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In this episode of In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris discuss the basics of reporting and dashboarding best practices. What should a good report or dashboard look like? What does a dashboard report have in common with the cockpit of an Airbus A321? Listen in and get some tips to bring to your next reporting meeting.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn 0:06
so in this week’s In-Ear Insights, we are on the road, doing a client workshop, a three day workshop. We want to talk about dashboarding reporting and things that we are seeing folks doing, not as well as it could be, and certainly things that could be better. The first thing that comes to mind for me is, when it comes when you’re putting together dashboards and reports, one of the most important things is, do you need this piece of information that you’re about to us as sort of the general bench test of any piece of information is, if you’re not going to use it to make a decision? Why is it on there, right? If you can’t make a decision from a piece of information, it shouldn’t be on there. What do you see when you look at all the fun of dashboarding and aborting?

Katie Robbert 0:52
I see a lot of things and so we’ve covered this topic quite a bit, but it always bears repeating. And so I think one of the things that you’re absolutely right There’s a lot of data mashed onto a dashboard. And I think that there’s a misunderstanding of the purpose of a dashboard. Because we often see, people try to create them to look like that sort of command control center, where you have every possible number. But then what happens is you hand it off to someone and they go, there’s so much information here. I don’t know what to do with this. And so, you know, one of the things that, you know, as you were saying is, like, if you can’t make a decision with it, why is it on there? My, what I’ve seen in my experience is that a lot of people, they just want an awareness of what’s happening. So like engagement numbers or follower numbers, or, you know, traffic numbers, those might not be numbers that you’re necessarily going to make an immediate decision with. But you just want to know, sort of the health. And so I think it’s fine to include those metrics. If you’re clear about the purpose of that particular dashboard. I think that the thing that People don’t do is make multiple dashboards. And so you can have one for awareness, you can have one for conversions, you can have one for revenue. And when it’s when you start mixing and matching the intention of the dashboard is when it gets confusing. So if you just want to know, you know, what is the health and growth of my social media accounts, great. Put that on a dashboard. That’s your social media growth dashboard. Leave it alone, because you’re not necessarily going to look at it every day, right. And so that would be my sort of recommendation of things that you should be doing is, it’s okay to have different intentions, different dashboards and breaking out those metrics. And then you have your one dashboard for these are the numbers I want to make decisions with and then leave that clear. And then you might have so one of the nice things about data Google Data Studio is you can have multiple pages, all contained within one file. like think about it as different slides. In the slide deck, that’s a great way to start to break up and organize your data. So if you do want to have all of those different metrics, not necessarily all metrics that you can make decision with, put them on different pages, but then they’re all contained within one file.

Christopher Penn 3:13
Yeah. If you ever, this is probably a strange thing to think about, quite me, a lot of people have not done it, but you can actually go to the various aircraft websites and look at them. But if you look at the cockpit in a in an aircraft, and you look at the dashboard, that the pilot and the copilot have a they’re identical because they have to be, but there is no excess. There’s no waste. There’s nothing there that that those two folks need don’t need to fly the plane to aviate successfully to navigate and to communicate well. And that’s really sort of what our best practices should be is like what do you absolutely need to do your job or to make decisions and then everything else like said it can go in like an entertainment sports Elsewhere, but like there’s no there’s no mp3 player in the cockpit. There’s no you know, in screen TV, there’s no, there’s no anything that would distract a pilot from doing the most important thing, which is getting the machine from point A to point B. And it’s really an interesting exercise to look at that and go, okay, every single one of these things has a has a function, a clearly defined function. And if you watch the movie solly, there was this thing called the Q Rx, the quick reference Handbook, every control, there’s a handbook that has like, you know, when this indicator says this, here are the steps to take to deal with this. So if you know engine two is lost power, here’s the 17 steps you need to take in order to restart the engine. And that’s something I think is even more critically missing from everyone’s dashboards like you. Great. You have this thing we were talking about social media command center is really great. You have this thing, but where’s the the quick reference handbook that says, When this happens, do this when somebody calls you a cheesehead and you’re not from Wisconsin. Do this right. And it’s, we spend so much time on the platform and the technology and none of the time I’m training the people or the processes that go with it.

Katie Robbert 5:10
It is, you know, it’s funny because there are companies, very consumer facing companies that are big enough and have prepared for a lot of those scenarios. So if you think about companies like Oreo, they spend a shit ton. shit ton is a scientific, scientific unit of measure. They spend a shit ton of time running through all of the different possible scenarios that could happen during the Superbowl. So that if one of those scenarios happen, they are ready with a response immediately. And I know that that’s where a lot of people think I want to do that I wouldn’t be in social media. That’s fun. Yes, you’re absolutely right. That is a lot of fun. But majority of companies don’t operate that way. And so like, a few years back, there’s that really famous campaign of when all the power went out, there was the blackout during the Superbowl. You know, Oreo was ready for like you can still dunk in the dark. And, you know, whatever the campaign was, it was very popular and very timely and very immediate reaction. And there was a misunderstanding that like they had just thought of that very quickly. They were fully prepared for that they had gone through, like, what happens if we’re invaded by aliens? What happens if the power goes out? What happens if this team wins? What happens if this team wins? What happens if it’s a tie? What about overtime? And so they went through all of those scenarios. Now you don’t need to go through it to that extreme. But Chris, to your point. If you’re going to have some sort of a command center, if you’re going to have some metrics that you make decisions on, you need to run through at least three basic scenarios. What happens if the number goes down? What happens if the number goes up? And what happens if it plateaus? Those are your three basic scenarios that you need to be prepared for. So that when someone says, Hey, the number went down today, what are we going to do? Or the number went up today? What are we going to do? To keep it up there, you can say, Oh, well, when the number goes up, we usually do x. That’s the very basic of those standard operating procedures that you should be prepared for. If you’re going to have metrics that you’re looking at,

