Why Hierarchies of Data in a Business Matter

thData, business, sales, insights, and revenue are popular keywords found in abundance around the internet these days.  As a Founder of my own company, I can certainly understand the need to focus on such keywords in daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly discussions.

But, as a Data Analyst, not all keywords are created equal for each role in the company.  Let’s simplify and break the business hierarchies down to three levels, which have a direct impact on how data can be used:

  1. Executives: The top of the chain that defines long-term strategy, implementation, and overall decision making.
  2. Manager: The mid-level staff responsible for action of strategy, interfacing between the needs to the subordinates and the Executive teams.
  3. Operational: The largest population of the business with the responsibility to make it happen by pushing the buttons, interfacing with customers, and carrying out decisions hour by hour.

This three tier pyramid of decision making in a business is streamlined to illustrate key areas that any serious Data Analyst should have Continue reading

What Makes a KPI Special

A key performance indicator (KPI) is a vital tool for an organization seeking grow smart profits, expand customer loyalty, and build a scalable workforce.  While many companies stick a chronological set of numbers on a chart to project it on a wall in front of stakeholders, the reality is what they are seeing may not be a true KPI.   Its just a number unless its special.

To be special, the number needs to have most of the following characteristics in common:

  1. Represents a hierarchy either by time, or by dimension
    1.  Example: Sales broken by Year, Quarter, Month, Week or even day, then sliced by Sales Region
  2. Directly actionable with each stakeholder holding a piece of the action.
    1. Example: Sales are down 15% from goal, Sales Managers, Marketing Coordinators, etc can all speak to how their actions influenced the number
  3. Has  common definition across departments throughout the company
    1. Example: A sale is an action by a user from a variety of channels and promotions that resulted in payment and excludes affiliates for instance.  This definition is signed off by Marketing, Customer Service, Sales, and Product.
  4. Does not include hidden meaning and/or does not hide a trend
    1. Example: A number compared year over year, month over month completely ignores a trend that can be alarming.  While sales could be up year over year, this metric could hide a sudden drop in sales from the beginning of the year.
  5. When displayed with other metrics on a dashboard, the number represents a part of the story and does not represent a conflict to other metrics.
    1. Example: A number is where a chart shows Sales sky-rocketing, but another chart shows New Revenue way down, and yet another charts show Average Deal Size (ADS) flat.  The three charts give conflicting information, so one or more can’t be a true KPI for this business.  In fact, in this case, Sales is the corrupted KPI as it does not conform to a standardized definition.
  6. Supporting data is transparent
    1. Example: Analysts should be able to review aggregate data that rolls up to the KPI for audit reasons.  It provides transparency and allows for drill down capabilities. Often the Analysts receive direct support from a data team are sourced from data sources throughout the business.
  7. The number evolves with the business
    1. Example: A number is just a number unless it can change readily with the business. A team supports the KPI, new data is added when created, and definitions evolve as the understanding of the business evolves.
  8. A goal can easily be set and tracked from the number
    1. Example: If the number is fully understood, a goal can be set and tracked against.  If you can’t answer, “Where do we need to be by the end of the Year?”, then its a number, not a KPI.

Throughout my career, I’ve seen numbers and I’ve seen KPI’s.  The most successful companies I worked with not only have a data team to support their KPIs, but they engage in regular discussions of the KPIs at all levels of the business.  Successful, scalable, and profitable businesses are the ones using special numbers at their core.

When was the last time you saw a number masquerading as a KPI?

Working With Data

Data is the future.  The future will continue to see an explosion of data collection and an increasing need to digest it.  This is what the industry refers to as “big data.”   The ability of one company to collect, analyze and take action on large amounts of data can be a serious game changer in the marketplace.

Any stakeholder who seeks to be successful in their role will leverage data.  Given the imperfections of our world, the stakeholder may have access to a limited data set.  While the stakeholder recognizes their need for clean, accessible data, the IT and BI teams may be months away from delivering.

The stakeholder has has two choices: 1) throw up their arms, complain about the data and cause a ruckus, or 2) work with the data they have and make the best of the situation.

Throwing Up Their Arms

“The data is wrong!” yells the marketing analyst sitting in a meeting with IT and BI teams.   The IT and BI managers shrug their shoulders and reply, “then tell us what is right.”   The marketing analyst bangs her fist on the conference table in frustration.

Bottom line, stakeholders who don’t embrace even the worst data, does not understand how to measure their business.  I’ve seen exchanges between BI and stakeholders where data has been subjected to strict QA by the stakeholder, but the stakeholder has never referred to the data as wrong.

Work With the Data

Every stakeholder interested in a data set needs to have the long term picture of the business in mind and understand the KPIs and other metrics involved to manage their part of the business.  All data used in analysis are typically seen through the lens of the business KPI which provides the context.  Chances are a stakeholder would never accept a data set that is so far from the truth to be useless.

Based on my career, the best course of action is to work with the data you have.  Granted you might not be able to answer more complex business questions, but you will start a journey along a road that will get you there.  Take the data you have and create three lists:

  1. parts of the data set that works for your requirements
  2. parts of the data set that should be modified
  3. parts of the data set that are important, but not pertinent to the requirements

Your goal is to understand the ins and outs of the data you have and create a constructive list of actions that evolve your knowledge and the data set into a market changing analysis. Providing documentation on to help the IT and BI teams evolve your data and turn into your pot of gold is the best course of action.

