Daily Data

I had a call this morning with a CEO of a young company I’m on the board of.  They are well funded so they have plenty of urgency, but no panic, around what they are doing.  During the conversation, he asked what he could do to increase the board member’s visibility of the progress they are making. 

I told him to start sending out “daily data”.  There is a lot of data flowing through their system and there are several different dimensions of growth that are easy to measure.  Rather than hand collecting stuff, I encouraged him to automate all of this right now, while the company is young.  It can be web-based data (which I’d just toss in my daily information routine) or better yet emailed to me so it shows up with other reports like this in my daily folder.

Many of the companies I’m involved in do this.  A lot of them provide the data weekly, although I always prefer to get it daily as I feel more engaged and can synthesize the trends better.  I also notice the step function changes a lot better when I’m seeing the data stream by on a daily basis.

An example of what I’m talking about is the Lijit Stats Robot.  Every day I get an email from the Lijit Stats Robot that includes the following daily data:

  • Total signups
  • # users who visited the site
  • # of non-users who visited the site
  • Sign-up conversion rate
  • # of searches
  • # of Re-searches
  • # of Re-searches from other search engines
  • # of Re-Searches from Lijit
  • # active search Wijits
  • # Wijit views
  • # unique Wijit views
  • # distinct publishers searched
  • # distinct publishers Re-Searched
  • Top 10 publishers searched
  • Top 10 Wijit views
  • List of new publishers (and where they came from)

Another example would be the data I see every day from Gyminee

  • Users
  • Actives
  • % Active
  • Paying
  • Trial
  • % Paying
  • Cancel Rate
  • Projected Revenue for the Qtr
  • Views
  • Monthly Views
  • Unique Visitors
  • Monthly Unique Visitors

Obviously both of these data sets are trending data sets so I see the trend rollup monthly, but by getting to see the daily data a quick glance can often generate an interesting insight.  It also causes me to spend at least ten seconds thinking about the company each day, which probably serves the CEO well as it increases the likelihood that I’ll notice something else throughout the day that might be helpful to him.

  • Thanks for this. This isn't only valuable for board members to look at, it is also very valuable for the founders to see on a daily basis. When we launch http://konnect.me formally, I'll make sure we have something like this in place because I know if we don't, we won't see this on a daily basis.

  • Aren't you overwhelmed by the daily data? Wouldn't you prefer to see a visualization of this information giving historical and comparative context? I've tried the daily metrics and found it more valuable as a CFO to see it aggregated once/week…especially when it's as granular as the statistics you presented above. I can't be strategic if a daily metric falls off the table for some reason that's usually irrelevant in the long run.

  • Sam

    Great post Brad! @Gregg at Workstreamer we have it pulled into a Google Spreadsheet so that anyone on the team can view it 24/7

  • Tom

    My first reaction was the same as Gregg_Smith's above. Does the daily data come with any trend data, to allow you to place that day into some context? If not, you must have a great memory. Another interesting post. Love to read.

  • Isaac

    Another benefit of it being daily is a guarantee that the report will be automated. A monthly, or even weekly, summary could still be muddled through by manually checking some stats, but daily pushes you to bite the bullet and automate.

  • We live and by die by daily stats — users, membership, routes, workouts, goal signups, how found locations, etc. We even display % growth compared to weeks prior so we can easily identify problem or growth areas. Raw #'s are great but sometimes it's more important to see that you're down 10% compared to yesterday, last week, but up 20% compared to last month.

  • Brad: My question takes a different angle. While transparency between board and the company is critical to move the company forward and all the information is shared transparently at board meetings anyway, it also seems with daily data transparency, there has be strong implicit trust to make this data readily available. Without it, it seems there is a risk that daily data going to all increases the risk to not giving the team time to digest, react and move accordingly before board involvement. How do you balance how you use the data and when you "get involved" based on the data? Would be interested in your perspective.

