"Time Span" vs. "Time Range"…reporting

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I spent all week in partner training for Eloqua, which is one of the premier marketing automation companies. My company has used them for ourselves as well as for our clients for several years with great results. We’ve recently deepened our partnership so that we can actually set up and manage instances of the system for our clients, which is a pretty exciting proposition.

Over the course of the week, we spent 3-4 hours on various aspects of reporting in the tool. I’d done minimal poking around in the various Eloqua reports prior to the training (my focus to this point has been more on learning the guts of Salesforce.com and our internal systems and how they apply to our processes), and, to be honest, I’d been pretty frustrated.

One of the most annoying aspects of their reporting was that the majority of the reports I looked at were based on selecting a given “time span:” last day, last 2 days, last week, last month, etc. I was usually looking for trend data — how many visits to our Web site by week over the past few months, how many e-mail opens or clickthroughs, etc. Occasionally, I’d find myself buried in the interface at a point where I could specify a time range, but it always seemed like the available reports were pretty limited.

After the training, I have a better understanding of their (wildly confusing) user interface…so I think I can get to many more time range reports now.

More importantly, I had an epiphany this afternoon.

First and foremost, products like Eloqua and Salesforce.com (and Oracle applications, and Siebel, and SAP, and you-get-the-idea) are process automation/optimization tools. This wasn’t the epiphany. It’s just a fact. But, while it’s true that processes generate data, it’s wildly naive to think that a perfectly efficient, perfectly functioning process produces perfectly accessible data. As a matter of fact, there seems to be almost a negative correlation between these two areas. But that’s really a topic for another post.

In an earlier post, I wrote about the difference between metrics and analysis. I spent a couple of paragraphs on what I call “operational reporting” (I didn’t coin the term…but I use it!). The definition of an operational report is that it is part of a defined process: an invoice is part of a billing process, for example. Eloqua’s reporting is really oriented towards operational reporting. For instance, “I sent out an invite to a webinar yesterday, and I need the detail of who opened it, who clicked through on it, who registered for the event, and who didn’t.” It makes sense that “time span” reporting would be used here.

I, however, had been looking more at possible metrics reports and data for analysis. Time range reports become much more useful — even more useful if time increments can be a dimension in the report. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect time range reporting was not initially available in Eloqua. As phenomenal as the tool is…it’s got some definite shortcomings on the data-for-metrics and data-for-analysis front, IMHO.

But, at least I now have a framework to work within when I’m trying to get at that data in a meaningful way.

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  1. Pingback Gilligan on Data by Tim Wilson » Are you data-oriented or process-oriented?

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