“Just the Facts, Ma’am”

The Importance of Measurement and KPIs

Avatar Dave Greten on February 17, 2016 (last modified on February 18, 2016) • 4 minute read

If there is one trait all competitive activities share, it’s an insistence on accurate measurement. And those who focus on these measurements are the ones who tend to win.

For this reason, baseball players and coaches are renown for their encyclopedic knowledge of batting averages and E.R.A scores. Track stars know their times and personal records. Sales managers know their targets and earnings for the quarter. In competitive situations where everyone is looking for an edge, knowledge of the meaningful numbers is power.

Why? Because as Silicon Valley start-up guru Paul Graham of Y Combinator writes, “Merely measuring something has an uncanny tendency to improve it.”

Imagine running a race and never knowing your time or taking a test and not receiving a grade. This would be operating in a vacuum. It is simply impossible to improve performance without meaningful feedback.

Measurement and data give a point of comparison and the ability to spot when something is working and when it is not. Further, measurement makes it possible to spot patterns and correlations. If sales are down for the quarter, managers know to investigate the possible reasons and to correct the issue.

The Golden Age of Data

The good news is if you’re someone who thrives on data or measurement, this is quite the golden age. With just about everyone in America now owning either a computer or a smartphone, the world is awash in numbers and data, all ripe for analysis.

Unfortunately the amount of this data has grown almost unimaginably large. As Nate Silver notes in his book The Signal and The Noise, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated each day. That’s enough zeros and ones to fill a billion books of 10 million pages each. Every day.

With all this data available a new problem arises– how do we discern meaningful information from the useless? This step has become crucial. As Graham writes, it is imperative to fixate on the numbers to maximize performance but be careful what you measure.

The first step in improvement lies in figuring out what are the most important measurements, often referred to as “key performance indicators” or KPIs.

Getting The Metrics That Matter

Once these meaningful measurements have been established, another challenge lies in accessing these metrics in a reliable way. As surprising as it might seem, this is a problem for leaders at both large and small organizations alike.

So, for example, if you’re a leader in an enterprise-level organization, you’re probably blessed with a large business intelligence team. Unfortunately, even with a large BI team, it can still be tough to actually get your hands on the data you need.

It is often the case in large organizations that performance metrics are tied up in cumbersome bureaucracy. These unnecessary roadblocks can make extracting information in an on-demand, real-time manner all but impossible. In large organizations, it’s difficult to get the important stats fast while they are still relevant.

Those at smaller firms, on the other hand, have the opposite problem. As mentioned before, data is not in short supply for anyone, but the challenge lies in the fact that it’s contained in so many disparate sources. For example, a leader at a small company is likely wearing many hats, and may need to keep an eye on all of the following KPIs:

  • Website traffic from Google Analytics
  • Search engine performance from Hubspot
  • App downloads and usage data from Localytics
  • Number of followers from Facebook and Twitter
  • Quarterly sales numbers from Salesforce

Logging into each of these applications to get one crucial piece of information is a time-intensive chore. And with so many things to focus on, who has time to dig around each day in multiple applications for critical data?

So what can leaders in both large and small organizations do to circumvent these problems and quickly get the data they need? Consider checking out a customizable dashboard that makes it possible to pull all these KPIs from multiple sources into one application.

Whether you’re at a large company or a small one-man shop, Databox makes it easy to pay attention to the metrics that matter by giving you all the information you need, at a glance, with an all-in-one KPI dashboard designed especially for your phone.

With the Databox mobile app, you can see all your KPIs in real time, plus receive daily scorecards or alerts to make sure you never miss when something important happens in your business. Armed with this real-time information, Databox gives you the ability to pull back and see the big picture.

Give Databox a Try for Free

About the author
Dave Greten An early employee at Yahoo, Dave has worked for a Presidential campaign, with Paul Graham of Y Combinator at his first start-up, and as a writer for Bob Vila, the home improvement TV celebrity. In his spare time he enjoys playing with his daughters, swimming competitively, climbing mountains, and playing the Djembe.
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