Win Big With Web Analytics: Eliminate Data & Eschew Fake Proxies

One Focus The hardest nut to crack in any type of analytics is getting our decision makers (bosses, leaders, marketers) to take action based on data.

The hard nut is not that we all are doing basic reporting about Visits and Bounces. Ok doing just that is lame. But still that's not all of it.

It might shock you that the hard nut is not even that we, the people who "play" with data, the Analysis Ninjas if you will, are not leveraging custom reports and advanced segmentation and activity alerts and all that cool stuff.

It is that no one wants to take action on our data. Ok not no one. But most of the time no one takes action based on our hard work.


To illustrate perhaps the most obvious, and yet hidden, problem I wanted to share with you a recent experience I had with data. It was not in the context of web analytics and yet I think it presents a solution to our problem.

On my (beloved) Nexus One android phone one of my absolute favorite applications is Cardio Trainer. I just love it. The UI and the UX and how it is so darn easy to use (and much more well thought than competitors like My Tracks). You must get it.

I use it when I do any kind of exercise (or hike with the kids). You just open the app, say Start Workout, choose the type of work out (running, biking, elliptical, horseback riding, and 15 other choices) and you are up and running.

It starts tracking you (GPS and what not), pauses when you pause, and if you choose even talks to you (motivation!).

When the workout is done it gives you. . . . data!

cardiotrainer workout data

Awesome right? What analyst / data person would not love this.

There is a sweet map (I can switch to the satellite view and see the buildings I went around!) and there is lots of data.

Time: 0:22:07  Distance:  6.74 kilometers Speed: 18.3 km/hr Calories: 207

It is a great dashboard.

For the first few times I used CardioTrainer I loved seeing the data (almost more than the fast bike ride). I would switch the map to the satellite view and drill down into the woods and the lake and the trees.

Of course I would look ay the data and maybe remember fragments.

Remind you of something?

Perhaps your web analytics dashboard. Or perhaps your "data summary report". Or, hopefully not, the data puke that goes to the entire management team.

Initially everyone's happy, nothing much happens, yet it feels good.

In my case pretty soon I switched to another view of the data, this one. . . .


Shorter summary. No gimmicks like the map. : ) A bit more data.

I can see Total Climb (elevation): 16 m. I can also see the min and max for Speed (max 25.1, min 7.5). Pretty good right?

This view felt better. It seemed like less data.  Bit easier to remember the Calories.

I am embarrassed to admit that having two more speed numbers (min and max) made me forget the speed even faster, and that's a number I love to remember because I want to constantly beat it.

More data did not make life any more data driven.

Then the other day I noticed that CardioTrainer was auto-updated over the air (love this Android feature!).

When I was done with the workout I was astounded to see this when I hit the End Workout button. . . .

cardio trainer new dashboard

All my beloved data was gone and it was replaced by this simple message:

2 Pears

OMG! Awesome!

Here is what was so cool (and not it was not just the Great Job! line):

    1. All that data I had before had meant nothing. I remembered little. There was not much I changed or actioned based on it. Having data felt good. Did nothing. [Remind you of your Visits, Visitors, Page Views and Bounce Rate reports?]

    With the new "dashboard" I realized I needed to ride more / harder instantly. Two pears was simply unacceptable!

    [I am up to four pears, in just one week! ]

    2. This one is key.

    The CardioTrainer team took time to truly understand why I, and many others, workout and translated all that data into a clearly relatable and understandable "bottom-line outcome".

    I exercise to stay fit (and not become overweight!). Calories and elevation and speed and distance are all great. But they are two steps removed from the outcome.

    All those numbers don't matter. It is hard for the "HiPPO" (me!) to translate that data to understand what was the impact / outcome. Burning more calories seems obvious, but how much? And what did 206 calories mean?

    Not any more. Now I can take those pears and tie them to how much I had consumed all day (vegan healthy food!), make a decision and take action.

I had all that data before, detailed data, and yet I hardly new what it meant. Now it was crystal clear: I had burned off an equivalent of 2 pears. I needed to change.

When you think of your day job as an Analyst. . . are you simply communicating data or do your reports have the equivalent of two pears?

For most of us the answer is no. No pears.

We love and provide data.

Not surprising that getting leaders to make decision is such a hard nut to crack right?

