Ditch the dashboards

Part two in a four part series on the post launch paradigm

Paying attention to your web analytics is critical to post launch success. I hope we can all agree on that one. But analytics is complicated and making heads or tails of the data can be a full time job.

As a result, many web managers create dashboards that organize key metrics for an at-a-glance view of a website’s performance.

This often involves repackaging key metrics from a tool like Google Analytics into a format that can be more easily shared (PowerPoint or Excel).

Getting more complicated, these dashboards can combine data from multiple systems.

And on the extreme-don’t-try-this-at-home-unsupervised category, they can be completely automated, pulling from data warehouses across the organization.

While the effort is admirable, I’ve found that dashboards are usually woefully ineffective at actually enabling the organization to improve a website’s performance.

Here are a few common issues

  • Too much data
  • The wrong key performance indicators
  • Lack of alignment to the business
  • Nobody knows what to do with the data

So what’s the solution?

Try ditching the dashboards and creating simpler goal-oriented scorecards aligned to a handful of key objectives on your site.

Then focus on improving one goal at a time and develop a process for reporting, analyzing, changing and re-analyzing.

Document what works and broadcast the results across the organization using the scorecard as a framework.

I know, I know. You think I’m solving the problem simply with a semantic shift from dashboard to scorecard. What you didn’t see what the hand motion I am also using when saying the word ‘scorecard.’ That was a joke (but I do have a hand motion).

While dashboard and scorecard can be used interchangeably, they shouldn’t.

Data geeks will talk amongst themselves, but my definition is pretty simple, and of course the correct one (it’s my blog after all).

Dashboard’s are a monitoring tool used to provide an at a glance view of a broad set of data.

Scorecards are goal oriented, focus on a limited data set and align directly to a business objective.

There’s a role for both, but more often than not, organizations use dashboards as the end game. They gather some data, manually re-organize it into a nice excel doc and send it off in an e-mail.

It ends up being management eye candy with little connection to site optimization activities.

So let’s ditch the dashboards, move to scorecards and start rolling up our sleeves to take action from the data.

About the Author
Jeff Cram

Jeff Cram is Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Connective DX (formerly ISITE Design), a digital agency based in Portland, OR and Boston, MA. As the Managing Editor of the CMS Myth, Jeff is passionate about all topics related to content management, digital strategy and experience design.

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