5 Tips for Delivering Data Metrics That Deliver Results
Your success is dependent upon delivering data metrics that deliver results.
This may sound strange coming from a Business Intelligence Specialist, but data is simply a means to an end. It's a powerful means, but still just a means to an end.
What is that end? Making better decisions and taking smarter action.
I help companies improve their business intelligence. One of the first things I do is clarify their data analysis requirements. If you simply ask them what data metrics they need, they usually hand over a digital or printed report. They'll tell you they need it replaced or modified with a few, or many, additional columns.
Asking the Right Questions
When I begin asking questions, I quickly discover that they don’t even use more than half of the data metrics in the reports. Also, some of the metrics are often not what they think they are. They’ve been using the report for too long or it was passed to them from their predecessor. The reason the report was created in the first place may be forgotten. They're stuck in a data rut using analytics that's are cumbersome, inaccurate, or at least not the right fit to support the decisions and actions they need to make.
We often hear that the ends don't justify the means. I agree with the principle behind the statement. But I think when defining business intelligence requirements, it's best to start with the end to determine the best means to reach that end.
The end is the decisions and actions people need to make to help the company succeed.
Data for the sake of data is just X and O's. To be an effective business intelligence leader, you need to make sure you’re delivering those metrics that best help your organization make better decisions and take smarter action.
5 Tips to Deliver Data Metrics That Deliver Results
To do that, I encourage you to use these five tips when identifying business intelligence requirements to help make sure you’re delivering metrics that deliver results for your organization.
Tip #1 - Begin by identifying the decisions and actions users need to take on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis in order to make the organization succeed.
This includes people at all levels of the organization from the CEO, to salespeople, to the marketing team, to those in the warehouse, the accounting department, customer service, and more.
Identify the decisions and actions they need to take. This may include ordering more product, following up with customers, creating new marketing promotions, and more.
Tip #2 - Identify what factors impact and what information is needed for making the best decisions and taking the most effective action.
For example, in a retail company, the individuals responsible for ordering products need to decide and order the best products in the right quantities. To make sure they have the best products consistently available for sale, they need to know a number of things. These might include:
- Current inventory levels
- Sales during previous months and during the same time last year
- If the product had positive inventory levels during those time periods
- Average time it takes to receive product after placing the order
- And more
Tip #3 - Determine how up-to-date information really needs to be.I get it, real-time data is sexy. But is it necessary for your decisions and actions?
We all know that constantly monitoring your Facebook feed can be extremely distracting and ruin your productivity. Similarly, an addiction to constantly checking your data can distract you from the decisions and actions they are meant to support.
More data isn't always better. Avoid analysis paralysis. Identify what data is essential for making a decision. How often and recent do you need it? How easy does it need to be to access?
Get the data. Then take action.
Tip #4 - Identify any other information that is needed at the same time to make a decision or take action.
For example, in tip #2 we discussed ordering products. Not only do you need inventory numbers, you also need past sales numbers and delivery times. This also applies to your salespeople when they’re in a sales meeting with a client. What data do they need at the tips of their fingers to answer client questions and convert the sale?
Tip #5 - Identify the process that individuals take when making a decision or taking the action.
Where Are They?
Are they on the warehouse or manufacturing floor? In the car traveling to client sites or at client offices in meetings? Or are they at their desk with access to all of their tools?
What Hardware Do They Have Available to Them When Making the Decision or Taking the Action?
Warehouse personnel may only have access to handheld devices. During a sales meeting at a client site, does the salesperson have their laptop open or do they need information on their phone? How quickly do they need to be able to access the data?
What Other Decisions or Actions Are They Taking at the Same Time?
For a salesperson in a client meeting, what other questions will they need to answer and decisions they’ll need to make during that meeting? You’ll want to have all the relevant data metrics in the same place or within quick access to help ensure they convert the sale.
How Quickly Do They Need the Data?
Most people will say immediately, but that's often not the case. Identify the process they take in making the decision or taking action. The salesperson pitching a client needs to be able to answer client questions quickly and confidently. Can some or all of the data be collected prior to the meeting? What unexpected questions might come up? What would they need to answer those impromptu questions?
How Technically Savvy Is the Individual?
Is the person who needs these data metrics a marketing analyst with extensive technical skills, an executive with or without many technical skills, someone in IT, or a customer support representative with minimal technical skills? Don't make assumptions. Ask and get clarification.
Also realize that people within these roles will change over time. An individual with high technical skills may be replaced by someone with low skills. That can cause a breakdown in the decision-making process. Find out the expected minimum skill level for the position and plan accordingly.
Is the Decision or Action Dependent upon Another Decision or Action by the Same Person or Another Individual?
Providing data metrics to one person is ineffective if their decision or action is dependent upon someone else who doesn't have the data metrics they need. Make sure all the steps and players involved have the information they need.
In addition, if a person is dependent upon someone else, how does that person know that the other person has made their decision so that they can forward? You may think this isn’t the role of BI. But it’s that kind of silo thinking (“It’s someone else’s responsibility”), that makes companies inefficient.
You need to be designing around people, not just the data. If you haven’t yet read my post about improving human-computer symbiosis, I encourage you to click here to learn how a lesson from chess can help you improve your business intelligence.
You can deliver superb data integrity and quick access to all the key metrics your team needs. But that won’t deliver the results you’re tasked with providing if they lack timely and reliable access to essential information that isn’t stored within data sources. Either you need to somehow get that information into accessible data sources or you need to help design processes that work in tandem with the human data outside your data sources.
These are just five tips to help you get started in delivering metrics that deliver results. If you have questions about the steps and how to improve your business intelligence solutions, I invite you to reach out to me by phone at 541-701-9317, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or share a comment below.