Here are two lessons I took away from this experience that are relevant to our efforts to create a data driven experience.

The "2 Pears" Web Analytics Action Driving Philosophy:

1. Simplify & focus.

    Become a ruthless killing machine when it comes to metrics/data. Especially if the audience is our beloved HiPPO's or Sr. Management.

    Our job is not to impress them with data or show them how clever we are with our segmentation strategy. Our job is to communicate, convince, drive action. CCDR. If you need a new acronym.

    Ask yourself why every piece of data is on the report / dashboard / presentation. If it is not "instantly useful" kill it. And enjoy the kill.

    Here's how: Kill Useless Web Metrics: Apply The "Three Layers Of So What" Test

2. Truly madly deeply understand the desired outcome.

    The glorious thing was not just removing the data, it was the profound tie between the activity (exercise) and the outcome (more pears!).

    In our case activity = website and outcomes = what?

    That is the secret magical awesome question that needs answering.

    It is not page views and bounce rates and time on site and browser versions. Surprisingly it is not even conversion rates or goals met. Very often all these metrics fall in activity.

    What is the point of Videos? Downloads? NO!

    What is the point of Ecommerce? Surprisingly.. NO!

    What is the point of Page views? Not really.

    What is the point of Current disasters listing? NO!

    As an analyst for each site my job is to figure out what the "2 pears" are. I mean really figure it out. Not look for proxies. Pears! Talk to people, beg your management, be willing to go out on dates and take one for the team.

    What is the one thing that matters the most, the reason why everything else happens, the singular reason all that data exists?

    Then focus just on the pears on my Sr. Management reporting / presentations.

    What was the change in "pears"? What we should do more? What should we do less?

    End of the story.

    Here's how: Win With Web Metrics: Ensure A Clear Line Of Sight To Net Income!

That's it.

Two simple lessons that if applied well will begin to move you towards communicating your brilliance the way it was meant to be communicated, and shift your organization to being more data driven.

Now every single time you look at your dashboard / performance summary / reports ask yourself this simple question:

Got Pears?

Ok it's your turn now.

Is the reporting you do crystal clear on the "pears"? If not why not? Have you seen other examples in the wild of insights presentation that have made you go "ah ha!!"? Care to share tips you have used to communicate effectively with your data audience? What is your company's secret to taking action based on data?

Please share your thoughts / critique / tips / screenshots / experience via comments.

cardio_trainer_qr_codeOh and before I forget. . .

If you are on the Android platform go get CardioTrainer now!

Simply scan the QR code on the right with the Barcode Scanner app and before you say abracadabra you'll be on your way to happier data driven workouts!

Couple other related posts you might find interesting:


  1. 1

    This is very interesting.

    Back in 2007 I believe it was, I bought the iPod + Nike+ application. For those of you who don't know what it is, it's a sensor that you slide into a slot specifically made for Nike+ that syncs with your iPod and tracks your running / walking data. When you're finished with your workout, you simply plug in your iPod and iTunes will sync it up with Nike to present you data – and lots of it!

    Back in 2007, you could see every data point that you could imagine, and even compare your stats with those from the rest of the country. After about a couple of weeks, I got bored with it and stopped using it. It wasn't good enough to just see the data and the reports anymore. I needed a "two pears" type of thing, and it never happened. Maybe Nike+ has been updated since then?

    This is a type of presentation tactic that I could take advantage of – I'm afraid to say that I don't do anything like a "two pears". I'm sure that I'm not alone there.


    P.S. Off-Topic Question: How do you find carrying around the phone while hiking / biking? I find that I simply cannot carry around my iPhone when running (it flops around in my pocket, and when I hold it, I'm scared of dropping it, and I really don't like those arm / waist band things).

  2. 2

    On a day to day basis I advise our clients to strive for relevancy. We tell them to make their material on their website more relevant to the customer viewing the website. But, when explaining why the decision maker should investing $$ to make changes, I sometimes skip the vital step of making the data more relevant to the decision maker.

    Even a basic metric such as bounce rate is sometimes lost on a decision maker until you make it relevant to what they are familiar with.

    Usually the familiar term that works the best is monetary value, which is one of the more difficult metrics to get from a website without an e-commerce system.

  3. 3

    I like the advice, Avinash. I'm developing a dashboard for some marketers at the moment and it's starting to get a bit cluttered.

