Oct 20, 2017

The data-driven philosophy of product management and design isn’t healthy. It induces data FOMO.

When data FOMO kicks in the desire to track everything you can possibly think of takes over. You’re worried about missing that crucial kernel of data that can provide all the insight you need to move your product forward. So you set your analytics to scoop up everything and serve you every bit of product data - regardless of whether it matches your priorities or is even useful. This is BAD. It leads to data overload and decisions made on hunches ‘backed up’ by data. A better methodology is aiming for data-informed decisions not ‘data-driven’ ones.

Data oversight

insight or oversight
Do you want insight or oversight?

With a great amount of data comes a great amount of analysis. You’re already swamped as a product manager and no matter how much you effort you put in, when you’re blindly tracking everything it’s difficult to properly analyse oceans of data.

Data doesn’t provide insights simply by existing. It needs to have thought applied to what those figures and opinions mean. With metrics upon metrics how can you possibly know what’s a useful insight or not? In the end, a track-every-metric-possible approach ends up with data oversight and missed opportunities. It’s funny how the actions driven by data FOMO can lead to actually missing out.

Product priorities

Products are fluid things, ever changing and responding to external elements. Your job as product manager is to steer your product through the choppy seas of design, UX, customer feedback, and actual product use.

Of course, there are always going to be metrics you need and want to track; metrics that tell you how your product is doing and where you need to move toward; metrics that tell you if you’re meeting business goals or not. These metrics are unlikely to change on a regular basis, and that’s fine.

But over time, as you move your product forward along the roadmap, through the conflicting pressures on building a product, the priorities of your product will change. And the data you need and the metrics you want will also need to change. Technology moves fast and three-month roadmaps are now commonplace, meaning metrics change every couple of months.

A lot of analytics tools just aren’t designed for this sort of pace. They require you to actively track something and then wait while data rolls in. If you need to validate something right now that’s not a good model. With Prodlyic everything is recorded all the time. When you add a new metric Prodytic grabs all the historical data (if there’s any available for that specific metric) and populates your dashboard. Instant insights.

data mess
Pearls of wisdom among the data mess

Despite the best intentions, tracking everything in your analytics tool is not the answer - focus is. Focusing on different metrics at different times, safe in the knowledge that you can just re-track a metric and still have all the data available, is a solid way of working on product priorities. When a set of features have been (in)validated, simply remove the metrics and add new ones. If you need to, you can always re-add them - they’ll have all the historical data.

Predicting the future is best left alone

The moment you try to track everything in a FOMO flap is the moment you try to peer into the murky depths of the future. When you begin to track things you think will be important in the future you’re on a slippery slope. You might get lucky a few of times but you won’t consistently create insight, you’ll only contribute to data overload.

As mentioned above, product priorities shift and change. External influences play a big role in this. Even if you can accurately predict internal forces on your product, external ones will always mess up your plans. No amount of FOMO can give you futuresight.

Simply put, data FOMO is a dangerous thing when you’re building a product. Prodlytic takes away the FOMO because it records everything even when you’re not actively tracking things. You can safely chop and change your metrics and your focus to reflect your roadmap, safe in the knowledge that your data will always be there, no matter what.

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