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5 Steps Toward Improved Reporting

It is truly staggering how many analytics solutions there are to measure just about every facet of your organization. We all use these solutions to churn out countless reports and dashboards to help keep track of it all. With all of these new reporting capabilities, the demands from stakeholders have been ever-increasing as well. This approach can all become dangerous in terms of productivity and effectiveness, as we tend to forget to keep a finger on the pulse of the overall usefulness.

With both the demands and capabilities on the reporting front always changing, it’s important to keep a grasp on what the reporting needs are across your organization. Here are some tips for doing just that!
1. Start with the Stakeholders
It’s important to identify all of the stakeholders for reporting from the very start, not just from a reporting perspective but also from a measurement planning perspective, as we’ll discuss later.
Use this time to first identify their individual Goals and Objectives. Sure, the organization may have a core set, but you will find that individual stakeholders have their own motivations which may vary by department. It’s also a good idea to keep this somewhat conversational, as this can help identify things that may keep them up at night.
Ask about any current dashboards or reports they may already be creating or receiving. The last thing you’ll want to do is duplicate efforts, and it may present opportunities to enhance what they’re already doing! This is also a great time to ask about their “wish list” for reporting. Try to get them to think outside of the confines of their reporting comfort zone. Steer them towards questions that keep them up at night, or things they’ve always wondered about related to their responsibilities that they never knew they could find answers to. You may not be able to provide the exact data they’re looking for, but there’s usually a way to get something close.
Depending on the situation and organizational culture (i.e. you feel comfortable asking!), don’t be afraid to ask a stakeholder “Why?” For example, if it sounds like they want to base major decisions on a simple metric like pageviews, it may be a good idea to (politely) ask for their reasoning. This may open another door to discussing more impactful metrics.
2. Eliminate Data Preconceptions
Translation: Remain Analytics tool agnostic! All too often we as human beings tend to limit our imaginations to what we’re familiar with. In this case we tend to visualize reports that our analytics tool of choice spits out. Though they will likely provide the bulk of what is being requested, it is CRUCIAL that both you and the stakeholders remove those notions, as they can limit you from identifying some groundbreaking report components. With all of the capabilities of tools like Google Analytics and its integration capabilities with CRM solutions, the sky’s the limit!
3. Align Stakeholder Needs with Measurable Data Points
Now that the conversations with stakeholders are out of the way, you can start circling back to your measurement solutions like Google Analytics. It may help to create an inventory to help visualize how each reporting need aligns with specific metrics, dimensions, or segments. This will also help you translate each piece back to the terminology that mattered most to each stakeholder for the actual reports.
4. Identify Gaps in Existing Tracking
Once you have a grasp on the reporting needs of your stakeholders and what data points they align to, you’ll be able to more easily identify if and where any gaps in tracking exist. This is a great opportunity to build out an itemized plan of what needs to be tracked and how, which provides a great framework for tracking development.
5. Revisit!
This can be one of the more overlooked components of maintaining a good reporting structure. With organizational goals and focus changing periodically, it’s important to ensure that reporting shifts with it. Aligning the frequency of reporting updates with the cadence of organizational goal updates is ideal, though it is also a great idea to set more frequent check-ins with stakeholders to ensure they are receiving what they need. Over time, additions to reports can make them bulky and unwieldy. Keeping a pulse on how useful stakeholders are finding all report components will help keep the reports lean and mean.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that we as analysts are aiming to empower our organizations with the insights they need to drive business success. Eliminating preconceptions and staying proactive are key to ensuring reporting capabilities evolve with the organization.
This article was originally published by SEER Interactive
Published: February 27, 2015

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