Crowdsourcing Data

The internet has changed so many facets of our lives.  Its ability to connect people, machines and devices virtually anywhere in the world together at relatively low costs have made real things that were only science fiction when I started by first business 26 years ago. In fact, much of what I can provide to my customers now would have not been possible even just a few years ago.

Even 20 years into the internet revolution, new and amazing ways are being found to utilize the internet. One of the latest is crowd sourcing.

The term “crowd sourcing” effectively means using members of the community to achieve what would be difficult, too expensive or even impossible to do using traditional means.

Crowd sourcing has become a popular way to fund new projects for example.  Over the last few years websites like Kickstarter have sprung up that are allowing entrepreneurs to go public with little more than an idea.  If they like it, individuals can pledge funds towards the idea and if the target is reached the entrepreneur gets the money they need to get started.

Crowd sourcing of data is a little different.  It involves members of the public producing data points on a particular metric which are then accumulated to produce a picture from thousands of locations which would have been too expensive to have been accumulated in any other way.

There are some great examples of crowd sourced data projects around the world. For example, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology are working on their own data incentives.

In the UK the Natural History Museum runs a number of crowd sourced data projects doing wildlife surveys. Sometimes these are with regards to specific species in specific localities and in other cases they are covering virtually every living organism across as much of the country as possible.

A project called the Air Quality Egg has been developed. This product is an inexpensive sensor that measures air quality, gas levels and environmental data. The idea is that if hundreds of citizens across a city purchase these eggs and connect them to a common platform the combined data will provide new insights into the quality of air we breath, and the factors that influence it. The data this platform produces can be analysed to determine such things as how the structure of the city is influencing micro-weather patterns and pollution levels; to give early warning to people with respiratory issues and more.

This approach provides more data points than is possible by normal measurement techniques, it is highly scalable and is able to be deployed globally at very low cost.

Google is using crowd sourcing to update its map data for Google maps and add real time traffic level, and in Finland they use crowd sourced data to determine which roads are iced over.

Closer to home projects exists similar to those above. One great example using both crowd sourcing of data and crowd source funding that has been in the news just recently is the Coal Dust Action Group in Newcastle that are studying the effects of particulates emitted by coal trains through their city.

In this case a crowd sourced funding project was used to purchase measurement equipment and professional advice in order to collect the data.  It’s a great example of these approaches being applied under what has been termed “Community Science Projects”.

Of course these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.  Crowd sourced data projects elsewhere are being used to collect the cultural language and artistic history of declining cultures; measuring the impact of major development projects on the community and the environment and even to work out what the best surfing spots are.  The possibilities are endless.

But what about crowdsourcing of business data! There now exists the possibility of gathering statistics on business confidence, average debtors ages, commercial activity, overdraft interest rates, staff levels, churn rates and more.

If you know of other great crowd sourced projects or have ideas crowdsourcing data that you’d like to see, let us know on our Facebook page.

Pitching from a mobile platform

Pitching to a group

Several of our customers and Bizeo partners have asked us about the best way to present Bizeo. Our customers want to use Bizeo to pitch data to a board, while our Bizeo partners want to pitch Bizeo data to their customers or potential customers.

One of the great things about Bizeo is that it works well on virtually any platform or device—old desktop PC, the latest Windows 8 PCs, an iPhone or iPad, or an Android phone or tablet (and even a Linux workstation, Windows 8 mobile or new BlackBerry).

However, if you’re using Bizeo to present to a group, there are a few small things you can do to make it easier.

Apart from plugging a projector into a laptop, which is the most obvious thing to do, you have a few great options for using mobile phones or tablets to present on large screens. How you do it will depend mainly on the type of platform you’re using.

Using an Apple device

If you’re using an Apple device, such as an iPhone or iPad, you can either:

  • purchase a HDMI out adapter and plug into a large screen or projector that way
  • spend $129 on an Apple TV device to wirelessly connect your Apple device to a large screen. This is possibly the best option, as it looks and works fantastically sitting at your desk with your iPad displaying wirelessly on a large screen.

