Instinct can lead to wonderful places. Henry Ford and Bill Gates are just a couple of business leaders who followed gut decisions to success. But instinct isn’t always reliable. Steve Jobs brought the world the Macintosh, iPhones, and iPads, but he also lost $150 million in a forgettable $10,000 computer known as the Apple Lisa.
In a data-driven business world, pure instinctual decisions seem riskier than ever. It’s okay to follow hunches, but why not do so after consulting hard facts? As President Ronald Reagan said when negotiating with the Soviet Union, “Trust but verify.” Ironically, Reagan’s famed saying is a Russian proverb, illustrating how he realized the logic of using words that the Soviets would understand.
Following the former president’s lead, it wouldn’t hurt to verify your product management and software development instincts with demonstrable facts. For instance, it’s tempting to release a new product or features to counter your competition’s flurry of moves. But just because competitors are making new waves doesn’t necessarily mean your product needs wholesale changes. Again, verify.
Unlike a restaurant – where diners can offer specific feedback in person – or even a video game – for which users eagerly share opinions in online forums and on social media – B2B or enterprise software’s more utilitarian nature can make feedback more difficult to obtain. Software customers, for the most part, won’t take the time to tell a vendor that its release works mostly well, but nonetheless can be challenging to use sometimes. People often want to get their work done and will skip around functions that didn’t behave in the first place or no longer keep pace with complementary technology that’s advancing. This leaves product teams in the difficult situation where they are forced to rely on instinct if no other means of collecting feedback are in place.
Thanks to software usage analytics, software companies can look under the hood of their products and see which elements are adopted by users and which ones need tweaking. Usage analytics enables software companies to see the actual adoption patterns behind user behavior. With this data-driven insight, development and product management can make grounded decisions on whether to stay put, make modifications or prepare for a whole new version.
For example, with User Flow reporting in the dashboard, software companies get a map of the user’s journey through your applications. Software product teams can also segment those journeys based on metrics including software version, how often they use it, precisely which features they use, and the operating system it runs on. The data reveals the various paths that customers take in an application and shows where operations run smoothly and not so smoothly.
Relying on a data-driven process, rather than instinct, your software company can decide with confidence when you need to sunset versions and products and roll out new ones, when you need to make only small upgrades, and when you need to do nothing at all.
While product teams usually have a good general idea of how their software is performing, without analytics they may lack insight into the specific habits and work patterns of users. To achieve more operational efficiency and stay competitive, your software company can’t afford to guess how its products are received and where users will maximize benefits. You need to verify with indisputable evidence.
Keith is Revulytics’ VP, Software Analytics and was the co-founder and CEO of Trackerbird Software Analytics before the company was acquired by Revulytics in 2016. Following the acquisition, Keith joined the Revulytics team and is now responsible for the strategic direction and growth of the Usage Analytics business within the company. Prior to founding Trackerbird, Keith held senior product roles at GFI Software where he was responsible for the product roadmap and revenue growth for various security products in the company's portfolio. Keith also brings with him 10 years of IT consultancy experience in the SMB space. Keith has a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Malta, specializing in high performance computing.
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