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Reporting Robot Rehab

With a more thorough understanding of how reporting and analysis differs, you may have come to the difficult realization that you or your coworkers have become reporting robots trapped in Setupland. Don't lose hope. You can do two simple things to start the reprogramming process before embarking down the enlightened path of becoming an action hero.

The first step is to relentlessly and systematically automate as much reporting as possible. Too often web analysts become comfortable with manually building reports instead of automating them. They fail to realize, however, how much time can be saved over the long term by investing some extra time upfront to simply build automation into the reports. Most of the popular web analytics tools have Excel add-ins, which make it easy to import online data for building spreadsheet-based reports and dashboards. Routine, regularly scheduled reports should be automated so they can be refreshed in a manner of minutes instead of hours. Even if you can't automate the entire report, try to automate as much of it as possible. If you don't need to review or touch the reports, your tool may also allow you to schedule them for delivery directly to your stakeholders. By automating repetitive, mundane reports, you'll be able to reclaim many hours each week that would have been wasted on unnecessary report creation.

The next step in the two-step rehabilitation process is to inject more insights into your reporting. If you've been successful in automating reports, you'll now have extra time to add context, insights, and action steps to your reports and dashboards. Here's an example of each:

  • Context. "Paid search traffic spiked in the first week of August due to the start of the Back-to-School campaign."
  • Insight. "The affiliate program had a 53% higher conversion rate (4.78%) than the paid search campaigns."
  • Action step. "Consider shifting 60% of our remaining ad budget to the affiliate program for the rest of August."

By adding these different types of analysis comments, you're shifting to data interpretation and making reports more actionable. These notes may actually pique end users' interest in performing deeper analysis. When you add analysis notes to your reporting, however, be selective and strategic (Figure 2.6). While the first round of comments might be exciting, the thirteenth time probably won't be as invigorating. You want to be sure you can maintain your momentum throughout the life of the reports. As such, you should focus your annotation on what is most important, unique, or topical so that it truly stands out to your stakeholders. These two simple steps are guaranteed to deliver a hard reboot to any web analyst who is feeling more robotic than heroic.

Figure 2.6

Figure 2.6 Adding context, insights, and action steps to your reports will make them more actionable.

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