written by
5000fish Team

Don't Get Stuck With Eye Candy Metrics When Reporting From Cloud Data

BI Problems and Solutions Done for You Services 7 min read

Business Intelligence has become a buzzword over the last decade.

You may be thinking that is a weird thing for a business intelligence software vendor to say but we aim to tell it like it is.

Don't get us wrong, business intelligence can arm a business with data that can help drive strategic decisions. This can separate a fast growing business from their competitors who may be relying on spreadsheets and gut feelings.

But the problem is, many BI vendors are using the hype of BI to sell eye candy solutions.

You can't put all the blame on the BI vendors however. They are simply serving a large number of BI buyers who want to leverage their data to their advantage. But instead of coming with well thought out requirements, they simply go BI tool shopping.

{{Side note: For a deep discussion on how to buy a BI solution, be sure to check out our eBook on the subject.}}

What is an eye candy solution? The simple definition: dashboards and reports that look good but add little value to the business. They make for a great dashboard and look nice, but they add very little value to the actual operations or decision making process of your business.

Where do you see the most eye candy solutions?

Vendors who sell pre-built connectors for many of the Cloud/SaaS software providers.

For example, vendors like Domo, Tableau, Power BI, and many others have connectors pre-built for Google Analytics, Facebook, Twitter, and many other cloud based data sources. And they have a set of pre-built dashboards, purposely designed for those integrations.

It sounds great, it looks great, it's fast and simple to connect, and with a quick demo or trial you have a marketing dashboard pulling in data from all your data sources into a single place.

But that's all you are getting. Everything in one place. All the metrics shown on the dashboard provide little value versus what you get from the native reporting tools of Google Analytics, Twitter, or Facebook.

So what happens in 30, 60 days? No one logs in to look at the dashboard anymore. Because it's just data. It's not something that is really driving any decisions. Anyone who is actually working on doing something with those tools are logging in and using Google Analytics, for example. Only managers want to see the big picture reflected in the dashboard, but once the buzz of having the dashboard wears off, the logins of the dashboard eventually go down to zero. Because it's just eye candy, it's not helping drive your business. You just bought shelf-ware (and probably expensive shelf-ware).

What is the opposite of eye candy?

The opposite of eye candy metrics are metrics and access to data that actually helps you move the needle of your business. We like to put a focus on leading indicators versus lagging indicators when we speak to customers.

We are also a big believer in really digging into your business processes and coming up with the unique metrics that drive your business. These are definitely not eye candy. We call the process of finding these metrics taking your metrics from good to great.

So are you saying it's useless to report on Cloud data?

No, not at all. And if all you are looking for is a single place to view all those out of the box metrics any of the eye candy vendor integrations will meet your requirements. But if you want to get great metrics then tapping into those Cloud data sources is invaluable.

The problem is a live connection to a Cloud/SaaS data source typically requires communicating through their API. For security reasons, they will never give you direct database access. And all APIs have limits. Some limit you to just 30 days worth of history. Some limit the speed of queries. Some limit results returned and you have to do multiple API calls just to see all the data pertaining to a single customer or record. API reporting is extremely rigid and hard-coded, and that's why eye candy vendors can create pre-built connectors and dashboards.

But the power behind Yurbi and what we feel what is needed to take a metric from good to great is the ad-hoc nature of reporting. The exploration of data within a data source and the ability to combine data across data sources for calculations and relationships. You can't do this against an API, but you can with relational databases. And that is why Yurbi focuses on database reporting.

For example, imagine if you could combine the daily or monthly traffic and conversions coming from Google Analytics with purchase information stored in your CRM or accounting system? Or link together the success of that email marketing campaign in Mailchimp with the number of trial activations from your license management system? Tie the incoming phone calls from your cloud phone system with the help desk tickets in your Service Desk application to see a call to first close ratio?

Eye candy vendors can't give you that from their API connection, and it would be expensive to have a developer programmer against the API for a single report request like that. But if you had that info stored in a relational database that you maintain, you could have Yurbi generate that report for you in no time.

So how do we build this relational database of our Cloud data?

Depending on budget and time, there are a few solutions.

SaaS options: As you would imagine there are cloud solutions, that integrate with cloud solutions and store your data in a relational database. Some examples to check out include Segment, Stitch Data, Panoply, and Boomi. They all have integrations with many SaaS APIs and allow you to store the in database either in Amazon Web Services, Azure, Rackspace, or your own on-premise database solution. They take care of the heavy lifting and cost a fraction of traditional data warehousing, however, there is a subscription or monthly cost associated with these options.

Hybrid option: Another option is Data Sync from CDATA. They offer a full cloud, subscription based option like above, but you can also download their software and run the cloud to database syncing process on-premise. So we list this out as a Hybrid option.

D-I-Y option: If you have the developers in-house, you can build an API connector and store it to a database yourself. It sounds daunting when you read it, but for a savvy developer it's not a very difficult task. There is even a middle ground where you can leverage Microsoft Excel programming to manually export data via the SaaS API and then use Excel features to push that data into a database. Over the lifetime of a project, this may be your most cost affordable option and depending on your report requirements, there may only be a few API calls you need to use to get the data you need.

Yurbi "Done For You Services": And lastly, our team can help you with it. We have the expertise in-house to help you work out your report requirements, map what data is needed from the APIs, build the data schema to hold them, and the processes to pull data and store it in your own database. To go full cycle, we can then connect Yurbi to that database and have you up and reporting with great metrics in no time. With this option you pay for our Professional Services and the software cost of Yurbi, but this tends to be a lower cost long term than the on-going costs associated with the SaaS and Hybrid options above.

You decide, what's best for your environment

Eye candy metrics are really tempting. And we have many prospects take a look at Yurbi and ultimately feel like the ease of those pre-built API connectors that other BI vendors are using makes more sense for them. We agree if the goal is to check the box that you have a dashboard.

But for organizations that are looking to have the full power of BI and to be able to do cross dimensional and historical reporting or comparisons against time slices, or to be able to do ad-hoc report building and apply complex formulas to build great metrics that help drive a business you need to sync that cloud data down to a database that you control (and of course Yurbi).

If you feel your business needs a solution that looks more like great metrics and less like eye candy metrics, contact us and let's discuss how the combination of Yurbi and our "Done For You" services can help.

Domo Tableau Microsoft Power BI Done For You Buying Decisions Google Analytics Facebook Twitter Mailchimp Segment Stitch Data Panoply CDATA Boomi