When you’re getting out that last minute proposal or responding to the 4:55pm ad-hoc report request, metric performance is not top of mind. As a result, thinking about success metrics, in light of all our other demands, can make us feel less than successful. Knowing that you need to implement or improve your success metrics can feel like a daunting task with all that is going on around you.
Having successful metrics is very similar to getting really good at a family recipe. It's not a one and done, but an iterative process that is made up of a series of small steps and adjustments (pivots) over time. I’m sure it sounds odd, but here are some things that metrics have in common with a great family recipe:
- Outcomes vs. Metrics - It's about creating a great conversation and experience, not collecting and publishing numbers. A successful Thanksgiving recipe is the family discussion and memories that go on for years, not the knowledge of how many sticks of butter were used.
- Mistakes Happen - There’s always a Metrics or Report 2.0 (3.0 and 4.0 too), so recognize it's a process that will only improve over time.
- Context Matters - A one pot recipe to throw together after Tuesday night soccer practice is different than something for Christmas Eve dinner. The same can be said about the daily update vs. an annual report. Ultimately, the desired outcome is different, so even if the metric is the same; how its shared and communicated might be different. Remember it's about “success metrics” not just metrics, so having success is an important part of the equation.
With Juice’s 10+ years of building metric dashboards and data products, the topic of success metrics comes up often. Getting started with metrics is similar to getting that family recipe just right. It will take time, but is worth the effort. As a follow up to our 2006 blog post on success metrics, and a recent post, Goals and Metrics like Chocolate and Peanut Butter, here’s our recipe for successful success metrics:
The Recipe for Successful Success Metrics
Follow a Recipe
When getting started or having limited time, use a recipe. Minimize risks and give yourself the greatest chance of success. People will use your metrics 1.0, so give yourself the best chance of success. Use someone’s else’s metrics (recipe) to benefit from their mistakes, etc. It may not be the best fit for your organization, but work through the process of collecting, transforming and aggregating the data, which will be challenging in its own right. As time goes on you’ll improvise, be more creative and generate your own version of the recipe.
Once you have mastered a technique, you hardly need look at a recipe again
and can take off on your own. Julia Child
Use a mix
In metrics 1.0, it's not cheating to use the pre-packaged metrics that you get bundled with your transaction system or anything you get for free. While using vanity metrics is a big no-no, using the pre-packaged metrics (think cake mix), will teach you about the effort involved and the nature of the conversations your audience wants to have. In future iterations you’ll refine your metrics, the calculations, etc. to get them to where you want, but at the outset create something you can easily share with others.
In the spirit of getting something done and sharing your masterpiece, start with something simple. Just like a simple recipe has fewer ingredients, start with fewer metrics. Sure there’s a lot of information, but start with three or four. Use composite metrics (see below) if needed. You’ll certainly have a few dimensions (categories), like date, type, etc., so think 8-10 columns at most. Fewer ingredients (metrics) gives you a chance to be successful and probably more likely to get feedback.
See the two examples below to give you a comparison. It's really hard to have a fruitful conversation about the 1st one with all that information. Start with a few numbers and grow into more complex recipes.
Crowded Dashboard (not a 1.0 recipe)