Here’s a short video showing you how to do that:

http://cnettv.cnet.com/connect-iphone-ipad-ipod-touch-your-tv/9742-1_53-50151019.html

Using an Android-based device

If you have an Android-based mobile phone or tablet, there are ways you can do much the same thing. First, you can get HDMI or Micro HDMI adapters for most Android devices and some have HDMI outlets built right in to them.

You don’t need to be too envious of your Apple-fan brethren either. Many Android devices, such as my Samsung Galaxy S3, support a feature called AllShare Casting. Like the Apple devices, you need to purchase an external system that supports it. In my case, I purchased a Samsung Blu-ray player that incorporates ScreenCast support for just over $100. Many new TVs have this facility built in and the process is similar to that required for Apple devices.

Bizeo works amazingly well on the small screens of mobile platforms. No other system makes it easier to track exactly what’s going on in your business, and even retrieve and view graphs of KPI data on a small screen. But sometimes you need to share and that’s where a big screen comes in handy.

Do you have other Bizeo tips and tricks that you can share with the community? Let me know at mike@bizeo.com.au

At the movies

This week something a little different—a movie review. The movie is the 2011 drama Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt.

This movie is based on a true story. It’s the story of Billy Beane, the manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, a small major league baseball team with the third-lowest budget in the league.

Billy was tasked with winning the World Series against teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, which had many times this team’s budget.

Billy was smart enough to realise that competing against these vastly better-resourced teams on their own terms was never going to work. He needed a game changer. Literally.

When he met Peter Brand, an outspoken economist who believed that baseball could be played with a scientific methodology rather than the traditional ‘experience and gut feeling’ methodology, he took a chance—and won.

Here’s a short clip from early in the movie where these two men have just met:

http://youtu.be/qd1aZb4ORmw

And here’s another towards the end of the movie:

http://youtu.be/L-ZHLfhU4vA

Ok, so why am I doing a movie review on a business blog?

I love this movie because it highlights the shortcomings of an approach that many business owners are still using to run their businesses. And, as Peter Brand puts it, these business owners are ‘asking the wrong questions’.

Never before has the business world undergone so much change in such a short period of time. We’re now seeing entire industries being routed or transformed, and others emerging in the blink of an eye.

The game has changed. While experience is still important, knowledge and understanding of the past is not always the best preparation for the future.

If you own or run a business, go and watch Moneyball and then reflect on how you play your chosen game.

Strategy without metrics is no strategy at all

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that using KPIs to drive real improvements in business outcomes is a passion of mine. Metrics have always been important to me.

However, in the last few years in particular, I’ve been investigating how various organisations use KPIs (and when they don’t). I’ve also studied the behaviours and cultures around KPI usage, and strategies for their implementation. And I’ve seen some ineffective strategies around.

Looking at the entire sales chain

Quite often, I’ve seen businesses use metrics to measure targets, such as profitability, stock return rates and staff retention, without considering the metrics that might drive those outcomes.

To me, this shows a lack of understanding about how to develop effective business strategies—strategies that have structure and forethought likely to produce the intended income as opposed to just a measure of the result.

For example, the process of measuring sales outcomes is quite well defined. Yes, everybody looks at sales revenue and net profit. However, we analyse the entire sales chain.

Savvy managers also look at metrics such as the number of leads generated, conversion rates, time to close etc. By using this well-defined business process, professionals have learned to measure the metrics that drive the outcome, not just the outcome itself.

Unfortunately, I don’t always see this type of methodology used elsewhere.

How metrics drive your stock returns

Let’s look at another example—stock returns. Anyone who sells merchandise knows there’s a high cost associated with returned stock. In some industries, a single returned item might cost the organisation the equivalent margin of 10 or more sales!

So let’s think about the types of metrics that might drive a particular stock return level.

Perhaps:

  • the wrong products are being shipped
  • the addresses are incorrect
  • the products have a higher-than-expected failure rate
  • the products aren’t meeting the customer’s expectations.

Depending on the product, dozens of factors could be driving a high or low return rate. Yet many organisations don’t monitor these metrics effectively enough to determine the core causes or, just as importantly, help them drive change.