    At this point I can either scrap what I have or keep the metrics I've identified and slowly "shave" off the unnecessary/unhelpful ones.

    It's due this week so I think I'm going to have to use the latter approach. Hopefully seeing everything will prompt a lot of "so whats?," allowing me to clear things up a bit.

    Great reminder, thanks for the post!

  4. 4

    Hi Avinash – I love the creativity you've mentioned here and I think this kind of thinking goes a long way towards proving the data and the action required.

    It is no doubt tempting to try to prove your own worth by blinding with science but if you're speaking to someone who thinks Web Analytics is a foreign country, all the numbers and pretty graphs in the world won't get through.

    I think it actually can prove more to take this approach. Like Twain's "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.

  5. 5


    If it was running = congrats.
    If it was cycling = more training, man. ;)

    Thanks for the article.

    Web Analytics Europa

  6. 6


    I have trouble with this too. It seems like some clients just refuse to put into action my recommendations, which baffles me since they are paying for our knowledge. I recently started to shave down my reports, and have put more emphasis on what they may be losing by not implementing changes. It really seems to help.

    In fact, for most clients I don't have an actual dashboard of data. I don't want them to concentrate on that, I want them to see the problems and the solutions, not the numbers.

  7. 7

    Great post, and to further Ben's comment above, I find that many times client's might not want to sort through all the analytics to find the pears, but if they are paying good money for their services, they want to see the nuts & bolts of your work sometimes.

    Depending on the client (Always know your client) it's sometimes useful to show the extended analytics, but then clearly present the take-away and actionable insight -> pears. :)

    Thanks for the read.


  8. 8

    Joe: Great example. iPod + Nike was a great combination, and I have heard the same stories from my friends who have it. Initial euphoria, but only the most die hard "fitness fanatics" (/data geeks :)) stuck with it. I don't know this for sure but I suspect a "two pears" approach would have worked wonderful for them.

    That's the thing we Analysts forget. You can have the data in the background, should anyone care show it to them. But focus on the pears. Most of the time if you worked really hard and segmented and analyzed and custom reported and what not your presentation of just the pears will accomplish much more than pimping data.

    Brian: You are on the money! In more than one way.

    It is astonishing how powerful a $ sign is. I find it is best when the number after the $ sign is very large, or very red. In both cases people jump to action! : )

    Josh: It might seem counter intuitive but in my practice I have found so often that using the data to raise the right questions ("their" questions) than my valiant attempt at providing answers using my analysis. At least the first few times.

    Data to raise questions. Who would have thunk? : )

    Ben: Excellent advice.

    It is hard to resist the temptation to do data puking (after all they are paying for "data") or for the client to simply ask for tons of data thinking that is how they are making you earn your consulting fees.

    Both wrong strategies of course.

    We have to do all the work, but like you said we must focus on the real proxies for action, not the fake ones.

    Did you see the "Monetize Potential Returns" example in this post, it's #8:

    ~ Barriers To An Effective Web Measurement Strategy [+ Solutions!]

    Your example of "quantifying what they might be losing" made me think of it. I think that is a fabulous approach.

    Eric: I do want to rush and clarify that I am not saying not do the analysis or don't have reports and segments and what not configured in the analytics tool. That is important.

    But it is not important to present all that to a client. If you present the "pears" by doing the work up front to figure out what the client is actually trying to accomplish then I suspect they won't want proof that you did the work. They might be distracted by the valuable "pear" data.

    And if they ask you for the "nuts & bolts" you can always tell them…. "let me open site catalyst and show you how the eVars and sProps are correlating to customer satisfaction of hits and bouncing bunnies". : )

    Regardless of all else your advice to "Always Know Your Client" is killer. Thank you.


  9. 9

    Presentation is everything.

    (Well, as long as it's backed up by good math….)

    2009 and 2010 being what they are, economically, I often find myself in position of showing them less pears than they want to see, especially since they thought they worked really hard on things.

    I think, Avinash, that you experienced the same issue with your workout. I blame the recession. But I digress.

    What I always have to ask myself first is what kind of pears would Hippos like to eat? Do they like Green bears, filled with revenue driven fiber? Or brown pears, that maybe stay with you a little longer, and have a greater health benefit.