Data is Not Static and Neither is Your Knowledge

Keep in mind that as you interact with data, ask questions, build more detailed documentation and draw correlations or disassociations, your data will have to change to follow your in-depth understanding. This is why maintaining a positive relationship with the team that you rely on is so important.

Iterations of data sets can be subtle and they can also be large.  Just remember, that the data you had for version 1 is NOT wrong compared to version 2.  When reflecting back on version 1, understand where you came from and that you are looking at a less evolved set of data.  Then you can laugh when you look at version 3 and wonder how you managed the business with version 1.

Working with data is an awesome thing.  It should be a fun, productive journey for both the analyst, IT team, BI team, and all stakeholders involved.   When you here the word “wrong” come up, defend the evolution of data and point out that perfect data sets don’t come out of thin air.

Training Dashboard Iteration #1 | TrainingMetrix

I thought I would show off a triathlon training dashboard that incorporates all aspects of performance at a high level.  The back end to this is proprietary, but it illustrates the importance of looking at the larger picture when achieving peak performance is crucial.

Iteration #1 – TrainingMetrix Analytic Performance Dashboard

There are six key pieces of information in the above dashboard for the athlete to digest (from top left, clockwise):

  • Weight and TM Performance score.
  • TM Performance Score
  • Daily Workout Score Plot
  • Upcoming Events
  • TM Performance Variable
  • Weekly Goals

How do all of these pieces of information work together? Well, in the above dashboard, you can see a customized example of a triathlete that is rather inconsistent with their training, their life, and therefore their weight and performance score are trending in the wrong direction. This triathlete needs to focus on:

  • Consistency of workouts, which will help reduce their life and workout scores
  • Eating a consistent healthy diet, reducing their nutrition score

Focusing on these two variables, the triathlete can then start tracking toward improved performance and reduce their TrainingMetrix Performance Score.

Dashboards apply to much more than just business related use cases. Fitness and triathlon training can benefit greatly from a well designed dashboard showing analysis from comprehensive data collection. TrainingMetrix (the company I recently founded) is one of the most comprehensive fitness tracking solutions on the market. I developed it from my three years of triathlon training. For more information, visit http://www.trainingmetrix.com

January 2010 Mobile Metrics Report « AdMob Metrics

January 2010 Mobile Metrics Report

February 25th, 2010  |  Comments are closed

Download Report (PDF)

For this month%u2019s feature section, we ran an opt-in survey of consumers on iPhone, iPod touch, Android and webOS devices to learn more about how they are engaging and interacting with applications.  The behavioral and demographic insights taken from the self reported survey provide additional context to the traffic trends we report on each month.  The survey included 963 respondents across all of the platforms and revealed some interesting points on app purchasing habits:

  • Android and iPhone users download a similar number of apps every month and spend a similar amount of time using the apps.
  • iPod touch users download an average of 12 apps a month, 37% more apps than iPhone and Android users.
  • webOS users downloaded fewer total apps per month, relative to iPhone OS users and Android users.  This may be related to the fewer number of apps in the webOS App Catalog.

As always, it%u2019s important to take methodology into consideration when reviewing the results of any survey.  You can find more details on our methodology in page 3 of the report.  One thing to note is that many of the survey respondents were sourced through in-app ads, which could have resulted in a selection bias of active app users.  Also note that we did not include RIM users in the survey, because AdMob does not currently serve ads into Blackberry apps and we wanted to be able to compare similar methodologies across platforms.

You can find all of the data from the previous survey here or download the July 2009 Metrics reports for the highlights.

Email your comments on the report to metrics@admob.com.

Harsh Shah

harsh

File under: Uncategorized

Statistics for mobile users is in for January 2010! Interesting trends arise… Did you know the iPod Touch is heavily used by the 17 and younger crowd? Download the full report for details!

Immersion, The Good, Bad and the Ugly!

Immersion is the concept of surrounding yourself with a given subject to concentrate on learning it.

The GOOD
The good is that immersion is a very efficient way of learning something. You can jam pack a lot of information in a very narrow window of time. Picking up the basics of a new language or skill is possible over a long weekend.

The BAD
Immersion usually occurs for a limited time. From a day to a few weeks, immersion is not something that you want to do for long. The learner risks burn-out as the human body needs to time break old habits and adjust to the new knowledge.

The UGLY
Immersion can overwhelm the learner. In such a short time, a lot of information gets thrown at you. While it is important to absorb as much information as possible, sometimes grasping the larger picture and concepts is all you can do.

My weekend at the Total Immersion swim clinic was definitely, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
1) It was good because I made huge improvements with my swim stroke.
2) It was bad because it was so short and I wish I had a little more than two days to grab all the information and absorb more detail.
3) It was ugly, by the end of the second day, my brain was so overwhelmed with information that it was almost exploded.

Have you ever tried immersion and experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly?

Flickr Photo Download: 50 Years of Space Exploration

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Visualizing information is a powerful way to communicate. A good graphic artists is a must for any analytics department. The above graphic is astonishing.

1) I see that the moon is the most visited planet.
2) There have been two space craft that went to multiple planets.
3) Mars is the second most visited plant.
4) The sun has been visited more often than I thought.

Overall, Awesome graphic depicting a ton of fascinating information.

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