Your Data Automation Dreams Can Come True

I’ve worked with companies at many different stages of analytics maturity. Some have the ability to do multi-channel analysis, others are still working on building confidence in their online data. A lot of people think that you have to go through some X number of steps before you can even think about automating your data, but the truth is you need to work with what you have… now. As our very own Jennifer Veesenmeyer, creator of the Pimp Your Reports workshop, has said:

“I would rather have an automated dashboard than a perfect one.”

So what if you find yourself in that segment of people who feel like their data isn’t quite ready to dive into the world of automated reporting, and just the idea of trying to put something like that together is overwhelming? There’s good news! You don’t necessarily have to go from zero automation to a fully-automated, multi-channel dashboard because automation doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

There are multiple levels of automation that can be implemented:

1) You can start out by scheduling exports or tapping into your analytics tool’s database or API in Excel. SiteCatalyst users can play around with the Excel Client™ ( ExcelClient ™ User Guide). Google Analytics users can check out Excel functions for fetching Google Analytics data for examples on how to request data from the API through Excel, and WebTrends users can make an ODBC database connection (Webtrends Programmer's Reference).

2) Next, you can look at adding a layer of automation by setting up some macros in your Excel file that will update this data for you at the push of a button. This could work by setting up a tab or even just a few cells in your file that contain your variables (i.e. start date, end date, profile, etc), pointing your connections at those cells, and recording a new macro in Excel while you go through and update each report.

3) Another tier of report automation would be to set up a dashboard tool with a direct connection to the data source. This eliminates the need to have an actual person go in and run the code to update the data every month or week. Tools like Solegi can seamlessly connect to your data and update your dashboard reports for a given time period.

4) The next step and Holy Grail of automation, is to set up your dashboard tool with a database cache connection. Essentially, instead of connecting directly to your data sources, scripts are configured to automatically pull data from your data sources into a database. This is awesome for a few reasons.

  • First, you can get your data from ALL the sources into one place. If you decide to switch dashboard tools at some point, you still have this one, consolidated data source, which will make the transition that much easier.
  • Second, if any of the APIs that you’re working with have a limit on the number of requests you can make over a given time period – SiteCatalyst, for example – you only need to actually access the API when the scripts are run once a month (or however often you need them to run).

So there you go, your data automation dreams can come true. You don’t have to go from 0 to 60 in a flash – you can start small and work your way up. But don’t wait until you have immaculate data because that day, my friends, is never coming. Get started today, with what you have.



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