    In other words, you need to convince them that while revenue is the bottom line, that's lots of other important lines above it. Lines that show trends in the popularity of their product set, and lines that speak to the quality of their product and their customer service.

    These are the bushel baskets our pears come in.

    If they want to count them first, by all means, let them. Counting is easy to do on an elevator. And they are neat, shiny, and travel well.

    We need to design pretty bushel baskets for the deeper meetings though. I'm going to think about that one for a while.

  10. 10

    Hey thanks for the great content as usual. I find myself relying on your books all of the time for advice.

    I'll be honest it came as a surprise to me that conversion rates and goals are not considered pears. These are the metrics I have been using to prove progress and invoke change. I feel that pointing to the money is difficult with professional services firms compared to eccomerce. Although I suppose if you can track which leads led to big money and prove the traffic source, that would be a pear.

    You are a smart man. Thanks for your awesomness.


  11. 11
    Gill Potter says

    Your examples highlight the difficulties well. With the NYT there is a pretty clear input->output relationship. However, with places like, you start to loose the plot. Sure, ultimately it is about selling a shed load of Wheaties, but is the website driving those sales? Is attribution always such a clear a->b->c connection?

  12. 12

    Interesting comparison of Analytics with CardioTrainer. I use a Garmin Forerunner 305 for running. It gives me a huge amount of data but over time I've decided that there are really only 3 pieces that I am interested in: Time, Distance, and Pace (which is really just a relation of the first 2).

    Are web analytics the same? Will just a few key metrics give me the most actionable data? I am beginning to think so.

  13. 13
    Bhavinee says

    Hi Avinash,

    Thanks for your very educating fun-to-read blog posts. As a newbie in this field, I'd like your advice on the following:

    Would money saved by using a particular corporate mobile tariff plan (vs. not using that plan) count as "pears"? In my understanding it would; and it would be more persuasive to provide that information to corporate admin users rather than "data" about spends on various services (SMS, voice calls, GPRS, etc.) or usage statistics for various services month-on-month.

    Thanks in advance for your guidance!

  14. 14
    Dr. Hamid Raihan Ansari says

    Now this has solved a great problem faced when explaining analytics to the doctors and dentist. As i write about dentistry and also urge my colleagues to do it, the data on the traffic hardly ever impresses them. But I think I have found a way to convert the data in a perceptible, may be tangible picture and let them feel the impact. Thanks for such a brilliant post.

  15. 15


    I really liked this post. Like the analogy and story you spoke of, it was simple and to the point. What I really found interesting is how the pear concept seems like both out-of-the-box thinking while also forehead-smacking obvious.

    It's easy to fall into the trap of providing pages and pages of reports and data and numbers etc. etc., but, in a way, it's a cop out. "We're analysts and our job is to analyze and report data so here is a boat load of data and analysis! See?! We're doing our job!"

    If I buy a ticket to see an orchestra, I'm not paying to see the sheet music. I'm paying to hear the musicians bring it to life – to make it more than black ink on a page. For a musician, it's about transforming something two dimensional into something audible, visual, emotional. Something a non-musician can understand, feel and be affected by.

    Whether it's data or music or anything else, if we're to add value and have an impact, we need to be translators and musicians. Not just messengers.

  16. 16

    @Chris: That is a really, really nice analogy.

  17. 17
    Jey Pandian says


    Your comments are spot on. I discovered the immense value of this recently and have been using it to very good effect.

    PR initiatives are often thought as very difficult to measure for different industry verticals.

    I had one campaign where we'd do an event for a medical client and the client would be happy it placed in nyt or any of the major publications but didn't track it beyond that (I wonder if this case is prevalent everywhere else too).

    I took the campaign and figured out the underlying business goal e.g. get more patients/products sold and mapped it back to the pr initiatives.

    Knowing that one spent $$$ and gained back 3 patients (using an example like your pears) definitely opens up the eyes of decision makers and puts things in perspectives.

    Love it!

  18. 18

    Avinash, this is a great article! Increasing the relevancy and immediacy of our results to clients is critical for driving change.

