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  • Vince Cheung

Performance Dashboards in the Age of Agile

For savvy direct marketers, a proven winning formula is often comprised of a meticulously designed strategy on one hand, and a performance-driven approach to creative execution on the other. In this regard, demonstrating success often hinges on effective reporting that captures both how a campaign is performing and how the results contribute to overall business success.

The good news is there is plenty of raw data to work from across direct marketing channels, and snazzy data visualization tools from which they can choose to put this data to work. The not-so-good-news we typically hear from our clients, however, is that these dashboards often took more time to assemble, appear more static than desired, and quickly become out-of-sync with rapidly evolving business priorities.

At Pragmatic, we often work collaboratively with our clients, across marketing strategy, analytics, and channel teams, to evolve their performance dashboard efforts. At the heart of this approach is the rigor of continuous iterations, which puts the customer at its center. The rinse-and-repeat nature of our approach is especially important to an agile environment, in keeping with the learnings and incremental wins we achieve, as well as clients’ ever-evolving business goals.

Four key considerations for maintaining a performance dashboard

1. Adopt to an evolving business story: Once the hard work to build our dashboard pays off (i.e. it is widely understood and adopted,) do not let inertia take over. The only constant in the business cycle is that goals and priorities will change, and a dashboard that becomes “shackled” by its own success will eventually appear “off the mark.”

2. Form should never be over substance: The explosion of visualization tools and elegantly designed templates often brings instant gratification to dashboard-building. And while it’s easy to stay content with a template that brings a myriad of data points, colorful charts, heat maps, and time-series trends all in one place, we cannot lose sight of the underlying business story. It is perfectly fine to start with templates provided by data visualization platforms, but it should not muddy or compromise the story we want to tell (with data).

3. Be multi-functional without being one-size-fits-all: Inevitably, a well socialized dashboard will end up having to serve many masters. An agile dashboard should be interactive, can be drilled down into different levels of data granularity, and often contain sub-dashboards geared toward specific functional deep-dives.

4. Be pragmatic: Be realistic about the expectations you set for a dashboard, including what should and should not support the underlying business story. For example, a direct marketing campaign dashboard should focus on articulating its performance and ROI, given the relevant target, value proposition, offer, and channels. It should not become a justification for broader topics such as attribution or brand value. While important, these global issues often serve to constrain an iterative, fail-fast-and-learn-quickly dynamic and should be considered cautiously.

If you are embarking on a dashboarding journey, or need to pivot from what you are currently doing, let us know. We would love to hear your business story and help ensure that your performance dashboard is both effective and agile.


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