Sunday, August 9, 2009

Monitoring Reports and their Attributes

Reports can be generalized into different types. For example there are testing reports, ad-hoc reports, predictive reporting, dashboards, etc. They have different purposes. The most common type of reporting is a monitoring report.

Monitoring reports are intended to do just that: monitor. They contain the metrics for your site or product that you look at all the time. This differentiates them from reports that are meant to answer specific short term questions such as testing reports or ad-hoc reporting.

These reports are not necessarily actionable based on the report alone. Changes in your reports are often investigated further to determine the cause of the change and the appropriate action needed.

The monitoring report contains the metric drivers for the business and detail about the components of those drivers. For example, if a key metric is repeat use, the report would also provide the visit and visitor components of the repeat use metric. It would also provide the tracking level below to see what contributed to the higher level figure. For repeat use for the site overall, this lower level of detail might be the repeat use by site section, application, or other functional area.

The report is often presented in a trended view and/or in comparison to other similar site elements. In the first case, you are comparing the thing being tracked to itself over time. In the latter case, you are looking at relative value. These become your benchmarks by which you evaluate your tracking.

The report, by nature of its purpose, is provided on a regular schedule. This can be monthly, weekly, daily or whatever the business needs. If you don’t need the information on a regular basis, then it does not fall into this category of reporting.

In order to do apples-to-apples comparisons the report needs to be consistent over time. It should track the same metrics in August as it does in January. Because the reports are consistent they are often be automated. In fact, the site itself should be built to specifically track these metrics consistently.

Note that this is a report and not a dashboard. A dashboard is meant to contain only the top level KPI and would not include the level of detail one would expect in a monitoring report.

When asking your analyst for reporting, keep in mind what kind of report you are requesting. This will help both you and your report provider to better understand the goals of the request.

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