Automating your marketing dashboards can mean a huge upgrade for your marketing reporting. When used well, automated marketing dashboards make marketing reports easier to produce and use, and they employ visuals that make results easier to understand. I’ve seen marketers swoon as they watch demonstrations of automated dashboards.
Automated dashboarding tools can do great things for organizations with mature programs for measuring marketing – but they’re not a cure-all. If you are in the process of deciding whether now is the right time to automate your marketing dashboards, here are four factors you’ll want to keep in mind:
You still need to show marketing impact. If you haven’t established what measures show the impact of marketing on your business goals, an automated dashboard won’t do that for you. It might create pretty graphics and make it more difficult for users to realize that the substance necessary to drive business decisions isn’t there – but they will realize eventually. Focus on aligning goals with appropriate measures of progress before implementing automated dashboards.
Bad data undercuts your credibility. If the data feeding your marketing reporting is of questionable quality, or poorly understood, it isn’t a good foundation for your dashboards. Automated dashboards put data on display, and data quality becomes apparent to reporting users. If your data is not in good enough shape for dashboard users to trust the conclusions they’ll draw from it, you’ll be better served by working on data quality before moving to an automated dashboarding system.
Plan for rollout, training and support. Getting the reports right isn’t enough. You need to make sure your target audience is aware of the change and is trained on how to utilize the information contained in the tool. If the audience you serve can’t or won’t use the tool, it won’t provide any business benefit. While the tool you choose may seem intuitive to you, your users may feel otherwise. Monitor tool utilization and use of the information you report on in decisionmaking. Provide an easy way for reporting users to get support, and you’ll improve the chances that your new way of doing things will be accepted.
Analysis is still required. Just because you’ve rolled out your dashboards, don’t think the business can forget about analysis. Automated dashboards can be used to show progress toward goals and show whether performance is on track. But valuable insights come from the analysis done by humans who understand the data and business environment. Add value by providing commentary, drawing conclusions and recommending actions. Sometimes the data speaks for itself, but more often, interpretation will be valued.
If you’re prepared to tackle each of these challenges, now may be a good time to move forward and automate your marketing dashboards. But if you’re not there yet, don’t worry. Focus on the substance of your current marketing reporting and continue with its development. The most important thing is that you build toward marketing measurement that can drive better decisionmaking – regardless of the tools you use.
Ross Graber is a Senior Research Director of Marketing Operations Strategies at SiriusDecisions. He brings over 15 years of b-to-b marketing experience with focus spanning marketing measurement, demonstrating ROI, data management, process development, marketing technology, customer marketing and sales enablement. Follow Ross on Twitter @rossgraber.