Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Magic Orb -- What It Can Do For Your Business

Metrics -- numerical objective measures of performance -- have a fundamental role in any business. We at Sorenson Media measure a variety of things -- and track many of those metrics in real-time via a dashboard that I watch continuously throughout the day. The pace of daily sales, not surprisingly, is a critical metric -- i.e., revenues across various product lines. After all, at the end of the day, the fundamental financial measures of overall business success are top line and bottom line revenues/profits.

A while back it was suggested to me by Mark Robertson -- a key member of our marketing team (and who also worked with me at my former company, SightSpeed) -- that we display our real-time sales metrics right "in our faces" in our office, so that all of us on the team are continuously reminded of how we are doing (which gives us overall context to what each of us does on a daily basis). So, we put a flat screen 60" TV on the wall and plugged it into our sales dashboard and -- voila -- there it is! Our real-time "success" is there for all of us to see (complete with color coding via various definitions of sales success for ease of giving an instant snapshot -- i.e., green means that, at that very moment, our sales are strong for the day; red means that they are weak; and purple means they are off the charts (we love those days!)).

Even before we got this set up on the big screen, Paul Yorke -- about whom I have previously written -- independently and without suggestion purchased an Orb (not sure from where) that also ties into our real-time sales data and is programmed via those same color patterns (which is not surprising, since he was the key driver of our overall sales dashboard (and the formulas used to measure real-time "success"). The magic Orb -- our resident soothsayer -- gives us the same real-time snapshot of sales success at that very moment. And, it too sits right in the center of our offices for all of us to see at all times and get a visceral reaction that gives us overall context. It's kind of fun too -- we talk about it all the time. This gives everyone on the team -- no matter what department -- continuing context to what we need to do financially as a business. The team loves it.

Yet another enterprising and creative member of our team (a team which is filled with such passion and drive) -- Ando Sonenblick -- took the magic Orb concept a step further (and again independently, without any request). He developed a plug-in toolbar app that is a virtual magic Orb -- gives us the same color-coded information (plus actual numbers) right there on our computers so that those financial metrics are even easier to see at all times (in fact, I am looking at it now). Ando also added a bit of whimsy to this toolbar app -- he added optional sound effects! On any meaningful sale, the virtual Orb chimes in with the sounds of a coin clinking into a piggybank. On a VERY meaningful sale, the Orb, instead, comes with applause. And, upon a VERY VERY large sale, we get both applause and the loud roaring of a crowd! It is hilarious ... and it is fun.

And, again, it all gives us a constant reminder of what we need to do not only for our investors, but also for ourselves. This kind of context is priceless. And, it is appreciated by the team, because everyone likes to have context to what they do.

One more critical thing, real-time metrics tracking also can give any executive a "feel" for general sales patterns over time. As an example, I have an educated sense of the way things generally "should" be in terms of our daily sales on a Monday vis-a-vis mid-week sales (i.e., generally slower) vis-a-vis a weekend day (business day sales generally are much stronger than weekend sales sales days for us). So, if a particular sales day "feels" aberrant to me, then it is possible that there is a problem with our shopping cart or other factors -- or that new changes to our website have significantly impacted sales (both in a positive or negative sense). I have identified such problems in the past in this way -- i.e., I "felt" something was out of whack, so I asked my team to look into it and -- voila -- something was in fact out of whack and we fix it.

The magic Orb -- and what it represents -- is a great tool for any business. And, as indicated above, it keeps things lively all the time and gives us a sense that each of us is a significant contributor to our overall financial success (which we are).