The Best Tool for Your Data Product Journey? A Good Map

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For anyone creating an analytics product, the pressures of engaging customers and generating revenue while protecting your core product and brand can be overwhelming, especially when aiming to hit so many goals on the horizon:

  • Does it target users effectively?

  • Will it guide users to a solution to their business problem?

  • Can it scale to many customers?

  • Will it deliver real results that customers are willing to pay for??

Fortunately, we've been there, done that, and understand what it takes to build a great data product. That's why we've created a map to help you navigate your way to success, built on the experience of countless voyagers who have sailed the same seas before you; the Data Product Readiness Assessment.

Embedded analytics, data products, data monetization….there are plenty of buzz words we can use to categorize the idea; at the end of the day it’s about putting data where our “users” are to help them “do” something valuable.

One of my first experiences embedding reporting and analytics into a workflow is a cautionary tale, but there is a better way... It happened several years ago while I was managing a sales team. We used Salesforce (which I like for the most part) but it hasn’t always been easiest or best on the reporting side of things, especially for sales types (ironic…) and had some limitations at the time around historical data.

Same old song and dance...

The first solution was of course, an Excel spreadsheet—the default solution for just about every business person on earth. After spending a several hours doing the initial build, I was able to track all of the relevant metrics on the Sales Rep and team level at daily / weekly / quarterly / yearly levels. After throwing another chunk of my time into adding historical data for benchmarking, time-series analysis, and sharing it with the team, we seemingly had a minimum viable solution in place. We’ve all gone through this process of “Excelifying” a solution and inevitability I, like most, ran into some limitations:

  1. Time is money: Spending time every day collecting the necessary data and updating it (this got even more taxing near end of quarter.)

  2. Information overload: Sure it had all of the right data, but with several tabs and all the different metrics being tracked tended to hurl a lot of information at you at once.

  3. It wasn’t very engaging: Not only did it require people to proactively go into the spreadsheet everyday and look at it, it was also a bunch of numbers on a sheet. This may sound trivial, but getting reps to update leads / opportunities in Salesforce was a challenge in and of itself; this added another potential point of failure to the list.

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Excel Hell 2.0

So...the first iteration wasn’t perfect. We were able to track the right metrics but from a usability standpoint it left something to be desired. So I sat down to plan what I should do next...?

We continued down an oh so familiar path and used a cloud BI tool to turn our stale Excel reports into shiny new charts and graphs. We also gathered the team and brainstormed what different reports we’d like to see and made sure they could be filtered appropriately. It was wrapped in a nice web portal, updated itself every day (thankfully) and allowed users to slice and dice the data as needed. Some of the stuff was really cool!  The benchmarking was awesome (and interesting,) the time-over-time analysis was much more in depth and the ability to drill down (all the way into Salesforce) was great. I could even create my own reports which was really helpful. Going back to the limitations of the original spreadsheet, it did solve a some but not all of the problems:

  1. Hooray!: I didn’t have to spend time updating data; I literally had an extra hour every day!

  2. Getting there...: The dashboards were organized better and looked much cleaner; we still had several tabs and although it worked pretty well for someone like me who needed a more comprehensive view, it still wasn’t ideal for individual reps.

  3. That shiny thing is kinda cool!: Of course there was some initial excitement over the new toy in the room, but with #2 still somewhat of an issue and the fact the reps had to go somewhere to get the necessary information it still wasn’t that engaging (and they still need to update Salesforce....)

The Magic Bullet*

Since we still weren’t quite getting our desired results (each rep checking their performance numbers every day) I set up daily and weekly emails to go out that had a PDF copy of the dashboards they needed to look at. I mean it’s right in your inbox, should be a slam dunk right?

Not really...although it helped to have another place they could find the dashboard data, it was yet another action they needed to take. The information overload issue persisted as well. I felt like we’d journeyed so far, yet still had so far to go. Even with all the bells and whistles, we still weren’t getting where we needed to be. I knew two things  had to happen:

  1. We need to make a simplified dashboard for each rep with the most important metrics they are measured on.

  2. These dashboards need to be a seamless part of their workflow.

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And finally...success

After sitting down with the team again, we were able to narrow it down to a handful of metrics for the rep dashboard, anything else we agreed they would go have to go to the portal for. This meant each person could spend just a minute or two reviewing it and only showed the mission critical stuff. We also embedded each reps dashboard smack dab in the middle of Salesforce, a place they spent a good portion of their day already (and hopefully updating it as well...) It was a long, iterative process but lessons were learned along the way.

My journey was a long and often frustrating one, but it doesn’t have to be that way. At Keboola, we’ve combined ALL the missteps we’ve seen from stories like these into a plan of action. We call it the Keboola Readiness Assessment.

The data product journey can be exciting but the water can be dangerous. That's why we've created an assessment that will act as a map, guiding you to success.

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Just by reading these questions, you will be better equipped to avoid any surprises. After completion, you will receive an assessment document showing you how you fare in the various dimensions of data product readiness, the areas on which to focus, and the specific next steps to undertake. Are you prepared for your data product journey?


Thanks,

Colin