    Wouldn't it be great if GA, SiteCatalyst and the other systems enabled us analysts to instantly communicate the [pears] to clients? Seems to me it should be relatively easy to build from a UI perspective, e.g. using Events & Goals in GA:

    1) Select with Event to interpret (e.g. 'Membership Confirmed', 'Chat Support Started', 'Catalogue Download')

    2) Define interpretation of that Event (e.g. 'Membership confirmed' = $$$/yr, 'Chat support started' = $$$/instance, 'Catalogue Download'= Tree saved).

    3) Assign values (e.g. 'Membership confirmed' = $1000/yr, 'Chat support started' = $50/instance, 'Catalogue Download'= 0,01 Tree saved).

    4) Let the counting and visualization of more relevant communication begin!!

    Ofc, getting clients to assign a value to something like a new email sign up can be hard, but force them. It the end the critical part is not if the value is exact, but rather if things are moving in the right direction or not.

    Let me know what you think!

  19. 19

    Kevin: This is a tough thing to deal with. You don't really want to dampen the spirits so how do you do that if the story is just ugly?

    A lot depends on your personal real of the situation and the people. But I have personally taken the approach of understanding the real "pears" and just delivering the message, because if it is horrid they probably want to know.

    The other trick I use is to depersonalize decision making. As you have read in Web Analytics 2.0… I use various techniques (benchmarks, goals, indexes, competitive intel etc etc) to have the data (for the pears) be depersonalinzed when presented (i.e. "this is not my opinion rather in context of these other things here is what the story is").

    That tends to work. But it is a very hard thing to do and requires effort.

    Sean: In many companies (say all except online ecommerce pure plays) I increasingly find that conversion rates and online goals are considered to be tertiary outcomes. People care about the impact on offline sales or they care about other metrics beyond Conversion Rates (which honestly when presented in aggregate, as they often are, tend to be quite meaningless).

    Hence my quest to understand if even conversion won't move you then what will? Then invest to find that! Pears!! :)

    Gill: It is perhaps not as easy as a -> b – > c I have had the privilege of repeatedly using strategies such as controlled experiments (Page 205 of Web Analytics 2.0 if you have it) to measure this type of an impact.

    But I have to admit that my first step, for sites like generalmills et al, is to identify the micro conversions and work with Finance to quantify the economic value. That is almost always such a big win that getting support to do the above (controlled experiments) becomes so much easier.

    These are tough problems and don't have simple solutions (lower bounce rates!!), but they can be solved and they are worth a lot when solved.

    Greg: I think you are on to something. I have talked in my books about the concept of the Critical Few. But in this post my encouragement was to go even beyond Critical Few to the "one thing that matters more than all else and let us all first, above all else, focus on reporting that" type of thing. :)

    Chris: Fantastic, fantastic, analogy!

    Bhavinee: Your client (/boss /decision maker) will be the best person to tell you if "money saved" is a "pear".

    But it is really great to think of cost savings as a pear and not just revenue or economic value (my fav!). We often forget that and we should not. Thanks for the reminder.

    Jey: You have highlighted a very common problem. Not just PR professionals but I would hypothesize, sadly, that most marketing efforts online are not tracked using anything.

    Your example of tying the hospital's spend to patients garnered is most wonderful. Outcomes can be measured no matter what you do and I am thankful to you for inspiring others with your example.

    Christian: The problem is that web analytics tools believe their primary job is to provide data (or as I like to say: "puke data"). Some, but not all, have grown up to provide features like advanced segmentation, custom reporting, customizable dashboards etc. Btu still at the center of it all is this mission: "we will provide data, you figure out the rest".

    That's why you don't see much focus, in your words, "increase the relevancy and immediacy of our results that data is driving change".

    We, the tool users, must understand that there are limits to what a tool can do that will apply to everyone. You'll still have to identify the "pears" (even if I think the tool can help you identify goals if you outline the site purpose). You'll still have to identify the value of the "pear". Etc etc.

    I am hopeful that tools will evolve. [I remember Dennis Mortensen showing me a tool, 2 yrs ago, that came so close to being absolutely perfect for this purpose. Sadly it got killed. I miss it.]


  20. 20
    Abhishek says

    Hi Avinash,

    Awesome post… and i have a question would you please elaborate "What is the difference between Google analytics paid and free services? "


    Abhishek: There is only one version of Google Analytics. It is a free product. -Avinash.

  21. 21

    I really like this post. Great job (as always).

