Internet companies gather a tremendous amount of data about their products and customers. After the BI infrastructure is all set up, the biggest challenge for an analytics team is to effectively share that data in a way that both generates insight and supports decision making for the organization.
At Wix, we believe that stakeholders — product managers, team leaders, senior management, etc. — should be able consume and interpret the data by themselves. As analysts, it’s our job not only to make this data accessible, but also to train and advise relevant staff members about the best way to use it.
Here are some tips about how to best share your data, based on what works for us here at Wix:
We believe that employees should be able to access any data that might be relevant to their jobs. Instead of keeping all the data to ourselves (analysts) and supplying only finalized analyses, we work hard to make information readily available. We do this mainly by creating interactive and easy-to-use reports using a professional grade BI reporting system. This helps us present data that is user friendly, with a minimalistic UI and clear data visualizations.
While this open approach obviously has its risks — your stakeholders might misuse the data or make wrong assumptions about it — there are some great benefits. Stakeholders have more control; they can make data-driven decisions independently, according to their own schedules, time constraints and needs. An additional benefit is that they are exposed to data being used by other levels of management or other products in the company. This can be a great channel for offering perspective or even generating new ideas.
In small companies, analysts might be able to share data using spreadsheets. But experience showed us at Wix that once the amount of data and stakeholders grew to a certain size, these spreadsheets became impossible to maintain. Before your company reaches this point, your best choice will be moving to a modern BI reporting system.
You should conduct research to find the right system that suits your needs, as there is a wide range of products with different pricing and functionalities. In choosing a tool to use at Wix, the most important aspect was friendliness of the product. We wanted a system that was user-friendly both in terms of the editor (used by the analytics team), so the analysts could express their vision and creativity when developing reports, and for the public side (used by the stakeholders), where we prioritized a simple UI and snappy performance.
There’s no one system that works for every company, but take the time to choose one that fits your needs. Then, get to know it inside and out! You’ll be using it daily and, as an analyst, you’ll be this product’s owner in the eyes of your stakeholders. It will be your job to train them how to use it and you will likely be the first address they come to with any technical questions.
Sometimes, we think that a certain dataset might have great value. We saw a certain type of data being successfully used by other teams and we are sure it will help other stakeholders in the same way. But then, after investing time and energy in creating reports with it, we realize our stakeholders don’t really need this particular data.
To avoid these cases, we must make sure we know our stakeholders’ business questions and then use them to guide us. The next time you consider sharing new information with your organization, start first by identifying the core business question you are answering and then select the data accordingly. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let your stakeholders explore and experiment with data they didn’t think about — the opposite! But any new data must have a clear connection to their business goals.
Tech companies move fast. Their focus is constantly shifting and business questions can change from week to week or month to month. Your repository should also reflect this and contain only reports that answer currently relevant questions. By including too much information, you might distract your stakeholders or even (perish the thought!) waste their time.
Take time each month to track the monthly view count of your reports and hide reports that are not being used. Additionally, make sure there is no overlap between different reports. Your stakeholders should be able to find their answer for a specific question in exactly one report – and they should be able to find that report in an instant.
Even the most appealing and relevant reports are useless if no one knows they exist. Feel comfortable to market your reports and distribute them through the organization.
At Wix, we use different channels such as Slack, Monday.com and emails to inform our stakeholders about new reports and analyses. Every once in a while, you can and should use tools like these to remind others in your organization about the abilities of existing reports. To make your internal marketing even more effective, share cool insights that you were able to derive from these reports or success stories from other people who used them.
As analysts, we can forget that our job is not purely technical. Far from it! While on one hand you want to create a robust analytics platform that makes your stakeholders more independent in basic tasks, much of your job is still about personal relationships. When it comes to more advanced analyses, stakeholders will turn to you for advice and guidance.
Let stakeholders know that you are accessible for questions, requests and feedback. Set office hours or schedule recurring meetings with different teams in your organization. You can even offer your help proactively when you know that stakeholders will likely need your expertise.
In my department, for example, when managers prepare for presenting a roadmap, they are invited to set a meeting with us, the analysts. We help them make sure they are using the data in a compelling way that supports their narrative. Frequently, we even make suggestions about how to visualize the data in the presentation.
Creating a company-wide, self-service culture of data analysis is not an easy task. It requires a lot of planning, infrastructure work and maintenance. You will also have to take invest in educating stakeholders and building mutual trust. But the work pays off!
In time, stakeholders will learn to trust the data in your reports and you will have confidence in their ability to interpret the data and make the right decisions. Once the system is up and running, it will free up a big portion of your time, giving you the opportunity to work on more advanced analyses and initiatives that can take your organization — and you — to the next level.
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