This month's newsletter is devoted to a topic that I think will increase in importance over the next few years, namely KPI dashboards and the best practices for their use. I am often asked "What is the best way to present or provide web analytics data to the enterprise?" Most often my response suggests the use of KPI dashboards; however, it is important to note that the most effective method of utilizing KPI dashboards is dependent on the individual organization and who within the organization will be consuming the data and for what purpose they are receiving it. In the remainder of this newsletter I will present some of the best practices for presenting data via KPI dashboards which we have gained insight into during various consulting engagements over the years.
KPI Dashboard Best Practices
Make dashboards assessable outside of the web analytics application for executives.
In the majority of our client engagement's, the senior executive-level consumers of web analytics data feel burdened by being required to log into the web analytics tool in order to view a dashboard. Not only is their time very limited but it is also unrealistic that these stakeholders will have any desire to learn to use the web analytics tool. The most effective means of consuming web analytics dashboards at an executive level is to bring the data into a format that the executive is already accustomed to utilizing. Most commonly, this is Excel but we have also seen this data integrated into Intranet portals or even formatted for consumption via blackberry. Additionally, it is important to note that dashboards for this audience should be concise, containing only the absolute minimum of the most important KPI's. In addition, these reports should be accompanied by a succinct analysis of the data.
Integrate with other data that is already consumed and viewed as relevant.
The most effective way to ensure the consumption and use of web analytics dashboards is to combine the data with other mission critical data that is already being consumed. Often, it is possible to add additional relevance to this data. For example, analyzing total marketing spend for a period combined with web analytics KPIs can frequently provide a unique perspective on the effectiveness of those marketing efforts.
Automate the creation of the dashboard.
To truly experience the maximum value of KPI dashboards, their creation needs to be automated to the fullest extent possible. Frequently, it is possible to fully automate the creation of the dashboards by leveraging the various web analytics tools to either create the dashboard or automate the exporting of the data needed to create the dashboards. This is a critical step not to be overlooked as it allows an organization to focus its resources on the proactive analysis of the data and the explanation of the dashboards as opposed to the reactive process of manually generating reports.
Leverage for trending.
Due to the limitation of most web analytics tool's reporting interfaces, making historical comparisons of many dimensions of data over long periods of time is often difficult to do. An external KPI dashboard in a program such as Excel tends to be more flexible and can be set up to conduct historical analysis of data and then compare that data with respective benchmarks. Having the capability to graphically analyze data in this way can enable an organization to more effectively analyze trends.
Customize your dashboards.
KPI dashboards are often built on technology platforms that are much more flexible than the web analytics reporting tool. Take advantage of this by customizing the look, feel and layout of the dashboards to match the specific needs of your organization. At a minimum, include organization specific colors and logos. Further customization might extend to include the tailoring of the content for each specific stakeholder. For example, the senior executives may prefer to view all KPIs in graph form, while the Manager of Online Marketing may prefer the additional detail provided by tables of data from many different categories of web analytics.
Incorporate automated logic into dashboards.
One of the largest values that KPI dashboards can be used for is to create highly actionable reports through the application of automated logic into the dashboard creation process. Applying business rules or user defined logic that is difficult or impossible to apply within most web analytics applications can be an efficient method of garnering clear actions. Common examples include: the automated testing of thresholds of variance within KPIs to help guide the analysis of the data or the automated comparison of current data with historical data such as the identification of new referring sources of traffic to a site that have not been seen before.
Hopefully, this gives you a few specific ideas for getting started with the development of KPI dashboards or improving your current dashboards to maximize the value of the information being delivered within them.
Bill Bruno is the CEO - North America, Ebiquity.