Have you ever heard of Campaign timeout setting within Google Analytics? Almost no one has and it is skewing most of your data. Let's have a look at the problem and how can we fix it.
What is Google Analytics Campaign timeout?
Google gives a very vague definition and explanation of what Campaign timeout (and Session timeout) are:
The default length of time for a session or campaign. An individual session or campaign for a given user ends after the amount of time specified here has passed (counting from the start of the session or campaign), so long as the session or campaign has not been stopped through another means.
Let me spare you the trouble and put this into words that most people will understand.
What it means is that whenever a user comes to your site directly, but they had come to your site previously from another non-direct source (like organic, cpc, or referral), if the first session happened within the time window specified by Campaign Timeout, then medium and source of the direct visit (or visits) will be overwritten.
You've read that right: they will all be overwritten.
By default Campaign Timeout is set for a six months window. Yes, six months!
All clear? No. OK. Let me give you a specific example.
If someone came to your website via a search ad in January and then again directly once each month in February, March, April and May, instead of one paid ad session and four direct sessions, Google Analytics will show five paid ad sessions in all reports except one.
Instead of one paid ad session and four direct sessions, Google Analytics will show five paid ad sessions.
Understand Google Analytics Campaign Timeout
For more specific examples of how exactly Google Analytics overrides source and medium of the sessions, see this great blog post by Optimizestart.
Is Google being evil?
The setting by itself is neither good nor bad. It's just a different way of evaluating a performance of your campaigns. A look that favours non-direct touchpoints over direct ones.
The problem most businesses have with it is:
1. exists in the first place,
2. it is set as default,
3. it has been skewing results of their campaigns from day one.
The lack of transparency from Google is the reason why most marketers and analysts are outraged. It’s like dating someone for months only to find out that they don’t really own a Yacht in Monaco.
It's like dating someone for months only to find out that don’t really own a Yacht in Monaco.
Can we blame them for having such feelings? Changing the source and medium in all revenue reports (outside of the specific Attribution reports) without giving an explanation is not being truthful. The only place you can find any information from Google is a joke.
For example it says that you should “Set the campaign timeout handling to the same amount of time the campaign is going to run or expected to be relevant. Clicks to a social media micro-campaign might not be relevant for more than a few days after launch.”
What should one think about such advice given that it is a property-wide setting that cannot be set-up for different campaigns separately?
Ok, so how bad is it really?
From our experience, once our clients change the setting to normal (meaning to 4 hours which is the shortest time-interval possible), the participation of direct channel on conversions (or revenue) goes up by 20–30 percentage points.
Bellow you can see two Acquisition Report results from an e-commerce retailer for the same time period with all Google Analytics settings except Campaign Timeout remaining the same.
As you can see, the participation of Google / cpc goes from 20% (with 4 hours Campaign timeout window) to 27,8% (with 6 months timeout window) – a whooping 40% increase in the performance of the channel. Which consequently is going to also influence all metrics that you are evaluating with the help of Google Analytics data, including CPA and ROI.
Same account, same time period. Source/medium share of traffic with Campaign Timeout set to 4 hours (left) and to the default 6 months (right).
The participation of direct on conversions (transactions) goes down from 41,6% to 17,2%. All of that credit is redistributed to other channels like facebook / social, google / organic or email with most of them “improving” their performance by 50–100%.
Take a closer look at the true numbers.
Campaign Timeout 4 hours
Campaign Timeout 6 months
Why is the Campaign timeout setting even there?
Google of course will never comment on the topic. But think about it: the vast majority of Alphabet's income still comes from its advertising business (85,8% as of Q3 2018).
At the same time, the majority of advertisers are SMBs who are far from being sophisticated with analytics tools and take the results presented to them at face value.
To these users, this Campaign timeout setting artificially inflates the ROI of search and other campaigns by double digit percentage points.
This Campaign timeout setting setting artificially inflates the ROI of search and other campaigns by double digit percentage points.
Is this a good thing?
Before you start telling that distributing direct visits to other sources is actually a good thing because the insights become more actionable as you have much more sway in influencing what's going on in those channels, ponder this:
There is another very easy way to do this in Google Analytics. Within Attribution, you can easily switch between Last Interaction and Last Click non-direct Models (among others) which essentially does the same thing.
It does so at a place where you would expect it and the Google help text is actually very transparent and helpful in explaining its meaning.
Taken together, if the only motive of Google was to give us a tool to model out where the credit from direct visits should go to, it wouldn't need this behind-our-back Campaign timeout setting.
How does this tie into Multi-touch Attribution? ?
The biggest sin of the approach Google has chosen is that it overwrites the source of the visit. Therefore, if you don't upgrade to Google Analytics 360, which most businesses never will, you will not be able to access the raw data through Google BigQuery. You will never be able to see which visit sources were overwritten and never be able to see your true data.
The source of sessions are artificially overwritten and there's no telling of which and how many were changed. Which in turn affects all your attribution efforts.
So, no matter which attribution model you choose to examine your customer journeys with within Google Analytics - being it last click, first click, linear or time decay - they are all going to work with data that has been artificially changed.
The biggest problem that follows is that you cannot seriously work with different attribution models until you solve this data problem. Very much the same way you shouldn't be a judge in a beauty contest until you fix your vision first.
How to solve the Campaign timeout setting problem? ✅
The most obvious solution would be to immediately go and change that setting from six months to the shortest possible interval - which is four hours.
But hang on a minute.
If you do that, you will see a sudden drop in performance of all paid campaigns. It will throw all KPIs you have set up with agencies and/or channel managers on your team into disarray.
And they will hate you for that.
Option n. 1: Run a paralel Google Analytics property ✔️
A smarter way to go around this is to set up a new property within Google Analytics with exactly the same settings as your original, with one notable exception: length of the Campaign timeout. Then run both of them in parallel.
Campaign Timeout setting can be found in Admin > Tracking Info > Session Settings > Campaign timeout.
Option n. 2: Get a paid web analytics product ✔️✔️
Option number two is to switch to a paid web analytics product like Google Analytics 360, AT Internet, Adobe Analytics or Webtrakk that gives you access to the raw session level data.
Option n. 3: Get serious about attribution ✔️✔️✔️
Your third option is then to implement an attribution solution that uses its own measurement to track and classify multiple touchpoints independently on Google Analytics ;)
Why, Google, why?!
Don't ever forget that Google Analytics is a free product. Google is not making money off it directly, so it has to make them somewhere else.
Back in the pioneering days of digital marketing, Google Analytics allowed most advertisers an easy way to measure results of their online activities. It played a historical role in giving data to millions of businesses which ultimately brought them ad dollars.
For one reason or another though, providing an accurate measurement somehow wasn't enough for Google. They decided they needed to show the results in a somewhat better light. Like this, Google was "stealing" direct sessions that advertiser would be inclined to attribute to offline and brand campaigns for the online industry.
Everybody in digital marketing was a benefactor of this but Google by far the largest one.
Google brought the trust and ad dollars of millions of businesses into digital. But at what cost to its credibility?
The question then remains: Can you ever trust Google again?
You be the judge.
The only thing we would recommend is that next time Google is pitching you an awesome accurate free product such as their most recent offer with Google Attribution, remember how they've kept everyone in the dark about Campaign timeout for a decade.
Trusting your ad spend decisions to black-box algorithms - which most attribution vendors are - is daring enough. Trusting it to a black box of a company that has a history of pulling your leg is a whole different game.
Further reading on the topic:
Understanding Sessions Campaign Timeout Settings in Google Analytics by Optimizesmart
Direct Traffic In Google Analytics And Last Non-Direct Click Attribution by Bounteous (formerly Luna Metrics)
Google Analytics Does What?! by Bluemoondigital
This reply on Quora by David Jurelius
If you spend more than 10 seconds on our website you’ll know we love data. What we love even more is helping our clients take meaningful action on it.
Empowering marketers to achieve more than they thought possible has been part of our DNA from day one. Nothing makes us more whole than to see our clients grow faster thanks to the right tools.
Problem is the right tools are often out of reach for emerging e-commerce businesses.
Starting today, Roivenue will take 50 % of the cost on its shoulders for those who need it most: e-commerce tigers who grow so fast that everything is in constant flux for them. The ones who really need to put their marketing data in order. Those who can’t spare a minute hassling their boss for a bigger analytics budget.
So, let’s keep it short and to the point. If you are a growing ecommerce biz who has achieved 50% yoy growth we give you 50% discount on Roivenue for the first year*. Yes, you’ve read it correctly.
