Thursday, June 18, 2009

Marketing Dashboards and Time Ranges - A Quick Tip

I use custom dashboards a lot in Eloqua, usually in order to track ther performance of anything I'm interested in over an extended period of time. The performance of the Eloqua Artisan and Digital Body Language blogs are good examples of that - I check in on their performance using a custom dashboard at least a few times per week. We also track in great detail what the sources of traffic are for our online properties in another custom dashboard.

When building and using custom dashboards, one setting that is worth being aware of, and thinking about, is the time range settings. This is the definition of exactly what period of time is included in the dashboard. With Eloqua, you have a rich set of options that you can use to define exactly what timeframe you have in mind.

You can configure this for the standard dashboards in your system in one central place, under Setup->Management->Systems Management->Dashboard Settings, or you can configure the settings for each report in a custom dashboard by selecting Edit under the Actions menu on the report's upper right side.

Each of these will give you a set of time range options. For a dashboard, it's almost certain you will be using a relative range (the period of time up until now) rather than a fixed range (a specific set of days) as you generally want the dashboard to change over time and be up to the current moment.

However, that's where the nuances come in. If you are looking at a daily chart for the last 3 weeks, for example, exactly how you specify that will guide how your data appears for the periods around the start and end of the time period.

For example, if we looked at it literally, we could say that the last three weeks was equal to the last 3x7x24 hours. However, the data for the day at the start (three weeks ago) and the day at the end (today) would be skewed based on the time of day we looked at. If I looked at that data at 6pm, the starting day would only have 6 hours of data in it and the ending day (today) would only have 18 hours of data in it (up until 6pm). In many cases, this literal option is not the best result.

The "Last Full X days/weeks/months" options provide a way around this, by only including full days. There is also an option to "include today" with these if you do want to show the 18 hours of data up until the current moment in the day today, without skewing the data on the start day.

Similarly, a variety of options allow you to report on specific precisions at the week or month level (such as weekdays only, for example), if that is relevant to your marketing analysis.

What is important is that you think carefully about exactly what period of time is of interest to you and then select that option for your dashboards. The options will be available to you to do what you need.