The Metric Graveyard


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gravestone in an overgrown cemetary

This is part I of our Halloween horror stories on reporting… read on if you dare!

I recently had a meeting with a marketing manager interested in streamlining her organization’s internal reporting. We sat down to discuss the current situation and I could see panic in her eyes each time I mentioned the word “report”. As she opened up some sample reports to show me her living nightmare, the lights in the room suddenly seemed to dim and we entered into an eerie gloom. I immediately saw why. These reports, or metric Graveyards as I have come to remember them, are where all good data goes to die.

So, what was I looking at?

  • Painstakingly-created manual reports created by various individuals – often with duplicated metrics.
  • An insane amount of data contained within an absurd amount of reports that seemed to be sent out without any consideration of readers
  • Reports of every format (Spreadsheets, text documents, presentations) lacking even the faintest bit of consistency.

The most horrific evil may perhaps have been the reports delivered without any form of context or insight. Or those where comments and storytelling were presented separately from data and charts.  A synopsis presented in Word was accompanied by a separate document in Excel. The marketing manager told me that her colleagues constantly complained about having to flick between different documents, which led to confusion, headaches and neck-aches.

As a result of all of these factors, her organization has basically stopped looking at their reports, and all these metrics have gone to the graveyard.

How could they be brought back to life?

Firstly, it’s often the case that there is a general lack of agreement or direction on what reports and metrics are important to the business. This leads to the dreaded “that’s interesting” factor, where data is presented simply because it is available and may (or may not) offer some insight by itself.

In the same blood-curdling vein, occasionally different teams may just not know what metrics are most important to them.

In order to help you avoid a similar fate, we’d like to share 5 tips for keeping your reports out of the metric graveyard:

  1. Continually learn as much as possible. Read case studies on success stories, check out industry examples and benchmarks, look out for advice from consultants and digital marketing leaders to help you understand what metrics and KPIs your competitors are monitoring.
  2. Customize your KPIs to the objectives of your organization to avoid the dreaded “that’s interesting factor”. Avoid vanity metrics and create truly reflective measures.
  3. Streamline data integration and delivery. Save time by deduplicating reporting work, and even more by automating it. Additionally, deliver reports automatically and at the best frequency for decision making.
  4. Develop consistent reports. Consistency in your reporting will allow you to compare current performance to historical performance, and even to  create predictions on future performance. This will permit you to preemptively act to better your results. Furthermore, your information consumers will have an improved experience as they become comfortable with the format of your reports.
  5. Always accompany data with insights. Your key stakeholders most likely won’t have time to run analysis on those KPIs they are viewing (nor should they). Anticipating their questions and providing them with useful information can save you both time and allow you to show off your expertise!

We hope you haven’t seen your reports go to the metric graveyard. If so, how have you turned things around to bring life back to your dashboards?


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Nathan Easom

Director of Sales for Sweetspot. Works with customers to streamline their reporting, saving companies hours of valuable time and helping them react quicker to insights. Languages graduate from the University of Nottingham, UK. A banjo-picking, ice hockey playing Englishman in New York.

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