It’s hard to get creative about reporting. Analysis is, by its very nature, a standard set of processes, so drawing innovative conclusions from something so notoriously static can be incredibly difficult.

The way to break through this impasse is by thinking less about the data you are collecting and more about the questions you are asking.

Are you asking the same questions that have canonically been asked by business leaders? Do those questions actually relate to what your product or company is trying to accomplish? Often, the answer is “well.. kind of,” but very rarely do those traditional questions address problems based on the unique differentiators of your business. Just because those questions may be proven, or the easy thing to implement, does not mean they are right for your business or the only solution for your organization.

Start thinking outside the spreadsheet about the things you actually want to know–the pieces of information that could conceivably give you an edge over your competition–and figure out how to report on those critical observations.

Ask questions that force you to think from a customer’s perspective. Identify, explore, and test the assumptions that were made when designing a product, a process, or an experience. Explore how the best reporting, analysis, and experience practices from other industries could apply to your business with some slight tweaking. What new insights would you discover?

Concepts like this can apply to diverse parts of your business. It all starts with asking the right questions. For instance, a good question is “in what ways do my users interact with my product, for how long, and why,” instead of “how many people are using my product?” These types of questions will create an environment promoting fast iterations based on real user information instead of assumptions, allowing you to make user-driven pivots in your product or service.

Ask yourself things like this:

  • Do my users and my team ask the same questions when using the product? Are the assumptions we make actually accurate?
  • Which elements of this product do my users actually need? How can I simplify this?
  • My top competition has several specific differentiators from me. Why did they choose this direction?
  • What kind of experience do I want to offer? What industries provide that type of experience best? How can I incorporate ideas from that industry into my own customer experience?
  • How do my users think of my brand? Does that accurately reflect what I want them to think of my brand?
  • What pieces of my product are missing according to my customers? Does optimizing this perceived need serve my greater vision?
  • Is my reporting more complicated than it needs to be? Can I simplify this by aggregating something? Which of these numbers do I actually pay attention to on a regular basis

After you’ve answered questions like these above and many others, you can begin creatively figuring out how to measure the important factors making up these concepts and make strategic decisions about these problems.

For example: you own a SaaS application and are fielding requests from your users for a feature that already exists–implying they can’t find the feature. You can employ a basic web advertising tactic to figure out how customers are realistically engaging with and navigating through your product — by tracking “visitor flow.” Tracking visitor flow in this context means you are tracking a user’s path through your product instead of through your website. You learn after studying a sample of user data that the problem is a simple fix–an assumption was made by the development team that the feature would live in a place that is not easily inferred by your average user.

Tactics like this will allow you to learn how your customers are interacting with your product on a daily basis, what paths are logical to your user, where they get hung up, and how to optimize for the content and functionality your audience is ultimately looking for. These observations are invaluable to creating a product people love using. Market research and focus groups can teach us what users think they want, but creative uses of data will tell us how users actually think and behave; allowing you to identify and address your user’s realistic day-to-day needs.

If you’d like to learn more about how creative analytics can help give you a competitive advantage, check out this whitepaper.