Another example is staff retention rates. However, I’ve saved this one for next week’s article, so keep an eye out for it.

What’s your strategy?

If you want to improve your organisation’s performance, you need to start developing a strategy to improve it and, of course, measure it. Because any strategy without metrics is usually ineffective.

Just a few things for you to think about…

Undergoing change? How do you keep on top of things?

Problems of time and money

One major problem with most methods of business reporting is that they take time and money to set up. And these two resources aren’t always in ready supply.

For example, take an organisation that’s undergoing either significant growth or a merger/acquisition. In these situations, it’s common for the normal business processes and systems to become overwhelmed. Suddenly, your accounting system is insufficient or maybe you end up with multiple financial systems. Or, worse still, management must contend with getting data from multiple systems.

Yes, the ideal solution is to migrate to a more capable, unifying platform but, again, this takes time and money. Sometimes it never happens.

While these problems are being sorted out, leadership tends to run blind. Even if leaders facing these issues have some idea of what’s going on, they’re certainly not fully informed.

Where Bizeo comes in

There are several reasons why this situation is perfect for Bizeo:

  1. Bizeo is quick and inexpensive to deploy. You can set up connections with new systems in minutes and it doesn’t require IT intervention.
  2. Bizeo is designed to handle  data from many physical locations at once. Just install a drone and away you go.
  3. Bizeo is easy to use, so managers don’t have the learning curve usually associated with using, say, a new business dashboard.

And even if your business has bigger plans, and the resources and budget to produce the ultimate management information tool, nothing beats Bizeo in these scenarios.

And who knows—you just might find that management never wants to let it go!

CEOs—needing to know more but reading less

The pressure on CEOs and business owners these days is immense. There are so many competing priorities and people constantly demanding their attention and time.

This makes business management one of the most time-poor professions.

Despite these pressures on their time, it’s still vital that business people keep up with what’s going on in their business and industry. They need a lot of information quickly. But how best to deliver this information to them?

In a recent survey of more than 350 CEOs, ceo.com set out to establish how CEOs consume information. One key finding was something that I also hear repeatedly from business owners regardless of media type—information must be bite-sized, relevant and immediate.

Additionally, 70% indicated that they seldom read textual content online in full; instead, they scan this content for main points just to keep on top of things. (I hope they’re reading this!)

The survey also found that CEOs are becoming increasingly ‘information agnostic’. This means they care less and less about what format their information takes as long as it’s immediate and consumable.

I’m fascinated by findings like these because they accurately reflect my own experience as a CEO. They also reassure me that we were on the right track when we created Bizeo. What could be more immediate and consumable than a single indicator that lets business owners know that everything in their business is ok?

In some ways, it’s a ridiculously simple concept and yet, amazingly, noone has done it before! Noone has used a single indicator across dozens of systems to relay that one simple message.

It’s official. CEOs don’t want reports, dashboards, phone calls or information they have to chase—just time-saving reassurance.

Google Analytics—without the overload

Why Google Analytics is great

If you’re a keen reader of my blog posts, you’ll know how much I love to measure things. So it’s probably not surprising that I think Google Analytics is an amazing tool.

Google Analytics tells you everything you want to know about your website:

  • where visitors come from
  • how long they spend on your site
  • what they click on
  • where they go to
  • and much more.

As I said, it’s an amazing tool—in trained hands. The problem is that it’s also pretty typical of the business dashboards that most business owners encounter.

How business owners (don’t) use Google Analytics

When I ask business owners about Google Analytics, I find that most have heard about it. In fact, most are pretty sure they’re using it. However, none are actually looking at the statistics themselves.

Why? Because it’s just too hard.

While they’re interested in how their websites and marketing investments are going, Google Analytics provides too many options. They also need to log in each time and, annoyingly, Google frequently changes the interface so things are never where they were last time they saw it.

A screen shot of the Google Analytics dashboard

Google Analytics dashboard

Yet this tool can provide a wealth of critical detail that most business owners would like to know, such as:

  • How many people visit our site?
  • Are visitor numbers increasing or decreasing?
  • Are people spending more or less time on our website?
  • How much are we spending on Google advertising?
  • Is our web strategy producing results?

