Monday, February 6, 2012


If you don't measure it, you can't improve it.” On of the first-order axioms of management, and a mantra of spreadsheet jockeys everywhere.

Benchmarking. Balanced Scorecard. SEO. What do they have in common – they are indirect measures of effectiveness.

For an artist, which is more important – the tack hammer or the paint brush? The paint 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 the artist to be more precise in creating fine detail than does a loose canvas – so there is some value added by proper stretching. Would knowing that the short side of a canvas has an average of five tacks and the long side has eight, add anything to masterpiece or its value?

As a result of a promotion, I received twice each month a senior management detailed analytic report 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. Later, I instructed the report compilers to stop publishing it and not notify any recipients. After two months without any comment about the absence of this report, I canceled it.

The chart below was presented with an interpretation that our website needed CPR, when viewed against the comparator site. Our website has visitors from a restricted group who read the page about the meeting and then go to another page to register, triggered by a monthly announcement of the coming meeting. The other 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.

Analytics help us measure performance and other factors by direct, indirect, and comparative means. Comparative analytics view statistics from your organization with those of other organizations, or compare 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.

The artist's production tool is the paint brush and that is the focal point for creativity which produces the value as perceived by the buyer.

The report recipients get information elsewhere or go without as they manage their functional areas, because the content does not provide benefit.

The page views of a different website does little to improve planning or delivery unless the site functions are virtually identical.

When all is said and done, analytics are like observing the wake of a boat underway – they provide some feedback about how smooth the course has been, but say nothing about the progress toward the goal or destination. Planning and execution get us there.

As leaders we must use our resources effectively to achieve results – focus them on doing rather than curating.

What are your thoughts?


  1. Jack, you have a unique point of view about analytics. The first time I see an analysis, it is worth taking the time to understand, AND THEN TAKE CORRECTIVE ACTION. After that, going back to an analytical report is like running my tongue over a new socket where a tooth used to be, comforting without providing any value. While it may be because we don't know what to do with our time, it can border on obsessive compulsive disorder.

  2. Dick:

    Thanks for amplifying the point of the post - analytics are useful but not an end in themselves. I particularly like your process of receive - understand - take action!