I love to track personal activity data. I track my weight, lean mass, fat mass, heart rate, calorie consumption, calorie burn, running pace, running distance, cadence, cycling speed, cycling distance, cycling cadence, power outage, elevation gain, cumulative fatigue, and on and on…
I track all this (and other stuff I will not bore you with) partly because it serves a practical purpose, and partly because I am someone who loves the intellectual challenge of building functional workflow for capturing and using that data to drive decisions and continuous improvement.
This Christmas the hot item under the tree for me was the UP24 by Jawbone. This will be my second Jawbone UP, and I have about a year of experience using the UP, along with other devices, to track activity.
Based on this experience, I have stumbled upon some insight from my personal analysis and workflow that I think is equally relevant for data driven business.
80% of time is spent on data capture
If you have spent any amount of time with a personal tracking device, you will quickly realize that you spend…well…most of your time focused on data capture. The majority of my time spent interacting with my Jawbone App is to enter food information, or adjust sleep data, or shift the app into different measuring modes.
I understand that some people will have a fitness band which they put on and never touch, but I would argue that to get real value out of a fitness band you need to be quite disciplined about ensuring that you are entering the relevant data consistently.
I believe that the same applies to business. If you are serious about making data driven decisions, you need to invest some time and money into data capture. It is not good enough to just purchase some hardware and turn in on.
A great example is Google Analytics. Many businesses who build a website will install Google Analytics but very few will take the time to customize Google Analytics to capture custom data that is relevant to their KPI’s or goals. Using custom data capture in Google Analytics or a service like StatHat is real data capture.
Strategy Takeaway: Take time to identify your investment of time and money in data capture. If you are “collecting data” but not investing any resources to do so, you are probably not capturing the data that matters.
Not all the data is relevant
There are many bits of captured or estimated data from my UP24 that are simply not relevant, or more accurately, are not relevant to Me at a given moment in time. My UP24 app will inform me of the the estimated amount of sodium and fiber in my diet, which is good information and likely is relevant for some who are trying to keep to a low sodium high fiber diet, but is not critical for me at the moment.
Or, my UP24 will keep me abreast of exactly how many steps I aquired throughout the day in a handy “Timeline”. Again, interesting but not really important for me. I know I am active while walking to work, inactive when I sit in front of my computer and active again when I commute home.
Studying this information, just because it is available, is not the best use of time. I personally care about my aggregate consumption and activity per day, and my aggregate sleep levels. If I can keep those personal KPI’s in line for six months consistently, then maybe I can move on to more nuanced refinement, like nutritional balance.
Too many businesses we work with are getting drawn into highly nuanced data insights, when they are not measuring and managing the basics.
Strategy Takeaway: Master the data capture and management of your macro measurements first, then move on to more detailed data measures for refinement. The detailed analytics are not relevant until you have mastered the macro analytics.
Data is personal
Hardly a day goes by when someone does not ask me about my UP24 band. As popular as these fitness trackers are, they still seem to fascinate and people want to understand why and how you are using the device. Inevitably I am drawn into explaining all the great data I am tracking with the device and how I am using this data to improve my lifestyle and maintain some balance.
Despite my best efforts to make it interesting, the poor individual who asks this question is usually left looking pretty bored after 5 minutes. They are probably interested in the abilities of the band, but are not interested in my data. They are day dreaming about how the device would be useful to them, and the data they would like to capture and utilize.
The data that we capture and assess is utimately useful to address personal needs and pain points. Each one of us is looking for some comparison in data sets that is relevant to us. Our contribution to a successful quarter, our performance vis-a-vis peers, our success in driving growth or improving throughput.
Strategy Takeaway: Individuals will collect, manage and assess data to the extend that it is relevant to them personally. Design your data collection and assessment to be personal and it will drive more engagement in the collection and processing of data for decision making.
We can only measure part of what matters
Despite the many cool things that my new UP24 band can measure, it still cannot measure when my daughter is sick, or I injure my back, or I meet up with a friend I have not seen in 15 years. Life is significantly more dynamic than any fitness device can account for.
Whether I should stay up a bit later, or have that extra beer, or sit on the couch all day should be driven by more than the difference between calories consumed and expended on a given day.
I find the UP24 is incredibily helpful to make me aware of the basic trends in my personal behavior, but this simply provides a starting point in a personal decision.
Strategy Takeaway: Allow your data assessment to start a decision process, but allow experience, context and many other inmeasurable insights to refine and finish the decision.