not search engine optimisation conferences, but Business conferences.
  4. Of course we need to continue all the excellent blogs out there detailing how to use each of the tools and how to use the data.

Was that a bit of a rant this week?  Sorry if it was.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *