Metrics or analytics?

Metrics or analytics?

“Knowledge thus exists in relationship rather than in an ‘objective’ world or in ‘subjective’ experience. In information theory, ‘information’ is defined in terms of a ‘relationship’ between an input and a receiving device. A book contains no information for someone who can’t read.”

The Holographic Model – John R. Battista

Our data collection and analytics platform Corral has been running for just over a year now and has been collecting and aggregating events from millions of mobile devices. To date we’ve collected just short of a billion events in the form of user actions across a wide range of different devices, apps and formats. We often talk to companies who are looking for, as they say, an analytics solution. Pressing them further reveals that there’s some confusion between simply reporting data (metrics) and analysis, something I wanted to address in this post.

There are a number of data collection and reporting solutions on the market. Looking at the mobile app and gaming sector alone reveals a number of solutions that offer some overlap in functionality whilst going about other things in very different ways. There’s clearly more than one way to skin this cat.

Understandably, if you’re looking at the market for an analytics product it might seem bewildering on which one to pick. In that case it’s useful to take a step back and consider the difference between metrics and analytics. A fair amount of people we talk to appreciate that they need to get visibility on numbers in their operations but still confuse the two.

Metrics represent numeric information, often generated by aggregating data and then presenting it in some manner – often on a dashboard as charts and readouts. The real power in metrics comes from driving them as KPI’s. Even for a simple operation there’s a huge amount of data that can be reported on but it really starts to make sense when that data can feed into the decision making process within a business.

But metrics alone are not analytics. For example, for a mobile app you can get a dashboard that will tell you number of downloads, active players and revenue generated but those metrics will not inform you how to improve your product. What you really want to know are the answers to questions such as “When do our users drop out?” or “On average, what is the time to first in app purchase in our freemium game?”

For that, you need analytics. With analytics you are actively working with the data in order to gain insights. You need to be able to pose questions and get answers – quickly. The key ingredient in an analytics system is the ability to slice and dice the data on an ad-hoc basis in real-time. Analytics isn’t just about exposing data; it’s about asking questions.

Analytics breathe the life into metrics.

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