Faulty Instrument Readings

I’m not a pilot (although I’ve played Flight Simulator a bunch). One of the things pilots are told is to trust their instruments because sometimes our eyes or other senses deceive us while flying. Things such as graveyard spins or spirals result, and I’m very sure that anything with the word “graveyard” is bad when using in conjunction with flying.

X-Plane 10 Flight Simulator Zero panel

(Photo credit: Wanderlinse)

Business analytics today are exactly the opposite of flying.  You see, there are so many things that can go wrong  – a misplaced space, code missing or in the wrong place – that going by what the “instruments” tell us alone can be fatal.  I’ll go back to a point I’ve stated before – we need to figure out what we’re trying to investigate and why before we ever look at the numbers.  That lets us process the information we’re going to receive in context so we can make decisions.  Knowing your web traffic is up is relatively useless.  What it should prompt is a response into both “why” and “what of it?”  That requires using your eyes and your common sense.  Let me give you an example.

You launch a campaign to increase sales using Search Engine Marketingpay-per-click ads to use a less-fancy term.  You’re smart enough to make sure you have conversion tracking installed – a method through which you can assess how many people who come to your store via your fancy new campaign actually buy something.  Your developers check the code and make sure it’s in the right place and that the beacon fires when the appropriate action is taken.  However, no one ever does what a real-world user would do – click an ad and place an order – to make sure that the “instruments” are picking up the action properly.  As a result, you think, based on the reporting, that the campaign was a tremendous waste of money since it resulted in no sales.  Your instruments just crashed the plane.

Had you used your eyes and common sense, you’d have seen that the ads generated a lot of traffic and based on your history, some percentage of that traffic that stayed on the site (non-bounced visits in tech speak) does convert to sales.  Since that didn’t happen here, maybe something is wrong.  Click an ad and place an order – did it register?

There is a tendency to trust the instruments but unlike the gauges on airplanes, the gauges we use in business are relatively new and far more prone to error.  We can’t let faulty instruments over ride the business acumen we’ve developed over the years.  That can be a fatal error.  You with me?

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