    Really spot on and yet still difficult to see it applied – whatever it is about online data or other, people likes to fill in posters with data, charts & graphs. Throwing away dashboard it took months or years to build to replace it by 3-4 outcome metrics is a very tough move.

    Convincing stakeholders to do it isn't easy – even if it is common sense they love their dashboards like if it was their own pets.

  22. 22

    Michael: You are right, it is not easy to present just the pears (and it might not be right for every level of the management team).

    Here are typically three reasons managers (especially Sr. Managers / VP's etc) want data rather than insights (or "pears"):

      1. They don't trust you (not you of course, the broad you). This is extremely common. The management team does not think you know what you are doing or that you have the "smarts" to find what is of value so they feel it is safer to ask for a "data puke" that they can then interpret.

      2. We have never actually provided "pear" data (truly, really, understood what was important to the decision maker and delivered just those insights). The company has no idea what to expect, they ask for data pukes.

      3. No one in the business has any idea why the website exists and hence no idea what success is (or should be). It is safer then to just hide behind data pukes and feel like everyone knows that is going on and what they are doing.

    These are corrosive things. None of them are the fault of data, though data seems like everyone's whipping boy.

    They are all problems of people. Sometimes we can be cognizant of them and try to fix them. Other times we can't fix them so we have to make one of two choices (to avoid job frustration): 1. Quit the job if that is a possibility and work for a company that is more evolved or 2. We are unable to quit the job so we do the best we can at the company we are at.

    Regardless it is tough. But few things desirable in life are not tough. :)

    My hope is people (Web Analysts / Marketers) will recognize what the root cause is and attempt to fix it, rather than blaming data (or even "management").

    Thank you!


  23. 23

    1. They don't trust you (not you of course, the broad you). This is extremely common. The management team does not think you know what you are doing or that you have the "smarts" to find what is of value so they feel it is safer to ask for a "data puke" that they can then interpret.

    Especially accurate if they intentionally don't want to believe what you are showing could possibly be true.

  24. 24

    @Avinash – I think your response to Michael could almost be a topic for another post (if it doesn't already exist…). It sheds light on challenges a web analyst faces that has nothing to do with data or analysis – instead, it's people.

    Not an uncommon problem, though. I've heard doctors say that medicine is the easy part of their job. It's running the practice/working with certain people that makes it a challenge.

  25. 25


    Loved this post specifically and the blog in general. I work in Japan with an all Japanese staff. Psyched that Web Analytics – An hour a day is published in Japanese. We just purchased 3 copies. Any plans for Web Analytics 2.0 to be published in Japanese soon?

    A couple of questions/comments:

    1. Did CardioTrainer allow you to select the food or did it assume a "pear" was relevant? To me a pear seems kind of random – a beer or a glass of fruit juice would be better. Anyway, maybe that's a suggestion for the app developer.

    2. Loved Chris' analogy about the orchestra and the sheet music. I will definitely be re-using that.

  26. 26

    @Avinash: I (unfortunately) fully agree with your points. While it is reassuring to hear your comments, it is also a bit demoralizing as well to see that it is such a common problem in (too) many organizations. Sometimes, being a Web Analyst just feels like being Don Quichotte – fighting windmills.

    I must say that I have been sticking to choice #2 so far but it would be a lie to say I never considered #1. But somehow, I am an optimistic (or should I say naive :-)) guy so I keep on my fight against the windmill. Until now…

    Thanks again for your insightful feedback.

    @Chris Leone: In my opinion – the "people" aspect (which includes politics, culture, psychology…) is one of the biggest and thoughest challenges in building an online data-driven culture. I mentioned this point in some of my posts (if I may do some personal promotion):

  27. 27

    Bill: Translations for Web Analytics 2.0 thus far are: French, Italian, Chinese, Polish, Spanish, Czech, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, and Korean. Sadly no Japanese yet. I hope it does get translated soon as it is a much more cooler and advanced book.

    To your questions….

      1. CardioTrainer does not allow you to pick a food (though I have recently seen oranges). I think point of the pear is that it applies to everyone while the beer might not (for example it does not apply to me). But I agree that choosing your "fruit" or "connective tissue to the desired outcome" would be a great idea.

      2. 100% agreement with you on Chris's analogy. It is brilliant. And yes I will also be stealing it! :)


    Michael: I think you are an optimist and that is a very good thing.

