Every business is different. It has its own profit models, objectives and problems. Therefore, it should also have a way of reporting business results that are tailored to its needs. Today, there is a plethora of options that offer just that. Datorama, Google Data Studio, and Microsoft’s Power BI are just a few of the increasingly sophisticated data visualization tools that offer near-infinite customizability.
In our roles as data analysts, we are intimately familiar with these kinds of platforms, and lately, we’ve noticed a trend. Despite all of the options available, adtech and martech companies are investing heavily in developing increasingly elaborate, proprietary UIs and dashboards to house their clients’ data. While this might seem like a good thing, we don’t think it’s the best use of a companies’ scarce resources.
These UIs are typically limited to displaying data from their platform only, and they’re limited to views that the platform defines itself. In other words, clients can see their data, but only in the way the platform wants them to see it. In our experience, this method of operating is in opposition to the needs of most clients, who have to be able to customize how they view their data and want to blend it together with data from other sources.
The best dashboard tools are data source agnostic, meaning they can ingest information from any source, in any format, and process it in highly-customizable ways. Adtech and martech companies, have not necessarily followed suit on the other side of the relationship. While almost all of the tools that we work with offer data exports, not all of them are easy to customize or automate, and we inevitably have to ask our reps for custom data sets. The platforms that offer APIs change them frequently or sometimes make them very expensive to access. The worst offenders require data extracts to be delivered by customer service reps, pulled manually from systems that clients can’t access (this is true of a surprising number of otherwise exemplary platforms for custom data exports).
A better philosophy for data providers would be to follow the lead of business intelligence platforms such as Google Data Studio or Microsoft Power BI and remain agnostic to the destinations to which data flows. By prioritizing the availability, customizability and reliability of data over putting resources into a proprietary UI, adtech and martech platforms would improve their clients’ outcomes considerably.
Data from any source is made much more powerful when combined with data from other sources. By prioritizing data availability and the ability of clients to use their data in combination with information from other sources, any company providing data to clients will maximize its power and usefulness. Conversely, by prioritizing a proprietary UI over the usability and availability of data, providers of data limit its usefulness and impact for clients. UIs, data visualizations, and the combination of data with other sources should be considered another service to outsource. More openness and less unintentional focus on keeping clients’ data locked in will improve results for everyone.
Will Burghes is Executive Director of Data & Analytics Strategy at Forsman & Bodenfors New York.
Drew Orapello is Senior Data & Analytics Strategist at Forsman & Bodenfors New York.