Consider building these dashboards that help answer essential business questions.
As your business grows, it’s essential that you acquire and develop tools, technologies, and talent to meet your most pressing needs. Suppose your organization hires its first analyst and acquires the elements of a modern data stack: an automated data integration tool/data pipeline, a data warehouse, and a business intelligence tool. With your architecture in place and your data easily accessible, it’s time to build dashboards and reports that can help your team make informed, value-adding decisions. The following is a list of common business questions and the corresponding dashboards that you can leverage to answer those questions.
The first order of business is to keep track of how money flows in and out of your organization.
Consider tracking these metrics on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis:
Retention/renewals – How many returning customers do you have? What is their value?
Revenue – How much money is coming in? If you are a SaaS or subscription-based company, annual recurring revenue (ARR) will be useful as well.
Churn – For every cohort of customers in a period, how many did you lose?
User demographics, psychographics, and other details – This may differ somewhat based on whether you are a B2C or B2B, but the question of who buys your product should heavily inform your business strategy.
Expenses – You may not be profitable yet, and that’s okay! But your runway is finite.
Each of these should be compared against a goal that you have stipulated for that interval of time (monthly, quarterly, annually).
You will build these dashboards using data primarily from CRMs and ERPs, such as Salesforce or NetSuite, respectively. If you are a B2C organization, you might use data from billing and subscription sources like ReCharge, or payments sources like Stripe or Braintree.
The main audience for this dashboard will be your sales and executive teams. The bread-and-butter nature of this information, however, makes it important to everyone who is interested in the overall health of the company. Product, marketing, engineering and other teams within your organization all contribute directly to your organization’s ability to support itself.
There is a good chance that you conduct a great deal of your business over the internet, and that word about your organization spreads the same way. Do the right people find you, and do they stay to learn more when they do?
Everyone should track the following web-based activities across time intervals such as weeks, months, quarters, and years:
Unique visitors – You need a good grasp of your user base. Note that users are not necessarily synonymous with customers, especially in B2B applications, where one company can have dozens of seats.
Bounce rate – People visit webpages errantly or quickly lose interest all the time. Screen out the false positives.
Interactions per visit (pages and sessions) – How many actions do your users perform on your web site? Are they successful? Is it a sign of excessive complexity or necessary engagement?
Time on site/time on page – Same as above.
Most popular pages – Excluding your home page, which of your pages get the most readership? Do these pages drive conversions?
Conversion rate – Do your visitors actually end up purchasing your product?
Sources/channels/referrals – Where do new users come from? Do you pay too much for advertising? Is your social media game healthy? Have you captured the right words on search engines?
There are a number of event-tracking tools you can embed in your web pages such as webhooks, Amazon Kinesis, Segment, and Snowplow. Google Analytics can help you, as well.
The web page is mainly a top-of-funnel concern. Your sales and marketing teams should be keenly interested in how people first encounter and learn about your brand. Whoever is responsible for designing and building your web page should also take heed.
If you offer a digital product or service, it behooves you to understand exactly how your customers interact with your product so that you can double down on your best features and identify points of failure.
Product usage is somewhat further down the funnel than web traffic and measurements include:
Active users/usage frequency – How many people log into your product and use it? How often? Do they return?
Average time in application – The amount of time your users spend in your application can be a sign of engagement, or a sign they are struggling to solve their problems. This can mean different things to different kinds of products. If you offer a web-based multiplayer video game, you want people to spend a lot of time on the interface. If your product is a set-and-forget automation tool, you probably don’t.
Feature usage – Which pieces of your product do people use most often? Do they use the parts of your product that you thought they would? Are you building the right kinds of features?
User outcomes – Every product purports to solve a problem. Do your users successfully solve their problems? Are they happy about it? This can be tricky to measure directly, but, depending on your industry, you can find ratings on sites like Yelp, app stores, or industry publications like Gartner. You can also survey your customers to calculate a Net Promoter Score.
As with web traffic, you can use event-tracking tools such as webhooks, Mixpanel, Pendo, Segment, Amplitude, Snowplow, Amazon Kinesis, and Heap. For apps that aren’t run through a browser, you may have to use or build other tools. Your operations may also be tracked by any number of transactional databases.
Product and engineering should stay appraised of these metrics, as they work directly on the product. Popular features are selling points that sales and marketing should be aware of.
For a more nuanced understanding of how well you support your product, you need to track customer feedback in the form of bug reports, support tickets, and other customer services. You should also measure the status of your product directly.
The details will depend on the exact characteristics of your product, but in all cases you should measure a number of metrics related to tickets (or the closest equivalent):
Tickets created – How many complaints or requests for help do you get?
Type of ticket – What aspects of your product or service do these complaints or requests for help concern?
Tickets solved – How many have you resolved?
Ticket status – How many remain outstanding?
Time to first response – How long do your customers wait for help?
Time to resolve – How long does it take to solve your customers’ problems?
Metrics for this dashboard will largely come from Zendesk, Kustomer, Freshdesk, and other dedicated customer support tools.
This dashboard is mostly the purview of your customer support and engineering teams to respond to immediate customer needs and build longer-term solutions.
Speaking of engineering teams ...
At the risk of promoting Taylorism, it is important that you keep track of production and supply chain activities. Software companies will mostly track engineering project management. If you produce physical products, then you will need to track those activities as well. With the growth of the Internet of Things and the profusion of embedded sensors, you may end up with an enormous wealth of such data.
You need to determine a basic unit of analysis to track productivity. The following example is most representative of software development, but the general rule is that you want to measure the volume and quality of your work.
Issues – How many proposed features have been accepted and turned into projects?
Pull requests – How many of those projects now have code attached to them and are open?
Time to close pull requests – How long does it take to write and push code for these projects?
Velocity – How much work, in general, do you accomplish in a given amount of time? Methodologies such as agile estimate this using story points; you may choose something similar. Burn-down charts illustrate how much work remains in a time-boxed interval.
In the physical realm, you might instead consider the number of units or value of products produced, as well as track quality assurance figures.
In a tech or engineering context, GitHub, Jira, Asana, and any number of project management tools will work. For supply chain data, consider enterprise resource planning (ERP) software such as NetSuite, SAP, and others.
This dashboard is all about optimizing project management and will mainly be used by the product and engineering teams.
The more you explore your data, the more comprehensive of a picture you can build of your organization’s operations. Be careful to ask the right questions of your data. You will eventually be able to construct metrics to track cross-functional performance, produce predictive models, and even get a start on machine learning and AI.