These questions show that business owners typically don’t want to do detailed analysis—they have specialists for that! Instead, they want to keep an eye on general trends and the primary KPIs to answer the basic questions: Is what we’re doing effective or not?  Are we spending too much or too little?

They want this information without having to deal with the complexity of the Google Analytics dashboard.

This is one of the great problems that Bizeo solves.

Where Bizeo comes in

First of all, Bizeo can bypass the Google Analytics interface to deliver these KPIs inside Bizeo!

No need to remember the Google login details, no ever-changing interface and no complex menus to navigate. Just simple business KPIs like all the others that Bizeo manages—and alerts, of course, just in case your KPIs go out of range.

Graph of Bizeo showing information simply.

You can also combine these stats with a whole range of other important things you want to watch.

Of course, monitoring whether your website is up or down is important, as is your Alexa Site Ranking, which tells you how popular your site is measured against all other websites on the internet. The specific ranking is less important than the trend.

Bizeo has several KPI packages for Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Alexa ranking, uptime monitoring and much more. Each of these can be put in place at no extra charge and delivers this key information directly to you.

There’s no doubt that Google Analysis is a great tool when it’s in trained hands. But the rest of us can let Bizeo can do all the work and deliver the results. It takes the stress out of managing (and measuring!) your business.

Live data sources at a glance

As you continue to explore the possibilities of Bizeo, you’ll realise that those possibilities really are endless. (That’s one reason I created this blog – to ensure that you’re aware of everything that your fabulous new tool is capable of!)

One feature you should definitely explore is how Bizeo can connect to various live data sources, such as video camera feeds, websites, weather maps and dashboard systems.

What can you see?

Many video camera systems and webcams available on the internet can be set up to have their own URL as well.

For example, with my partner working at the University of Chicago, I can access the university’s webcams to see for myself how much snow is on the ground. http://r-cam.uchicago.edu/view/index.shtml

Chicago snow

If you have security cameras set up around your organisation, you can access those through Bizeo as well:

Office camera

You can link stock prices to the Yahoo finance page – corresponding with that stock.  You can also link to many dashboards and CRM systems that are available online.

How to do it

You can link to all your favourite live data sources simply by using the ‘Link’ option when you add or edit a task in Bizeo.

Bizeo live data source link

You can add any URL to this field. (A URL is usually a link to a website, or a path to a web service or system.)

For example, to see the current weather maps, you can type in the link to the Bureau of Meteorology URL, e.g. http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDR663.loop.shtml. This link gives you the Brisbane weather radar feed.

If your organisation is heavily dependent on weather, this is one you should definitely have in your collection.

Bureau of Meteorology weather radar of Brisbane

Once you start thinking about it, you’ll probably come up with plenty of live data sources you need or would like at your fingertips – for business and for fun. (Because I don’t really need to know how much snow has fallen in Chicago, but I love that I can check it out!)

Use your imagination and let us know if you come up with something new or particularly useful. Better still, post it on our Facebook page so everyone can find out about it.

Bizeo for event managers

Excited early adopters

Having produced a product that helps businesses measure and manage their KPIs, I’ve gained a lot of insight into how different businesses use KPIs. And I’ve seen some businesses get pretty excited once they start measuring them.

A few years ago, my other business, Direct Marketing Software, implemented an online fundraising system for the Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation (FNQHF). It was a completely automated system that enabled people to sign up and set themselves a fundraising challenge. Then they used social media, email and other techniques to sign up friends and colleagues who set their own challenges and/or offered financial support.

The day after the website went live, I arrived in Cairns to train their staff in the system. By the time I got there, they’d already signed up nearly 100 fundraisers and raised more than $6000. It had all been done automatically by the website, and the money had already been receipted, cleared and deposited in the bank account. Go team!

Additionally, by the time I got there, the staff had worked out how to to use the software’s reporting tools to see how many people had signed up and how much revenue had been raised.