    I think the problem with many people (not you) is that they are unable to recognize when they have done enough of #2 and the problem really is #1, or worse #3. We should get good in our ability to analyze those situations and take appropriate actions.



  28. 28
    Ned Kumar says


    Another wonderful post and advice. Cannot agree more with the first identifying the 'pear' before creating the dashboard.

    Your suggestions are good not just to avoid "data puke" but also to avoid "death by powerpoint" (info overload to the point of boredom) and senseless bling-bling presentations (a jazzed up presentation lacking the analytic & data foundation).

    One small point if I may add is that sometimes you can convince your boss why "pears" might be good for him by reinforcing it with the pears for his boss :-).

    Also, I agree that sometimes it is not easy to present just the pears. However, (imho) to convince your boss and the organization to move in this direction, the Analyst Ninja should also take on some Ninja Leader qualities — not be afraid to challenge the status quo, perseverence, adaptability to multiple personalities & behaviors, collaborative etc.

    Enjoyed the read as always.


  29. 29

    I love the article, but suggest that the idea could be taken too far by some. For example, some reports are useful for benchmarking success, and certain types of data may not seem like a "pear" at first but could prove to become a pear, once it is collected over time. So the important thing to remember is this works very well, but only for DASHBOARDS! The simple point to add here is that you probably don't want to throw away a lot of that data just because its not a "pear"! Here is a real world example…

    Would anyone here consider reporting on the number of external inbound links as a "pear". No not really! Showing that number, is often asked by SEO teams, by the way, because it is one of several factors that can improve rankings. Really the "pear" that the SEO team wants, is to show that an increase in traffic, that leads to an increase in revenue or leads by keyword by day or month or what ever. But when there are millions of keywords driving leads, we tend to focus on that number total leads or revenue number. We pull out all the data, for the sake of something high level and easy to remember, perhaps we even pull out the number of inbound links from the dash board too… sound familiar? The problem with that is then once we have some nice high level dashboards ( with no "pear" data removed" and then someone asks.. well why do we have all these "pears"? Or where did all the "pears" go? Then the data is no longer there… Just something else to think about… end to end sorta stuff.. know what i mean?


  30. 30

    Ned: It is prudent to keep the hard work and slog in mind, as you mentioned. This is not the game for the weak to play. It is the game for the brave who want to win.

    My hope is that our peers will realize that the pear model usually won't work if we push the pears in a vacuum.

    I have found that it works best when I and you and others put in the effort to figure out what the pear is for the Sr. Leader. Then show them that and there is no way they won't buy it… because it was their pear! :)

    Warren: You are right to stress that one must calibrate the altitude correctly. In the post, and in subsequent comments, I had mentioned that the "pear" approach was for Sr. Leaders / Decision Makers in the company and not so much for your immediate boss (assuming he does not fall in Senior category) and not even you in some sense (you'll do a lot of hard work up front!).

    When you or I or the Analyst is analyzing the data we'll do it from a "data puke", that is the way to go. Then we segment, we benchmark, we connect it to tribal knowledge and more. Then it has to all disappear, replaced by the "pears" as we strive to get our leaders to take action.

    In scenarios where we are blessed for the leaders to ask "why the heck did that happen?" we'll refer back to our "data puke" / analysis to quickly answer the question. The usual assumption, and you are not making this, that we'll include all the detail with the "pear" and that that will help answer the "why" is flawed. Sr. Leaders are missing lots of context and more (even as they have other context we don't).

    Thanks for the excellent comment.


  31. 31

    You pears example seems to imply a pretty low information threshold at a senior level.

    What would you suggest would be the "pears" on the executive dashboard of a Walmart, Home Depot or other global retailer rather than cold hard revenue figures?

    1)Shopping Baskets being filled
    2)Dollar signs on a fruit machine
    3)A shareholders smile that gets gradually broader
    4)A spinning globe, ever expanding corporate colours and a sign saying "you can now afford another shop in Asia!"

  32. 32
    Jey Pandian says

    Mickey Mouse,

    In your case, the revenue figures are the pears. Avinash, correct me if I am wrong but the "pears example" is basically data which decision-makers can look at to make actionables.

    Mapping revenue to numbers e.g. data is the holy grail.

