Friday, 17 October 2008

The importance of metrics

I met up with some intranet managers the other day and there was a lot of talk of metrics. How many page views, how many users, who had clicked what and so on.

The conversation swiftly turned to which software each of us was using. However, I am sure that this was missing the point of metrics.

Here are my thoughts and experiences of metrics

1. In dealing with your stakeholders you always need to think about what you want your metrics to say. At first this seems counter to logic. Surely if we produce some standardised numbers then the 'truth' will appear before us? I would argue contrary to this and say that you need to use your site stats to support your strategy. If your intranet is about costs then show graphs about cost, if your intranet is about communications show graphs about communications. If you are forever getting into unproductive debates about something then use your stats to put a lid on it.

2. Design your stats to support your arguments. If you are doing this then it is unlikely that a standard stats package does the job. One of the things that I needed to do in my role was convince stakeholders that using the intranet was something that our staff did do. Back then nobody believed that the intranet was a viable platform for our business. I selected a metric that would convince those around me of this and also had some likelihood of success.

3. Put in the hard work to get the stats. If you need to collect stats by hand and process them in long convoluted ways then allocate resources to just that. Spend time in the presentation and rigour of your charts and graphs and perhaps prepare a dashboard.

4. Spend time communicating. Use your stats as a regular part of your governance meetings and carry them with you at all times. My dashboard is always with me and I find I use it in half of all my meetings.

By doing a good job of your metrics you will keep focus on output measures of success rather than random opinion of 'what makes a good intranet'.


  1. Hi Allen, nice post. Probably self-evident, but I think worth re-stating:

    "Provide a contextual narrative to support the hard stats (such as those from log files)."

    Providing a narrative about developments inside (and outside) the organisation during the report period makes a huge difference for stakeholders. Not only does it help you (as a channel owner) flag correlations and draw out insights, but it helps stakeholders avoid ‘numbers-fixation’ and contextualise the data properly. This is especially useful if you need to move the conversation on from one of pure traffic / usage levels, and start to look at actual drivers.

    That narrative could be a simple mini-diary of events and developments at various organisational and external levels. You might have to put some regular manual effort into maintaining it, however this is something your metrics package (alone) will not be able to provide.

    In a similar vein, co-presenting insights gained through qualitative research (user consultations etc.) can be also be invaluable.

  2. Alan,

    a couple of good points there. Narrative and commentary are great tools on your monthly report.

    Agree totally - including qualitative data is absolutely part of the right metrics. I think most intranet managers either think this is 'too hard' or look at it in too general a way. Using qualitative data in the context of a stakeholder management strategy will lead to more useful measures.

    Mind you I am not too keen on 'asking people what they want' (vs observed behaviour) in a general sense - a subject of a future post I think.

  3. Allen - I hope you won't mind me being a little provocative. For some time I have promoted the view that for an intranet HITS stands for How Idiots Track Success. Hit stats have about the level of value of the time it takes Google to do a search. They have no relationship to the value of a page/piece of information.

    At a recent intranet governance workshop I ran the attendees came up with the following list of ways to evaluate intranets

    Attending meetings (eg of sales managers)
    Audience panel
    Card sorting
    Content contributors (talking to them as well as ‘users’ was important)
    Emails sent to the intranet team
    Feedback forms
    New users (ie making a point of talking to new users, who may have good intranet ideas
    Pop-up surveys
    Power users
    Search logs
    Sentiment analysis
    Staff surveys (a question on the intranet inserted in a more general staff survey)
    Tagging of content
    Telephone interviews
    Usability tests
    Usage statistics

    The general view was that you probably need to be using at least four or five of these to assess the value of an intranet.


  4. Hey there

    All seems fine. But how do we get people started. Some systems have metrics implemented allready, but it would be nice to be able to point people in the right direction. What tools could they use, standard/custom reports, how often to measure, who to involve etc.

    Any suggestions on what tools people could use? I'v got a Sharepoint platform. Currently 2003 version, going on hopefully soon to 07, eventhough version "14" is coming withing a year or so.

    We've done our own metrics measuring from logfiles. I've tried 3. party cheap software, but what are the alternatives?

    Anyone got some suggestions on tools to use, i.e. loganalyzing on IIS intranets?



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