Platform Metrics: Using Measurement to Optimize Performance
If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. It’s true for your business, and it’s true for your digital platform. Yet we’ve seen organizations from startups to enterprises neglect to incorporate measurement into their platform strategy.
Data shows you what is and isn’t working in your platform. And, unlike most websites, platforms provide detailed information about known users across specific touchpoints — accurate, first-party data that doesn’t rely on cookies or fuzzy analytics. Actionable insights await; you just have to know what you’re measuring for.
Here’s how to take a strategic approach to measuring platform performance.
Start From the Top
Measuring the success of your platform involves the same general principles used in strategic planning. Start from the top and work your way down:
- What are your organization’s overall goals?
- What are the business objectives that drive those goals?
- What does your platform need to accomplish, in order to support those objectives?
- What is the core purpose your platform must meet to achieve its goals?
Once you define your platform’s core purpose, you can identify which metrics to track. Just make sure that if you move the needle on those metrics, you’re truly moving the needle for your business.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you run a healthcare system whose primary goal is to save lives. To meet that goal, your employees need speedy access to your procedures for patient care. So, you build an intranet platform in order to provide the fastest possible access to that critical information. Your core purpose is to make sure this information is as easy to find as possible, so employees have critical information at critical moments.
What Should You Measure?
You’ve identified your platform’s core purpose. Next question is, what is the core interaction your platform relies on to achieve that purpose? What’s the single most important thing you need users to do? That action determines how you define an “active” platform user, and it’s the key driver for what you should measure.
Just like with social media, where the term “monthly active users” is widely used but has many different meanings, business platforms often have unique definitions of an active user. A company intranet focused on employee engagement might define an active user as someone who posts content a certain number of times per month. A business platform offering exclusive deals to attract new customers might define an active user as a customer who redeems at least one deal per year.
Whatever your platform’s purpose is, you need to be tracking metrics related to your definition of an active user, in order to optimize the core interaction that drives your business goals.
Examples of Useful Metrics
Before we dive into the list, there’s a caveat: Just because you can measure a ton of metrics doesn’t mean you should. Too much data can be distracting, and paying attention to too many metrics can create confusion and cause analysis paralysis. The goal of measurement isn’t to manage a dashboard; it’s to make decisions and take actions that drive positive business outcomes.
Choose a primary goal, define a core objective and active user, and aim for up to five core metrics to measure success. Here are some examples:
If your business goals depend on having a large number of platform users, you might use one of the following growth measures:
- Total number of users over time
- Rate at which new people join the platform
- Rate of user attrition in a given period
This is useful for platforms where you’re looking to engage a certain proportion of a population, such as your employees or your customer base. You might track:
- Total number of registered users
- Percentage of total registered users that are active
- Total logins versus unique logins
Engagement covers a lot of ground, and it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. Focus on the metrics that tell you how people are responding to your efforts to engage them at various touchpoints. Here are some examples:
- Number of posts per user / Average number of responses per post
- Number of unique users completing an action, like submitting a form
- Number of support requests (are users confused?)
Begin at the Beginning
It’s a mistake to think about measurement only after you’ve built your platform. Remember, platform measurement isn’t as easy as dropping in base Google Analytics code. Platform metrics are deep and nuanced, so you need to think strategically from the start. Plan the key metrics up front, and incorporate measurement into your platform roadmap from the beginning.
Your game plan, in a nutshell:
- Decide what to measure
- Implement tracking capabilities
- Measure platform performance
- Analyze the results and find actionable insights
- Make decisions: what’s working, and what needs to change?
Establishing measurement practices early on enables you to continually track, analyze, and optimize performance over the life of your platform. Already launched? Fear not. It’s never too late to implement measurement techniques to optimize platform performance.
If you’re thinking about how to be more strategic with platform measurement, we’d love to help. Feel free to reach out with any questions you have.