Analytics and evaluation

Analytics and statistics; what is the question?

Analytics, evaluation, data and statistics all have the gas turned up in the workplace. Rightly so. We need to make business decisions, evaluate performance, and design usability improvements based on hard evidence.

Facts and figures should generate action. Not sit in a pile of paper on a desk or add to a growing repository of electronic reports, ultimately clogging up our servers and recycle bins.

The problem with generating lists of numbers and handing them to someone is that they don’t mean anything. As Avinash Kaushik says, if you can say ‘so what?’ to a statistic then it was pointless in generating it. You got 10,000 visitors this month. So what? Is that good or bad? Better than last month? How many did you expect to get? What will you do now because you know this?

I really believe we should ban statistics reports unless they are supported by a specific question. What do you want to know? It may be the same thing every month. Fine. Great. Then we can start comparing month on month. Then, reports will start to have meaning. Then we can take action. But first we need questions.

Did my email newsletter produce more traffic than the graphically designed intranet advert? Did the recent page redesign have the desired outcome? Did the news story result in more people signing up to the company initiative? Have more people been reading my pages over the last six months?

On the intranet we have devolved analytics. Our publishers and stakeholders are free to peruse the stats and graphs. We also do a quick training session on how to get the most out of the intranet analytics. This approach reduces wasted paper reports because people only check out the analytics when they have a question. If they are really interested in their content and want to monitor ongoing stats then they can create regular automated reports. It cuts down meaningless requests to the central intranet team, allowing them to concentrate on the bigger picture, and it encourages publishers to become more familiar with the life of their content after they have published it.

Do you spew out endless statistics reports or do you answer questions?

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