  • Sam

    Lou – That is a great point too. I just heard a lecture by the Dean of Tuck Business School where he basically made the claim that Boards are really the ones responsible for this financial debacle: http://bit.ly/mUCcp In that case, I wonder if all boards should be demanding this type of information/transparency because, do you really know what's going on 'under-the-hood' if you're only seeing aggregate data that may or may not have been manipulated?

  • As the supplier of that data I can tell you it doesn't work for everyone at the board level.

    When its someone that 1) wants to see that level of detail, and 2) can deal with day-to-day variations, I think this is awesome. On good days everyone knows it – On bad days everyone knows it. This doesn't replace monthly or quarterly data but for pulse on the business, nothing is better. We also do live TV screens in the office with hourly numbers to make sure everyone know exactly where we are.

    Without this kind of thing its way to easy not to deal with things until the next board meeting packets gets produced.

  • There is a real danger of losing sight of the big picture. But more data for investors is almost always better. I like weekly updates myself.

  • John Mueller

    Brad, good information in terms of the actual data type that is provided. Many people in just say provide the daily data and then not provide a framework of what type of data to provide. Your examples are good. This gives people an understanding on what to provide (and what to ask to look at, as some board members might be left in the dark in terms of what type of data to ask for — the CEO should, however, point them to the right data in that case).

    The technology is available to provide board members (and other stakeholders — including team members / employees / partners, etc.) with the fine grain data as well as the summary data. It is getting easier and easier to keep track of data as the input mechanisms are getting more prolific. If a company collects the fine grain data, then you can almost always provide a summary. You want to be able to let each individual member of the audience choose what level of data they want to receive. However, the caveat is… make sure providing the data doesn't cost more than the benefit it provides. However, in this day and age, the technology is there to do that depending on your company's infrastructure. As you point out Brad, most new companies these days are setup to support this option of collecting fine grain data on their operations, or at least can move in that direction fairly easily (as opposed to when they are further down the road in their maturity)

    However, it is another debate for another time about if people should be looking at the minute-by-minute data. Some will argue that is a problem in today's "I want it now" society. I don't know if that attitude is good or bad overall. It should not be assumed that looking at the daily data doesn't stop someone from looking at the longer-term data. For me, I tend to look at both. As for which type of data I look at first at any given time, it really depends on what has lead up to that moment which I am looking at the data. I would think there is a balance somewhere in terms. For the companies that I built in the past, I provided as much detail as possible to the stakeholders (with different layers of reporting), and then let them decide how to use it.

    That said, data is only good as long as you can interrupt it properly.

    – JM

  • I have to disagree with this… giving board members "daily data" encourages them to micromanage the business. Young CEOs sometimes make the mistake of thinking they "work for" the board (and inexperienced board members make the same mistake). Truly a CEO needs "daily data" to run his business, but he should roll it up into "monthly data" for progress reporting to his board.

    Boards are great for advice, big picture discussions, introductions to relevant contacts, and strategy. Get them involved in day to day operations of a small company and bad things happen.

  • I skim the daily data rather than study it.  As a result, I develop good pattern identification over time.  I never make decisions or reach conclusions from the daily data – it just let’s me get a regular pulse on what is going on.  Over time, the monthly trend data is the most useful time interval, but I find that skimming the daily data really helps me have a continual frame of reference on the business.

  • I have a great memory for numbers – always have.  As I’ve mentioned in other comments, I’m just skimming the daily stuff looking for patterns and my brain manages to pick up interesting things this way.

  • You make an important point.  If there isn’t a deep degree of trust between the management team and the investors / board members then this will be a disaster.  In the cases where I’m involved, this trust exists.  I also am very careful never to make short term decisions based on the data I see.  I use it to identify patterns that prompt questions, but always with a larger arc than “right now.”  There are also plenty of investors / board members who will never look at this data anyway – they are usually correlated with the ones that would overinterpret it if they looked at it.

