Disseminating Digital Data: Why A One Size Fits All Model Doesn’t Work
[Shared by Nancy Koons, Digital Analytics Consultant, Team Demystified …]
One of the things I love about working with the folks at Demystified are the conversations about analytics that often spring up in our Slack group. Whether it’s a discussion around tool capabilities, proper use of metrics, or how to deliver insights effectively, I’m always learning new things and appreciating the many perspectives brought to the table.
Today a discussion unfolded around Data Studio and the sharing of data within organizations. Data Studio is Google’s newest data visualization tool. It has been built to encourage users to interact directly with the dashboards. You can apply filters, manipulate date ranges – all great features designed to facilitate analysis and engage users. Today, the topic of NOT currently being able to save a version of the dashboard as a PDF came up, with some energized discussion around whether or not this is still a needed piece of functionality in today’s world. One perspective was that Google is trying to shift the way organizations consume analytics and drive innovation – which is a very interesting concept. Getting people more engaged and interacting directly with their data is a worthy goal indeed.
For many organizations, however, I think there is still a need to be able to share snapshot “reports” or dashboards as static docs and I am going to outline those reasons in this post:
1) Executive Consumption: While there are many tools out there that support pulling in multiple, disparate data sources, in a large or complex organization I still see many companies struggle to pull everything together into one, cohesive dashboarding tool or system. If you are able to do this, then (kudos!) and it could be perfectly reasonable to ask an executive to log on to view dashboards. (They probably approved a decent chunk of change to get the system implemented, after all.) My experience with larger, complex organizations is that the C-Suite is often monitoring things like: offline and online sales, cancelled/return merchandise reports, sales team quotas and leads, operations reports, inventory systems, and getting all of that into one system is still more of a dream than a reality. And when that is the case, I think asking an Exec to log into a one system to view one set of reports, and another tool to access other data is not reasonable. In some cases, sure, they may be open to it, but I know a lot of companies where the expectation is that the business units provide reports in the format the exec asks – not the other way around.
2) Technology Norms and Preferences: One of the clients I work with uses Google Analytics for their websites, and could be a good candidate to build out dashboards using Data Studio. Unfortunately, they are more of a Windows/Microsoft organization, where most end-users within the company do not have Google Accounts, so viewing a dashboard in Data Studio would require an extra hurdle in setting up that type of account just to view a report (hat tip to Michele Kiss for pointing that out!). While not necessarily advanced or ideal, analytics reports and insights are typically distributed via email (slides or PDF format). When data is discussed, it tends to be in meetings in conference rooms- where internet speed can sometimes be a challenge- not to mention you may end up relying on your vendor’s ability to refresh/display data at a critical moment. (Something Elizabeth “Smalls” Eckels encountered with a client while we were discussing this very topic!) Some executives or managers may also prefer to catch up on performance reports while traveling, and the ability to connect to the internet on a plane, in an airport or in a hotel can still prove to be a challenge at times.
3) Resource Knowledge: One of my continual concerns with non-analytics people accessing digital analytics data is the ability to pull invalid metrics or data into a report, or interpret the data incorrectly. There are still many non-digital marketing managers who want to understand their digital data, but need help understanding the terminology, what a metric truly represents, and how to take the information from a report or dashboard and make a good decision.
4) Ease of Use and Advancing Analytics Internally: Finally, if you want to elevate the role of analytics within an organization, making it as easy as possible for people to consume the right information goes a long way. Don’t make an executive hop through hoops (and get irritated or frustrated). Don’t set up a non-analyst to struggle. Evaluate the tech savviness, the appetite, and ability for your end user to consume an interactive dashboard before rolling it out to a team of marketers and executives who are not prepared to use it. While I think it should be much, much easier for anyone to work with digital data, it’s my view that digital analytics tools still have work to do to make it easier for your average marketing or non-analyst end user to pull the right info quickly and easily.