Now, if you’re already there, first good job (*Insert your business name here*) and secondly, you should reach out to us now.
Either on email@example.com or visit this page.
Dmexco (Digital Marketing Expo and Conference) is a humongous event held in Cologne with a very friendly atmosphere. With more than 1,000 exhibitors and over 40,000 visitors, it is the single largest European conference about digital marketing, and the best place to learn about trends in digital for the upcoming year.
Our own Jan Randus distilled the trends for you and it all boils down to these three (plus one) topics:
1. Let's mine our customer base
Aside from some some discussions and stands, I also had a chance to visit a few seminars. One was so crowded, that there was no place to sit, even the floor was full. The topic was the future of CRM. The topic is resonating throughout the whole community. It seems that the market is becoming saturated, firms have learned how to use their digital potential and have learned how to grow through digital.
Most companies are far from being completely mature in digital, but the new challenge for everyone is already clear – everybody knows how to acquire new customers, and retention becomes an issue. According to the speaker, after the adoption of data management platforms, specialized customer data platforms will follow.
One way to deal with this issue is to create a new dedicated position – an Audience Manager. A person who has all the insights and holds the focus on current customers. The importance of micro moments is also coming to the forefront. As services are very often comparable, decisions of consumers are then mostly based on the little things.
2. The last click is still an issue
Another seminar was about attribution, the topic that has been with us for a few years now. There are a few barriers (resources, knowledge or dedication to change or cost of tools), that still hold firms back from a deeper understanding of their marketing mix. Technology is closing the gap, yet 44% of marketers are still using the last-touch attribution approach. Companies are slowly learning how to deal with attribution and are becoming more educated. They successfully transferred from the era of clicks to era of KPIs (ROAS, ROI, CPA, etc). However, the industry is already looking for a yet new era where incremental sales, the best marketing mix, and lifetime value will become sources of competitive advantage.
The crucial step on the path to the next era then is establishing strong and productive CMO-CFO relationships. Marketing is responsible for growth, finance is responsible for expenditures. One cannot exist without the other. The CMO should take on the responsibility of making his or her CFO fully acquainted with what and why is going on in marketing - to learn to speak in finance language, to find common ground in budgets and to be fully and transparently accountable for results. All that without losing his or her creative side.
3. CLV FTW!
Speaking of customer lifetime value! It seems like everybody is talking about it, yet not many folks really know how to use it – few companies are testing out CLV features, but the deployment is still far from perfect. Apart from RFM analysis, which has become a commonplace practice by now, there is still quite a knowledge gap to bridge. The notion prevails that whoever fully masters this area will get ahead of the market.
My last note belongs to the exhibitors. Plenty of firms that are focusing on data and business intelligence were present, but every single one had a different approach, focusing on different aspects of business: Data and attribution; Analytics in combination with data that are sent back to the marketing platforms; Data and the detailed level of product analytics and so on. I can imagine that companies wanting to start or level up their data analytics must have quite a headache choosing from all those vendors that differ just slightly in their offerings. The array of choices is truly exhaustive and just browsing through all the booths inevitably wears one down.
To end on a positive note though, Roivenue is here to help you with all the challenges DMEXCO set us up for in 2019. Don't be shy to get in touch!
Roivenue gets up to 2,2M EUR to scale up its attribution and data integration suite. There will never be a better time to join the growing tribe
For a long time, we thought bootstrapping was the way to go. With 100% ownership of the company, you don't need to compromise on strategy and big decisions. Most importantly, not on anything product related.
With the ferocious determination of the founders, incredibly hard work of the early team, and open-mindedness of our first clients, we've managed to plant seeds of the Roivenue “tribe”. We’ve achieved 430% year-over-year growth and influenced the way contemporary marketing is done.
We’ve found energy and appreciation in YOU and, together, we’ve managed to achieve things we thought we would find in the future, but it’s all happening now instead!
YOU (our clients) say that you “finally know how to increase ROI of online spending by up to 180%” or that you “grew the business by 120% y-o-y”. Together with YOU we've received a bunch of marketing awards (the most valuable of which was the "ROIking" special category that we snatched from much much bigger brands), and thanks to YOU we made it to be among the TOP 5 Czech start-ups of 2018 (out of 400 applicants!).