    Fundamentally, the relationship between the CEO, management team, investors, and board members define how effective daily data would be.  It’s a good indication that there is a potential fundamental issue of trust that needs to be explored if the CEO doesn’t trust me with real time (or daily) data.

    • Thanks Brad. Clear that as long as there is mutual trust and thus expectation setting, it is a best practice to have this data available to all. I would suspect also it makes board meetings that more productive and strategic because members already have solid gauge on trends and thus the summary reports are review. The rest of the (if everyone has this background) can be put to greater discussion points such as action steps and strategic conversations.

      Thanks for the list of data points, this will prove useful for anyone thinking through management/board dashboard initiatives.

  • By definition boards should have access to this data if they want it.  If a CEO is not comfortable sharing this data in real time, then there is a deeper issue of trust.  However, just because there is the trust that a board (or investor) can deal with this data on a daily basis won’t mean that it will be useful – that’s going to depend on the skills / personality of the board member and the dynamics of communication between the board member and the CEO.

  • Seeing the data on a daily basis has zero impact on my level of engagement / involvement in the company.  It’s simply another “data stream” for me to think about.  I agree with you on the problem of the inexperienced board member thinking he’s the boss (idiotic) or the inexperienced entrepreneur (or – in plenty of cases – the experienced entrepreneur) thinking he/she works for the board (naïve).  In addition, I think personalizing “the board” is a huge error – you are dealing with individual board members who each have different skills, abilities, interests, and methods of interaction.  The CEO should understand what works or doesn’t work for each board member rather than applying a generic template to them.That said, I don’t think you’ve got cause and effect right here.

  • tim

    best post in ages … really!

    i love the idea but detest the delivery mechanism.

    we deliver the key metrics to stakeholders via a secure, real-time, graphics-based digital dashboard.

    so instead of sending out unsecured and potentially unwanted emails, the stakeholder can login on demand and get the skinny.

    • I get them both ways (and don’t care which approach is used).  The web-based (with secure login) is certainly safer but obviously requires action on the part of the person looking at the data (pull vs. push). 

  • I have a great memory for numbers too – I know all 10 of them. I just can't remember which order they're in or what they apply to. That, however, makes your point even stronger, IMO. I love this idea. I can choose to look at it at whatever frequency I like and to see trends with as many data points that make me feel like I'm getting real info. Thanks.

  • Hello Brad,

    Great post, thanks a lot for sharing.

    I´ve heard people suggesting up to 3 key metrics. Do you disagree?

    Also, how much do you spend looking at that data? I thought it would be better to have weekly data, but after reading your post, I´m changing the way I´m going to look at my online courses sales data.

    Thanks a lot, Miguel, from Brazil

  • I think humans can handle a lot more than three metrics.  I look at the data daily, but I don’t ever make decisions based on the daily data.

  • Bernie Daina

    When Robert McNamara turned around Ford Motor Company and then ran Defense for Kennedy and Johnson, he wouldn't consider anyone's point of view without a barrage of supporting facts, figures, and statistics. He instilled discipline and precision in his organizations but, in the early years of Vietnam, also inadvertently trained his people to manufacture numbers that were specious and targeted at what they thought he wanted to hear. He wound up with an inaccurate picture of what was happening, and promoted people who could speak in numbers, regardless of their veracity. The numbers actually blinded him to the overarching truth. The obvious lesson: furnish numbers that the people on the ground themselves consider truly useful in diagnosing and managing their activities and avoid the temptation to furnish numbers for political reasons, or to impress others with one's command of details.

  • to daily data we can use different type of micro..which will help us getting data very easily..but micros should be good enough to give all these data easily..And

  • to daily data we can use different type of micro..which will help us getting data very easily..but micros should be good enough to give all these data easily..And managers collect data to know the progression what will be the next step..but it is not automated it will take a lot time to see and take decisions….

  • The technology is available to provide board members (and other stakeholders — including team members / employees / partners, etc.) with the fine grain data as well as the summary data.

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