Labor day just passed which pretty much marks the end of summer vacation. The party’s over, as they say, and it’s time to get back to work. Children get back into routine for school, students gear up for another semester, people reminisce over summer vacations and plan out the rest of the year, and of course businesses begin to buckle down for Q4 so they can finish out the year on a strong note. It’s a time to re-evaluate, tweak and re-establish goals. There’s also that iPhone 6 announcement coming next week, but I digress.
One of my goals for this year was to make significant strides towards being healthier. As with anything else this requires physical effort, but more-so than that, it requires mental discipline.
I’ve noticed in the last couple of years, the huge influx of wearable fitness trackers that measure everything from steps taken, to distance, to elevation, to heart-rate, to sleep. It’s impressive what data these little devices can capture and the exhaustive reports that can be produced.
Being a data geek combined with this goal of being healthier, I decided to invest in my own tracker. While there are many options available, they are all very similar and you basically have to find one that you’ll use. Features and functionality aside, if they sit at home instead of on your person, they’re a waste of money. So my main requirement was comfort. After an exhaustive search I decided to try out the Jawbone UP24. It’s an amazing little device, and pumps out quite the stream of data. Color me impressed!
I was talking to my colleague Farid the other day about these fitness trackers prior to making the decision to purchase. To be honest, this rarely happens, but on this auspicious day, Farid had some words of wisdom which echoed in my mind for days [Edited and rejected by Farid Alhadi]. He said, in reference to the large selection of devices available, “You know, they’re essentially all the same, and they don’t do much unless you use them, but what they do is provide is that little extra motivation.” Ok, he didn’t quite make the discovery of the century, I’m probably being kind of dramatic to his compliment, but you get the point. [Edited and rejected by Farid Alhadi]
“That little extra motivation”? Maybe that’s the difference between being healthy and not quite there? Could the line in the sand really be that narrow? Would data be all I need to help me run that extra mile, or do those extra reps? Really? Could it be that a dashboard of my fitness stats would help me take that step that I’ve been trying to take for so long? Wait a second…dashboards, metrics, data, insights??? this is starting to sound a little too familiar.
More importantly, this got me thinking. (Yes I know I’m a geek…you don’t need to remind me). Doesn’t a fitness tracker essentially do what Analytics does for a business? Just as a fitness tracker captures the performance of an individual based on pre-defined metrics, so does analytics based on similar pre-defined metrics.
The fitness tracker is only as good as our usage of it. The same principle can be applied to analytics. It only works if you use it. If I leave the fitness tracker at home, or forget to wear it, or if I don’t calibrate it, the data is going to be useless. Same goes for your analytics tool. Organizations sometimes spend thousands on analytics tools and even strategies, but they don’t put a legitimate effort to use it or even use it right! Your organization’s mindset needs to make a legitimate effort to be metrics driven and put value in the tool you spent so much money on.
How can you measure progress if you don’t know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there? If our measurement strategy isn’t zeroing in on the things that are key to the business, it needs to be adjusted, but you wont be able to know that without a clear cut plan. Analytics works the same way. Have a clear goal and a strategy as to how you plan to measure your goals. Once again, this might be a daunting task, but that’s what your certified partners are there for!
That doesn’t only apply to your diet, but it applies to your data. If you don’t eat the right food, you wont have the right body. If I don’t enter my calories consumed correctly, I won’t really be able to measure my progress. Similarly, if you don’t measure your digital website or mobile app data correctly, your data may be garbage and thus, your insights may be garbage. The tool needs good food/data to be able to do it’s job correctly. Make sure you’re tracking your data properly, using the correct methods and code. Track the right pages, the right events, and create clean proper funnels and goals.
If I don’t review the data at periodic intervals and adjust my exercise routine as a result, what benefit am I getting out of it? No one get’s it right the first time. It takes optimization. Maybe your diet isn’t right. Maybe your exercises aren’t burning enough calories. Maybe your body has hit a plateau and it’s time to switch things up. Similarly, with analytics, if we’re not reacting to what the data is telling us, then what good is our analytics implementation? Your measurement strategy should include periodic review to see your progress and make the adjustments necessary to truly optimize results of your site. Just as the reports above tell the wearer of the fitness device to move, Analytics reports similarly tell us which marketing campaigns need attention, which landing pages need to be tweaked, what’s working well, and what’s not. In other words, an entire action plan can be derived just by periodic review of key performance indicators.
Yes people, an individual is similar to a business in this sense. While that won’t get you on the Fortune 500 list, it’s still something to ponder It’s an interesting comparison, but one that resonated in my mind and helps me apply the concept of “Measure, Analyze, Optimize” we learn in the world of analytics to my daily life as well. The thought did cross my mind that perhaps I should import this data into Tableau and go all nerdy with it, but that would be a bit too over-zealous. I’ll leave that for another day, or maybe I’ll have “a little extra motivation” once I start hitting my goals.
One key takeaway from this little lesson I learned: Performance is an attitude, not just a device.