We are already a #1 attribution vendor in CEE and we are ready to expand.
The future indeed seems bright for the Roivenue tribe.
What we realized though is that what matters most to marketers after all is NOW.
And, we can only improve the NOW if we can get our tech into their hands ASAP.
Inevitably, we can't do bootstrap no more. It's just too slow.
That's why we're thrilled to announce that not only have we decided to take up to 2,2M EUR investment so that we can get as many new clients through the door as humanly possible, but also we found a partner with whom we don't need to compromise on anything.
With its sizeable digital and e-commerce portfolio and more than 15 years of experience in digital entrepreneurship, Pale Fire Capital (represented by Barta, Senkypl and Holy) is the perfect partner in crime for our international expansion.
We just love the fact that our new partners fully back our mission to find a better, smarter more transparent and effective way to handle your budget and generate more revenue through the channels you employ.
Pale Fire + Roivenue fully believe companies all across Europe are ready to join the movement. Starting with the UK, we are dedicated to make that upgrade happen.
In order to achieve the goals we’ve set for the following year we are looking for people to join our rising “tribe”. People who want to ride the wave with us and make the most of it. First European and eventually World domination for our tribe.
We’re most likely to end up friends along the way. Cause that’s just how we roll.
We’re in need of friends that can help us grow through hard work but also imagination since it would be boring to go where others have already been. We want creative people to whom we offer freedom of creation and trust in their vision. We want developers that want flexibility in solving problems only if they believe that it is their duty to give code back to the community and enrol in our open source projects. Sales people that are able to convince clients we can make them money in ways they were not aware before.
Finally, we seek clients who’s feedback we will immediately use to build a world-class tool that make CMOs achieve what they thought impossible.
P. S. As I am a practical guy above all, let me give you a hint: There will never be a better time to join Roivenue as a colleague or a client. The future leaders of our organization are being initiated right now. And as for the clients, our pricing is inevitably going to move north in the coming months. So, do check our open positions and our offering NOW rather than in the future.
Just a quick summary of how we approach GDPR.
Roivenue values the privacy of it's clients as well as it's clients' users… yada, yada, yada.
Of course we do! For one, it's a common human decency to do so and for two, there is no value for us in knowing the identity of end customers anyway.
Our clients care about improving the efficiency of their marketing spend overall. That's what we've been helping them achieve from the get go. Neither our clients, nor we are interested in knowing if a particular data point belongs to Joe or Avelyn.
Roivenue never looked at personal information, GDPR or not
Roivenue never asked or allowed its clients to process personal data like e-mail address within our ecosystem or with the help of our tech.
Since GDPR broadened the scope of what can be considered personal information to also include so called pseudonymized data like cookies we took extra measures to make sure we adhere to said legislation.
Our current stand on GDPR and adopted measures
If you have any further questions regarding GDPR or privacy you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Pavel Sima, Roivenue CEO
For long I have struggled to conceptually grasp different attribution models via mathematical equations. So, I devised simple, real-life metaphors for them. This way it shouldn’t take you more than 3 minutes to finally understand all the most frequently used attribution models in digital marketing and recall them with ease.
1) HEURESTIC (=TOTALLY USELESS) ATTRIBUTION MODELS
A) MODELS WITH ONE SOURCE OF ATTRIBUTION
All the glory goes to the striker – even if he is totally lame, everything was fought out by the rest of the team and he merely put his foot in the path of the shot.
Who is to blame for all the bad deeds in my life? My mother of course. For she stood at the dawn of my existence.
These above models are as far from reality as the burger you get at the counter is from the one you see on the billboard.
B) MODELS WITH MULTIPLE SOURCES OF ATTRIBUTION
"The most important thing is not to win but to take part!" This supposes that in a tug of war, an anorectic celeb who was put on your team to attract more viewers makes the same contribution as a 250-pound wrestler.
Sure, I am grateful to all the Chinese manufacturers who put the pieces together, the freighters who brought it across the ocean, and the retailers who sold it to me. However, most of the margin will go to Apple as they put their logo on the box.
With these models, at least all the credit doesn’t go to one person. The level of inaccuracy is still humungous, though.
Do you really think a human brain can actually decide which touchpoints should be assigned which weight? Didn’t think so.
