At InsightSquared we are passionate about two things: small businesses and analytics. So it should come as no surprise that when the small business blog at the nytimes.com published a post on dashboards by Josh Patrick, we were definitely going to devour it. The post made the rounds in our office yesterday. Go check out the article before you read further.
Ok, you’re back? Great. There was a lot to like about it. One section really stood out for me:
Finally, I realized that I needed to create a reporting system that would provide me with critical information. That was crucial to keeping me focused on solving problems and not blaming others.
But doing this required two cultural changes and one technical change. The first cultural change was learning to trust the decision-making power of supervisors and managers. The second was allowing mistakes to be made. I just had to find a way to make sure the mistakes were learning opportunities.
I really liked the two pronged approach Patrick describes to incorporating more analysis into his business. It wasn’t just about the technical challenges. It’s easy for us here, as a software provider, to focus on the difficulties in generating reports and analysis for our customers. But you’ll never realize the promise of all this information if you don’t create a culture that is ready to look for, accept, and act on that insight.
Patrick’s second “cultural change” really resonated with me. He describes a process where he used the data surfaced in his reports “to start transitioning from being a screamer to a coach”. The most successful sales leaders I’ve interviewed describe their job focus as coaching their teams. One VP of Sales said to me that sales managers should spend 90% of their time teaching. I had always thought it would be the absolute opposite, with 90% of their time talking to customers and acting as the heroic closer, bringing in the big deals.
And the usage patterns of the small business owners analyzing their Salesforce.com data in our own InsightSquared product bears this out. Each of our reports have 2 – 5 variants for viewing data (by creation date, by close date, by employee, by team, etc.) on subsequent tabs.
4 of the top 5 most viewed tabs in our product are “by employee” breakdowns, like the one on the right.
It’s not even close when it comes to determining the most popular analysis. Here is an example of how the “by employee” report variants (blue line) dwarf other report types:
Having seen this in our own data, I set out to ask our customers what they’re using these employee focused reports for. And the answer resoundingly came back “for coaching”. Our customers schedule one-on-one meetings with their employees. They bring up the data and review the employees performance. They find the weak point in that employees recent performance. By identifying employees’ weaknesses with the data, the business owner then has the foundation to create the professional development plan each employee needs. It’s not just learning for the sake of the employees’ professional development, but the long term performance of the company.
And as Josh Patrick points out, the goal is to build a work environment with less yelling and less stress. Who wouldn’t want that?
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