As I’m building a web app myself and hopefully several more to follow that build off of that system in the realms of the iPhone, iPad, and probably Android, I can’t help but notice the competition in the field of tracking applications.
There are hundreds of them.
There are apps for tracking everything, calorie counters, energy expenditure counters, there are even apps now that claim you can track anything, or everything. The latest pitch I got was literally, “our software will track anything for you.”
This would be fine I suppose for the data centric entrepreneur or individual, but what they almost always fail to address is the need for qualitative data.
Evernote — a company I kind of admire and respect, I use their product daily — recently lauched an ‘ambassador series,’ in which they are trying to make more of the uses of Evernote apparent to more users.
In other words, trying to tell us to track more stuff!
Based on all that, the other observation I have is that there is an opportunity cost to tracking.
If you’re too focused on tracking everything when do you find the time to get things done, or take action on the data you have?
If you are a data centric entrepreneur or person I have 3 questions for you:
1) Is what you’re measuring directly related to your desired outcome?
2) Does what your tracking translate into action or actually making changes based upon the evidence on a regular basis? (essentially re-iterating often)
3) How much time do you spend tracking stuff you probably don’t need to?
Data is useless without interpretation, so you can add that to your list of to-do’s this afternoon and I would go further to say that tracking any more than 3 key things on a regular basis is a futile endeavor unless those numbers require tracking other things as part of an equation.
Identify what is most important, track it, then interpret and make appropriate changes.
If you’re a blogger and you sell information products through your website, what would be more important, gain subscribers to your RSS or email list, or your actual sales numbers?
Does a bigger email list translate into more sales (if you talk to any internet entrepreneur, they are likely to tell you yes, and I’m inclined to agree with that train of thought) vs your RSS?
Great, you just identified the 2 things that are important for you to track and aim to increase on a regular basis.
Entrepreneurship in any field at it’s core to me is essentially determining why the company exists and aligning values as a continuity factor that brings a team of people together in a quest to achieve a never ending goal.
Once you move beyond that, it’s a constant state of learning and iterating.
Ask the question: How can we get better?
Data alone won’t solve this, but combine it with interpretation and focused action, and you just might have a winning formula.
However, taking action should be the most intensive part of any business.
Tracking should never get in the way of taking action.