2) DATA-DRIVEN (ALGORITHMICAL) ATTRIBUTION MODELS
They try to calculate the probability a certain channel contributed to a conversion.
SHAPLEY (ALSO KNOWN AS GAME THEORY)
We all have such a friend. When he shows up at a party it’s always a blast. Then one day, he doesn’t come and you are bored to death.
A hunch tells you that he is a really important part of a good party. But how can you be sure?
Imagine, you went to 10,000 parties a year instead of ten, both with and without your mate. By the end of the evening you would rate all of them from 1–10 on a scale of awesomeness.
Then you would easily be able to calculate the probability that he’s the most important ingredient of a good party.
The same way, you could evaluate any guest (= marketing channel) at every party (= conversion path).
Shapley’s big problem is that it doesn’t take the order of guests/channels into account. Somebody is a great party starter who nevertheless falls into a coma at 9 PM. Standing on your feet at 4AM is an entirely different discipline. You need a great mixture of all these types of people to throw a legendary party.
MARKOV (ALSO KNOWN AS MARKOV CHAINS)
How does gossip get spread in an organization? Sometimes you get them directly from the source, sometimes they travel through six nodes of people, while other times they get stuck in a loop and never reach your ears.
Michael knows about the latest scandal first and tells Monica about it over lunch. In the bathroom, Monica passes it on to Jane. Back in the office, Jane tells Michael about it again. After that, Michael goes directly to you.
If you omit Michael you are pretty much screwed and will learn nothing. On the other hand, Monica and Jane are not all that important in the chain as Michael would probably have told you anyway. That’s why Michael is the most important informant.
How do you determine who’s the most valued informant (= marketing channel) in the long run? Try to send different employees for a long vacation and observe if the level of information passed on to you dropped off or not. If it did - the guy on vacation contributes to conversions a lot.
MARKOV CHAIN 1ST ORDER
It measures the influence of the movement of the information (= nudging people closer to conversion) to the very next person (= channel).
MARKOV CHAIN 2ND ORDER
It measures the influence of the movement of the information to the next two people because if, for instance, you often talked to Jamie who is mute and couldn’t pass the gossip on to anyone else, the first-order Markov would blame you. Not fair!
WHICH ATTRIBUTION MODEL IS THE BEST?
Our opinion at Roivenue is that it is the Markov model. You don’t necessarily have to trust us, though. Just looking at what different models say about your data is often an eye-opening experience. In our experience, with some channels you can find up to a 300% (!) difference in how the different models value their contribution.
Choose for yourself which attribution model you want to trust the most. Roivenue will allow you to compare all of them. Once you decide which is the best, you can switch the whole application and order all metrics to be recalculated with one click of a button.
2017 was a very fortunate year for us here @ Roivenue.
We are now very confident we are onto something and so we've decided to double down on our attribution product.
This January, Roivenue will break out on its own. As an independent company, Roivenue will be taking most of the staff of our parent company, Cross Masters, over to a new legal entity called Roivenue.
There are lots of exciting things ahead this year, including offices opening in three new countries as we can't wait to get our amazing product into the hands of as many clients as possible!
If you’d like to be part of a growing wave of smarter optimization that’s delivering vastly improved marketing ROI, don't hesitate a second longer. See our job offerings today.
Roivenue in 2015 & Roivenue in 2017
By: Pavel Sima, Roivenue CEO
Recently, I ran the numbers and found out that, on average, clients who are with us for at least a year see a 30% increase in their revenue, while achieving a 15% increase in ROI. It means they make more and spend less.
Our goal with a current round of financing is to reach 200 clients in three years time.
Put in real terms, the increase in ROI based on the 30% increase in annual revenue would mean our clients would have an average yearly revenue of 100,000,000 EUR - with 30,000,000 EUR of newly-generated revenue from Roivenue.
And when I say Roivenue, it means nothing else than our loving, smart, hard-working, talented, and dedicated colleagues who believe there's a better way of doing digital marketing, and have the guts to put several years of their careers in to prove to the world that it really is the case.
I once read that with a young company in your hands you stand a chance of creating a little universe where everything can be just right. In my world, I believe that it is only fair that the same people I meet in the office long after the official office hours should reap the benefits if and when the company succeeds
If, a couple of years down the road, we turn out to be a major success, I do want everybody to be able to maybe buy an apartment. And, if we turn out to be only a moderate success, then I would love everybody to have the liberty to maybe take a short career break and travel around the world - or sit and read books for 6 months - without the need to go to work.
