Blog How to let data drive your decisions

In our latest guest post, Lior Barak, Data Strategist at data consultancy firm Tale About Data, shares his tips on how to cut through unwieldy dashboards.

Behind every dashboard, you'll find an engine. The engine starts by collecting data, processing it and then preparing it all within a dashboard. The trouble is that most of us overlook the fact that we're running the engine completely wrong. We waste a lot of time compiling everything into the dashboard to help us make business decisions, and even worse, if we don't get it on time, we just revert to using Excel.

Let’s imagine you head the analytics department for an e-commerce app. You have a small team, and can't answer everybody's requests immediately, so you create a backlog for the data team where other departments can create new tickets. This backlog can easily become overwhelming, leaving you no time to think about future development or for skills and learning. Instead, you spend your time continually putting out fires. This is the situation in many companies, and it stems from ignoring the tens, if not hundreds, of small processes that go on behind each dashboard that needs to be built and maintained.

The spreadsheet nightmare

Let’s imagine your marketing team requests spending data combined with attribution data. By now, your backlog is out of control and every task has been deemed 'high priority' (typical of the 'putting out fires' culture), so you explain that it can't be done any time soon.

Since nobody in the marketing department understands how to pull the data they need directly from the data warehouse, they ask for a CSV file containing all the information. But spreadsheet software is not designed for big data requests - either in terms of performance or ease of use. Let’s say a whole week has passed, and the last formula is finally done. Now the marketing team can work with their data – but it’s already outdated. They had intended to use their analysis to decide if they should increase their budget on particular channels, but it was no longer possible.

Does this sound familiar to you? Having the right data strategy in place could have saved a lot of time.

Let’s face reality – you don't really need a dashboard for everything. In fact, if we're exploring this thought a little further, you don’t really need to have new dashboards created on a constant basis. Having a strong data strategy is something that will help different teams – and your whole company – to focus.

How to let data lead

Building a good data strategy has three main elements – start by bringing together representatives from each data-consuming team and let everyone discuss the questions they have when doing their work. Next, eliminate every question that doesn't apply on a cross-team level or doesn't have enough interest. Now for the tough part: reduce these to three questions that will tell you whether you're on the right track while maintaining complete focus on the user and the product.

We all have questions about our users, our activity, and our product, but we tend to create problems rather than make our jobs easier. Yes, we do need to know if something isn't working, and yes, we do need to know when to stop or increase spending to bring in more users, but the reality is that we don’t actually need so many numbers.

Instead, we need to understand what we're expecting users to do, to define our key goal, and, from there, build the path we expect them to take. By the time we've done this, we'll have already reduced a lot of noise. Not only will we know if we're acquiring the right users and whether or not the action or path is visible to them, but we will also know who we should be retargeting for retention and who we should be dropping because our product doesn't match their needs.

Try to focus on simple fixed dashboards. Understand and plan for what you don't have and need. Accept the reality that each new component takes time and won't always provide the answers you want. Learn that having the answers to a few key questions is more important than struggling to find the answer to many questions.

With a few common-sense rules and a dedication to making decisions based on data, every organization can make the switch to data-driven decision-making.

For more insights into getting started with data and mobile marketing, make sure to check out Adjust’s Back To Basics Guide.

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