Christopher Penn 7:12
which, in turn is predicated on you understanding this is what this number means, which is also something that is complicated by two things. One, we can use the same word in different ways. Like engagement, engagement on Twitter is composed of different numbers engagement of Facebook, which is composed of different numbers in in Google Analytics. So engagement is so knowing what means and then knowing what is the business impact of that thing. We were talking the other day about social media engagement and how organic reach is effectively zero for all these companies. And yet if you look at the majority of social media dashboards, you know, that that people show and submit to awards and stuff like that. You see all these numbers like Yeah, but almost all those zeros. So why do you have them if you know, you know the other than a random answer? It’s all going to be zeros. Why are you investing real estate and time and, and brains as brain space on things that frankly don’t mean anything?

Katie Robbert 8:12
Honestly, I think it’s, you know, what we’ve seen is that people don’t know what else that they should be tracking. And that comes down to, you know, just a, you know, a little bit more education that’s needed and really going through those planning exercises. And one of the ones that we always recommend any company do at any stage, you know, whether it’s beginning of the year, mid year, you know, middle of summer, whatever it is a KPI mapping exercise and a KPI mapping exercise essentially boils down to, you know, those three layers of data with what is your goal is sort of that big overall number that you like, I want to hit a million dollars in revenue. Okay, cool. Your KPI is then the number that says we are meeting that number or we are not meeting that number. And then the metrics are the number That roll up into the KPI that tell you whether or not you’re meeting a number. So it’s just, you know, three layers of data. And it tells you these are the things that we care about. These are the things that we can make decisions on. So for example, one of our goals moving into this new year is to increase the total number of newsletter subscribers that we have an increase the total number of podcast subscribers that we have. So that’s what I’ve listed as our goal. Our goal is X number of subscribers. So my KPI that I look at on a weekly basis, is that total number of subscribers going up or down, or the total number of people who have raised their hand and say, I want your newsletter or I want to listen to your podcast on a regular basis. And then other metrics that might fill into that are, you know, the total number of times that a podcast tweet is retweeted or shared or because that’s then that that organic reach. And so for us, that’s one clear line of information. Top to bottom. So very basic metrics all the way up to this little goal. Yeah, I put that on a dashboard so that I can look at a glance and go, Okay, I’m either meeting my goal or not.

Christopher Penn 10:10
That three set of metrics is really important because it relates nicely to a very simple framework. Why what how, why are you doing the thing? That’s the goal? What is the thing that’s your KPI? How do you get to the thing, and that’s the metrics. And when you’re putting together dashboards, a lot of people have a tendency to clutter it with how, and they don’t put enough emphasis and design on this is the why you’re doing this thing, like what’s the overall goal and your progress to it? And then what are the KPIs that are helping you measure that? One of the reasons that we advocate that people make dashboards for every level in the organization is that structurally, when one person’s KPIs become that person’s superiors metrics, right, so if your number as the CEO is company revenue than my number as the the client facing person would be, you know, number of happy clients, like that’s what I measured on but that rolls into as a metric of the CEOs number of overall overall revenue. So the if you think about why what how, as the three numbers and your dashboard should be composed of a mix of those three and then the person above you has what their why what how and your why is probably there what your how your what becomes there how right and then a person below you in the organization if there is there there, why is probably your what you know, and so on so forth. So you can get a sense very quickly.

Unknown Speaker 11:31
My head is swimming.

Christopher Penn 11:35
But the point being, you’ll see, instead of trying to make one dashboard to rule them all, which is an impossible dream, you have many dashboards that focus on and that an individual at a certain level in the organization can use and then yes, you may have one big deck with just a few organization wide KPIs, but for the most part, everyone has their own thing to look at to say like this is how to do Your job better.

Katie Robbert 12:02
You know, and I think that it’s sort of like, it’s a nice way to start to close up the conversation where we were saying, It’s think of a dashboard, especially Google Data Studio, which is a great tool, it’s free. Think of it like that slide deck that you’re creating, make each individual slide have its own intent. And if nothing else, take away this, it’s okay to have only one number on a dashboard. If your dashboard consists of one metric, one lonely number, that is perfectly okay, you don’t have to Gussy it up with a bunch of other things like, because that one number may be the only thing that matters and that’s fine, because then it’s focused, you can make decision on it. There’s no ambiguity about it. Just leave it alone.

Christopher Penn 12:43
Exactly. is simple as simple as better even though and this is the trap that we all fall into even though it looks nothing like it does in the movies. Well, guess what nothing else in the movies look real my movies are based in reality. So if you’re trying to make it look like that really cool dashboard. From you know Avengers sorry it’s probably got a graphic design to make it look nice but sure, but it’s it is not an should not look nearly as confusing as anything from like the Iron Man movies. So if you have questions about dashboards and then quick reference Handbook, so all these different things, let us know leave a comment on this blog post that goes with the podcast episode over at TrustInsights.ai dot AI and be sure to subscribe to the newsletter as well. We talked about more of the stuff and share plenty of data every week. You can get that at Trust insights.ai slash newsletter as always, please subscribe to the newsletter and we will talk to you next time. Take care


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