Throughout the day, my training was regularly interrupted by operators surreptitiously logging into the system to check out how much money they’d raised now and then…now and then…and now!

With this enthusiasm for KPI monitoring, it made sense that the FNQHF became one of the first businesses to adopt Bizeo. They love that they can see their figures where they’re in the office, as well as on their mobile phone, tablet and home PC.

However, more recently, I’ve discovered another group of people who love having current stats available to them 24/7 – event managers.

Event registration – the all-important KPI

Events live or die by one just KPI – how many people have registered. In event management, most marketing, venue and staff costs are relatively fixed, so event registration is the one variable that uniquely determines an event’s success or failure.

Event managers want to track what happens to registrations after every email blast, piece of PR in the paper and blog post. It’s a fixation for them and rightly so!

Of course, you can often go into your event management software and run a report or access a dashboard somewhere. But these simple KPIs aren’t always readily available; you have to access the system, log in, navigate the menus and run the report.

What if you run lots of events simultaneously? Imagine keeping track of all those registrations!

Why event managers love Bizeo

Bizeo ensures that it’s very simple for you to track this all-important KPI – and access it from your smartphone 24/7. You can also set Bizeo to alert you when you achieve a certain attendance level (e.g. breakeven or maximum attendance level).

Finally, there’s another great advantage of Bizeo – while you’re fixating on that one KPI, Bizeo is quietly monitoring all the other KPIs around your business. It tracks every system and location, only interrupting your busy day if something isn’t right.

Every event manager I’ve shown it to loves the idea and many are already using it. You can still use Bizeo for free for an unlimited time, so you can just try it for your next event and let me know how you go.

P.S. If we don’t have a package available for your particular event management system, let us know and we’ll see what we can do.

Manual KPIs – the key to business monitoring

In my last blog post, I discussed how vital it is that businesspeople monitor their stress levels and I explained how I track such a qualitative indicator using a manual KPI.

As the concept of the ‘manual KPI’ is so important in Bizeo and is the key to monitoring what’s really going on in your business, I thought I’d spend more time on the concept.

What is a manual KPI?

Some KPIs can’t just be generated automatically from a database or other system. They need to be calculated or determined by a human. We refer to these as manual KPIs.

Different types of manual KPIs can include:

  • a point-of-sale environment, where you want to track the length of queues at the checkout
  • qualitative items, such as satisfaction or stress levels
  • any KPI that requires human calculation or where the source data hasn’t been stored electronically (e.g. you can only know how much of your week you spent on a specific project if you kept detailed timesheets)
  • figures derived from a computer system that can’t be, or hasn’t yet been, interfaced with Bizeo.

How to set up a manual KPI

When you set up a manual KPI in Bizeo, it will send a regular automated email to the person who will produce that KPI (which doesn’t have to be you). They click on the link in that email and a sheet opens up into which they enter the details. It’s that simple.

To set up a manual KPI in Bizeo:

1. Go to Edit Mode

Edit mode

2. Add a new task.

Add task
3. For Drone, select ‘Bizeo Cloud Drone’.
4. For Data Source, select ‘Manual KPI’.
5. For KPI, select  ‘Manual KPI’.
6. Enter the email address of the person who’ll be entering the KPI.
7. Type the header and body of the email that they’ll receive.
8. Specify other parameters, including the checking period (i.e. how often you want to receive the email).

Add task2
Once saved, Bizeo will send an email to the address you’ve specified every checking period. The email looks similar to the one below.

email
When the operator clicks on the link, they’ll be taken to an entry screen like the one below. They just fill in the new value and click ‘Update’.

update manual kpi
Now you know how to track even more of your business KPIs than just what’s available via a database.

One final hint

Manual KPIs are great for personal KPIs as well. You can monitor things like your weight, times for your fitness objectives, the number of hours you spend at work each day, and even how satisfied you are with your own or your team’s performance.

The options are endless once you start thinking about it.

If you don’t have Bizeo yet, you can now get a get a free Bizeo subscription for an unlimited time and monitor up to 20 KPIs. I challenge you to come up with all 20! Let me know how you go.

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