“If you don't measure it, you can't improve it.” Like a mantra, it's chanted over and over - but you must be measuring the right IT or you are just burning time.
For an artist, which is more important – the tack hammer or the paint brush? The brush is used to create the masterpiece; the tack hammer is used to stretch the canvas in preparation.
Does canvas stretching contribute directly to the quality or success of the artwork? It is true that a taut canvas permits more precision in creating fine detail in the painting – so there is definitely some value added by proper stretching. Would knowing that short sides of a canvas have an average of five tacks and long sides have eight, add anything to masterpiece? Counting tacks all day long would have no impact on creating better paintings.
Years ago, as a result of a promotion, I received a detailed analytic report to senior management twice each month which was a quarter inch thick. I eagerly read the entire first copy and discovered only two items in it were useful to me and both were incorrect. I instructed the department to compile the report but stop publishing it and not notify any recipients. After two months without any comment about the absence of this report, I canceled it.
A new devotee to website analytics ran the analysis on her site and the Leadership Breakfast of Maryland's site She showed me a chart and offered her interpretation that the LBMD website needed CPR. Our website has visitors from a restricted group who read the page about the meeting and then register to indicate they plan to attend – the activity is triggered by a monthly announcement of the coming meeting. Her site is an eCommerce site for internet sales and traffic is driven to it continuously by numerous sources.
The results merely show that sites with different purposes do not generate the same traffic pattern or flow. These comparative analytics are meaningless, since the goals of the sites are so different.
Analytics help us measure performance and other factors by direct, indirect, and comparative means. Comparative analytics compare statistics from your organization with those of other organizations, or view your statistics over time.
Metrics and analytics can be useful to set a baseline or measure progress – as long as they are chosen appropriately and recognized for the value they offer.
When all is said and done, analytics are like observing the wake of a boat underway – they provide feedback on how smooth the course has been, but say nothing about the progress toward the goal or destination. Planning and execution get us there.