  33. 33

    Mickey: I'll encourage you to re-explore the key message of the post. It is not to achieve a "low information threshold", rather it is to encourage a very very heavy amount of work to figure out what Really Matters and focusing on that. Just that.

    Give 'em the gold with recommended actions, and not the data pukes we give today.

    Jey is right that for some of the sites you mention Revenue might be the proverbial pears. At least you start there. Then morph to indexed revenue (against your performance / goals, or better still competitors / ecosystem). Our management teams love that.

    But in many companies that is not the "pear".

    At a recent engagement it turns out it was not the revenue that the CEO cared about. His jaw dropped when we showed that Customers acquired via online campaigns who purchased on the site then went on to the store and purchased an additional $5.47 of products for every $1 spent on the site.

    Can you believe that? Almost 6x additional impact on the business that matters: Retail stores!

    He does not care about the site. He cares about his 1100 stores in the US.

    And it is my job (and yours) to not kill him with conversions and bounce rates and page views and all that "crap" (note the quotes). Rather to figure out what's the thing he really cares about and tie our job to delivering that insight.

    That's when decisions get made. That's when people take action on data. That's how you induce minor orgasms.

    I don't know what the right answer for Walmart or Home Depot is (I have not had the privilege of meeting their Sr. Management recently). The answer above from the multi-channel massive retailer maybe right for them, it may not. You have to be willing to put in the hard work to figure it out. And then deliver it.

    If you find out the answer is the shopping basket being filled then use it. Whatever it takes for a company to become profitable and for the company to earn the kind of return on your (and my) salary that they deserve. :)

    Good luck!


  34. 34


    The "pears" made me think of a concept that Jim Collins observed in his book "Good to Great" he called the "economic denominator". In the book Jim and his research team found that all of the GREAT companies had a laser focus on profit per X. The X was different for each company and often very subtle, but it made a massive difference in the trajectory of the company.

    One great example that he used was Walgreens. They changed their focus from profit per store to profit per customer visit. That drove them to focus much more on convenience. As a result, they would often times build multiple stores very close together in order to maximize profit per customer. In New York City they had one area where they had nine stores within one mile!

    So the first challenge is to have leadership that has clarity around what that economic denominator is. Then you know what the "pear" is and your analytics need to relate back to that.

    Thanks for the great post.

  35. 35

    Good post, I think the problem with many people is that they are unable to recognize when they have done enough of #2 and the problem really is #1, or worse #3. We should get good in our ability to analyze those situations and take appropriate actions.

  36. 36

    Great Post Avinash,

    I am thinking of using a five star rating for each of my "KIA"s and then presenting the overall performannce on that same 5 star rating.

    That way the CEO will be like "ok i get it".

    Sometimes less is really more.

  37. 37

    Hey Avinash,

    Thanks for those great ideas shared. That was so helpful and informative. Really interesting and creative stuff. Thanks sharing.

  38. 38

    Very nice post

  39. 39
    Nick Payne-Roberts says

    Very good post. It's all about Data vs information. So few people understand the differences between the two. We have now, so many ways to collect data, but regurgitating it is meaningless without interpretation.

    As Marketers, we should always dissiminate data into meaningful information in the simplest and most pertinent manor, depending on the target audience.

  40. 40

    Hi, Avinash, awesome insights. really love this post.

    Lots of the time, companies give us loyalty points when we purchase something from them. But it's not always clear what will I get suppose if I made 500 points. There aren't any concrete outcome like if you make 500 points, I am going to give a pair of free shoes or shaving razor or a discount of $10 or $20 etc.

    When It not clear what will I get once I reached certain goals, It doesn't motivate me to purchase more from them and dump their competitors. As you once said in your TMAI, if people don't understand the "why", why they should sign up for your newsletter or purchase more from you etc., then people will not go to do a business with you.

    • 41

      Bhola: In this context the app is being used by you to record your exercise, you are coming into it with certain pre-set understandings. You would like to be healthy, you are exercising to burn calories etc. So, the outcome is built in already. We know what we are shooting for.

      The data in the end sadly still does not quite make it real. The pears do do that really nicely. You can now have the equivalent of two pears, or that you burned enough calories from the two pears you ate. :)

      The app Waze is an example of points you accumulate where you get nothing in the end. Literally nothing. Yet, their research shows that people are still motivated to do the right thing and they love accumulating points. Gamification works.


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