Wednesday, May 13, 2009

5 Types of Success

Not all success is the same. In deciding on the success measures for a project, one must be aware of what type of success is being considered. There can be a success by one measure while at the same time producing an absolute failure in another dimension.

One can have a product of significant interest to users but has poor usability. One can have a product that generates a great deal of activity that contributes little value to the business. Your application’s interface could be perfect where no user ever makes an error. However, the application only calculates yesterday's date and no one will ever care.

There are generally 5 purposes for which various metrics are used. These are concerned with different types of success:

  • Business optimization
  • Feature optimization
  • Campaign optimization
  • Process optimization (usability)
  • Quality assurance

The different types of success measures answer different kinds of questions and the same metrics are often used to measure the different types of success. (Unique Users, Page Consumption, Repeat Use, etc.) Those metrics will have a different meaning depending on which success question is asked. This can lead to confusion both for you and others in your organization so care must be taken to carefully identify what type of success you are discussing.

The type of success measure also tends to map to the responsibility of the “metric consumer”. A Producer responsible for links might tend to look at process and campaign metrics while a product Vice President might tend to look more at business and feature metrics.

  • Business optimization
  • Business Optimization is concerned with the economic success of the company and the metrics are highly correlated to business revenue or strategic goals. In other words, it’s about the money. If you have a media site, this may be ad revenue or Page Velocity. If you have a commerce site, it’s about sales. This type of success measure gets reported to senior management.

  • Feature optimization
  • Feature optimization is concerned with the success of a specific product or application. Metrics are focused on customer interest in the product and its parts. Is the product something your customers want? Is the feature set complete or needlessly complex? A Product Manager will follow these metrics closely.

  • Campaign optimization
  • Campaign optimization is concerned with maximizing the effectiveness of a discrete effort over some period of time. These are the marketing measures used to track reach and acquisition. SEO fits into this category. This success is, of course, what your Marketing Department lives for.

  • Process optimization (usability)
  • Process optimization focuses on user interaction with the product. The metrics are used to improve the ability to use the tool and the effectiveness of the user interface. Can your users operate the tool? Your usability engineers and designers may tend to use this one more than others.

  • Quality assurance
  • Used to monitor the operational conditions of the site. For example, was there a sudden drop in traffic due to server failure or an increase in 404 errors? This type of metric is usually of concern to Operations and Development managers.

When you plan a project and define how you will measure the success of that project keep in mind what type of success you are considering. Often you will be looking at more than one measure of success. Often you will get different outcomes for the different types of success. You may have to decide as a business to prioritize them.

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