Geckoboard’s CEO & Founder Talks Data, Dashboards and KPIs
Paul Joyce – Geckoboard
Paul Joyce is CEO and Founder of Geckoboard, who provide a tool to build live TV dashboards which make your business’s most important data available and understandable for everybody in the business. Geckoboards help entire businesses focus on the same goals and increase goal attainment.
Prior to founding Geckoboard Paul was an ETL developer for large banks in London. After seeing how big a problem it was for banks to get their most important data into the hands of the people who needed it, he left his job in the City to start Geckoboard and solve the problem of getting businesses most important data in front of their teams all the time.
What is the ultimate vision of your business and why is it important?
The bigger mission for the team and I at Geckoboard is to help every business in the world make their most useful data available and understandable.
We have a firm belief that companies with a transparent culture, where performance data is readily accessible to every team member, are more successful than those with a secretive culture. In fact, we surveyed 2000 employees of various businesses and over half of employees said that there was a significant positive impact on their productivity when bosses openly share information, and 1 in 4 said they’d left a company because data and information wasn’t shared. It’s becoming clearer that open data sharing and transparent cultures enable high performing businesses when you look at the example of successful Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses like HubSpot and Buffer.
Ultimately, our mission is to enable a transparent culture by building a tool to create live TV dashboards, which communicate data to the entire organisation in real-time.
What’s one of your favourite features of your platform or service and why?
When you look at traditional business intelligence or data analytics tools they’re designed for data analysts to interact one-on-one with the data and dive deep into data analysis. This is great for analysts, but ignores the need to communicate the data to everyone else in the business who need to be reacting to movements in key metrics. For this reason, my favourite features in the Geckoboard tool are some of the simplest ones that enable data communication.
We’ve designed the dashboards for TV display, which means you can display your most important metrics in a prominent position in the office. This ensures teams work together towards achieving KPIs and are constantly monitoring performance so they can react quickly to threats and exploit opportunities.
We know not everyone is a data analyst, and dashboards should be glanceable. For example, you should be able to look up and immediately understand what’s going on, much like a car dashboard. For this reason, we researched how the human brain digests data and have removed cognitive barriers such as overusing colour and complex visualisations so that the data is approachable to even the biggest numerophobia sufferer.
What advice would you give a business who wants to leverage their own data?
There’s so much data a business can use these days, that I think the first and most important step is to decide what data is useful and most important to your business. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) tend to be the best way to do this. If you know what the most important metrics are that will impact your business’s success, you then know what data you need to use to surface and influence those metrics.
Far too often we see businesses struggling to succeed with Geckoboard because they put a bunch of vanity metrics such as Facebook fans up on the dashboard. Avoid falling into this trap by defining KPIs early. As Edward Tufte says:
“If statistics are boring, you’ve got the wrong numbers.”
How does your business use data and what problems are you solving with it?
I think the biggest problem we’re solving with data is focus. Too often teams are pulling in different directions with diluted focus. Data helps solve this problem. By defining the most important metric or metrics for the whole business you see everyone begin to focus and pull in the same direction. For example, as a business we’re focused on growing Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) by a certain percentage each month. That’s our topline KPI, and then our marketing team are focused on growing trial signups every month, our Customer Success team are focused on reducing churn and our product and engineering team are focused on building a top tier product and experience to help people build great dashboards that impact activation and engagement metrics.
By having those metrics up on TV dashboards around the office, it acts as a constant reminder for each team on what they’re working towards. This ensures that if they’re trying to prioritise their work or decide if something is worth doing they are always thinking “will it help us achieve those goals”? If not, they don’t do it. They can also see the impact of their work on the metrics, or not as the case may be, which helps us understand what’s working and what isn’t.
How do you see the data economy evolving?
I think that for too long the data world has failed us when it comes to communicating data. Tools served data analysts well, but the people who really need to be reacting to the data are those executing on work. They need to be able to know what data points the company is focused on, how performance is tracking and how their work is impacting that performance. Data simply hasn’t been available and understandable to the broader business, and I think the coming years will see a big focus on data communication and sharing with the broader business. This needs to happen if entire businesses are going to become truly data-driven.
What SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms excite you and why?
A few that we’re particularly keen on at Geckoboard are:
Slack – It’s completely changed the way we communicate internally. It’s reduced internal email noise and improved collaboration as well as availability of information to everybody in the business.
Trello – There are many moving parts to projects which span teams. Trello helps us break down major projects into digestible chunks, improves communication and collaboration around projects and just means we’re generally more organised and cohesive as a business.
Zoom – We have customer success and marketing team members located remotely outside our London HQ in New Zealand, India, America, Hawaii and Scotland. As a result, we’ve tried nearly every video conferencing solution out there. Zoom just works, it’s easy to setup and the connections are solid.
What integration or partnership opportunities would you like to see created within your business?
I think part of the success of Geckoboard has been making it easy for even non-technical people to visualise their data on a dashboard. This has happened because we managed to directly integrate 60+ popular cloud tools, which makes it easy to get started by connecting data sources and visualising them in an understandable way. However, the number of tools used by different businesses is growing, and it’s hard for us to keep up and integrate everything natively ourselves.
We allow people to integrate non-native sources using custom widgets via Geckoboard’s API. However, I want to make this much easier so individuals or other tool providers can build integrations, which easily make their data available in a Geckoboard. In terms of what integrations or partnership opportunities we’re interested in, I guess I’m saying that any integration which pulls our customers most important metrics into a Geckoboard interests me but to make this happen we need to make it easier to get data into Geckoboard.