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February 1, 2021
Data Visualization

Using Monitoring and Investigative Metrics in Your Reporting

From the outset of any data project, you need to determine what metrics your users need to see in order to do their jobs, and what specific metrics are most important for them to take action on. We like to split metrics into two main categories when it comes to reporting: Monitored and Investigative so we can structure the data in a way that works best for the given user or task at hand.

What’s the difference?

Monitored metrics and investigative metrics are both fairly self-explanatory — monitoring metrics are checked on a frequent, often daily basis, while investigative metrics are used to provide additional context. The way these metrics are viewed is based on what you are currently investigating.

Monitored metrics are used to keep tabs on a key data that provide quick reference and scale of a problem — if any at all. Typically checked daily (or more), these metrics help your employees to take action in the moment — and are usually trends, patterns, or exceptions. An example may be today’s sales revenue and how it compares to last year. Or current supply exceptions and how much of an increase that is week over week.

Investigative metrics are used alongside monitored metrics to go deeper into the understanding of the data. Your decision makers use these metrics as needed to better understand and take more informed action on the issue at hand. Continuing on with the supply example, if current supply exceptions are higher than usual, an investigative metric may be the highest and lowest supply of items broken down by store.

The reason it’s important to distinguish between these two types of data is because you’ll want to show these metrics differently to different users. Which brings us to how they work together.

How do they work together?

Monitored metrics are used as a quick indicator of overall data health. Similar to monitoring your blood pressure, these metrics should be easy to access quickly for your users. But in order to understand any underlying problems that may be present, your decision-makers may need to take a deeper dive into your investigative metrics (ex. What’s causing the high blood pressure?). 

Because of this, you may want to consider giving different views of these metrics to your employees based on their role.

For your back office employees, like your analysts or business-decision makers, you’ll likely want to provide them with both metrics so they have the tools to do their own investigative digging to uncover additional insights. Part of their role is to understand both forms of data in order to make the business more successful, so you’ll want to ensure that these individuals are given easy access to both.

For your frontline employees, you may only want them to view monitored metrics. Since these individuals are on the frontline, typically they are often on the go, directly working with your end customer.  For these users, time is limited, and they need to see simple indicators of health (ex: a quick check of your vitals) so they can make changes to their actions in the moment. The key here is that they need to understand what action to take without more investigation. So be sure to provide training on what actions can be taken to improve the paired-down monitored metrics you do show.

How do they impact reporting tools?

When it comes to visualizing these metrics, you’ll want to show monitoring metrics in your report or dashboard at a glance — because as the name implies, your decision-makers use these metrics to make quick, in-the-moment calls in their work. So present these metrics first and clearly — maybe at the very top of your report with larger text to signify importance, or as the first few metrics they get every day via push notifications.

For investigative metrics, you’ll want to allow your users to dig deeper into the data. You’ll still want to prioritize showing the most necessary metrics first, but then let your decision-makers choose their own path to dig deeper (investigate) by giving them the ability to create their own views of the data. For example, create a report that has clickable links in the data to get to a more expanded view, or let your users create their own pivot table to view the data cuts they need.

Wrapping Up

While they are clearly distinct from each other, it’s important that both types of metrics are traced back to core business objectives. If you are showing metrics or data that don’t actually matter to the business impact you are aiming to make, then it doesn’t matter which type of metric they are.

That’s why it’s always important that you have a consistent process of asking questions that define what you monitor, as well as investigative questions that are asked to support what you are monitoring, so that both of these metrics are consistently informed by your business objectives, and they actively help your employees address them.

Get a deeper dive into structuring your report or data tool in our complete guide here.

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RevUnit is a technology studio that helps supply chain clients identify and implement data solutions that actually prove ROI. We help organizations across industries like transportation, freight, logistics, retail, and manufacturing achieve business results through innovative data solutions — powered by AI/ML and the cloud. We’ve done it for clients like ArcBest, J.B. Hunt, and Walmart.

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