Life is short and those who work hard, should be allowed to play hard as a reward.
That's why we decided to distribute 10% of the company shares to our key personnel as well as to every single full time employee.
If you share the same values as we do, come join us. There's a lot of chairs still untaken.
By: Pavel Sima, Roivenue CEO
At its Google Marketing Next event in mid May, Google announced that it is rolling out a free, still-in-beta version of Google Attribution in its Analytics platform. Finally, even mid-size businesses who cannot afford the Google Analytics 360 suite will have access to data-driven attribution models so that they can better evaluate the performance of their marketing mix.
This is great news for companies that do most of their digital advertising inside the Google ecosystem. But, the plan has cracks for marketers with more complex portfolios.
1. It's never going to be independent
Immediately after the announcement, big agencies, clients, and bloggers alike raised the question of independence. Some even spoke about having no “separation of Church and State.“ Having Google evaluate the performance of campaigns run on their own properties (namely AdWords and DoubleClick) has always been problematic. Asking Google the question of how their properties perform relative to other marketing platforms is now even more unthinkable to pundits and marketers alike.
2. There's no such thing as free attribution
The “Free data-driven attribution for everybody” announcement came with a big caveat: Google Attribution will also have a 360 (see: paid) version. While we still don't know which features will be included in the free version, it’s safe to assume that there will be significant hurdles - similar to long-standing sampling issues in the free version of Google Analytics.
The more fundamental question is just why would Google allocate so much computational power that goes into data-driven algorithms and give it away for free. Well, advertisers are not going to pay with dollars but something much more valuable – their advertising data that will train Google’s algorithms to gain an advantage over other ad networks. And, of course, free Analytics users voluntarily stepping into a sales funnel for Google Attribution 360.
3. Want to know marketing ROI? You need your costs, not just your visits
Measuring the origins of sales to the last cent is great. But marketers ultimately need to know the ROI of what they are doing online. While Google may have information about how much a particular campaign or click cost in AdWords or DoubleClick, and where clicks come from on other ad and social channels, it cannot tell users about the impact of their spend from any non-Google platform. Facebook and other players are not going to let Google scrape that valuable business information.
According to eMarketer, Google accounts for 40.7% of US digital ad revenue and has a 12.5% share of the display market. That’s obviously significant, but it also means that 60% of ad revenue, and 88% of the display market, is outside the Google ecosystem. In Europe, the numbers are even lower for Google.
To marketers who advertise on other display networks, Facebook, affiliate networks, re-marketing, product comparison sites, aggregators or buy ads in private deals (and we've seen clients with as rich portfolios as 15 different platforms where they spend money), Google Attribution is never going to tell them ROI. This release may be of interest to analyst teams, but CMOs will still need to measure cost/benefit impacts from other platforms in another platform.
4. Ultimately, it's about profits and customer lifetime value (CLV)
If you want to combine the perfect attribution models with margins, profits, or CLV, you are still left with two options: develop a data-driven attribution tool in-house (which is costly and consumes development resources to both develop and maintain it) or enrich a third party solution with your customer data.
Paranoid or not, most companies are already feeling anxious about the breadth of data Google gathers about their business and consequently are unwilling to trust it with even more of their customer and business data. Therefore they have to seek a third party solution that offers data-driven attribution and customer data imports while at the same time being independent from ad networks.
The fact is that data-driven attribution is a piece of a much larger puzzle that marketing departments need to solve.
So what are marketers left with?
If you can get past the issues around privacy of your data, and do all your advertising inside Google ecosystem already, free Google Attribution may work for you. And, it's actually great that there is finally going to be an affordable solution that will get millions of companies out of the misery of being locked in the last-click cage.
The rest of the marketing world (see: most of the marketing world) can derive greater benefits from an all-encompassing third-party solution like Roivenue.
From the very beginning, Roivenue's mission has been to overcome all of the issues mentioned above, and to give our clients the most precise, unbiased, clear view of their entire marketing ecosystem and the ROI associated with it.
No matter how complicated your marketing ecosystem is, Roivenue gets data from every advertising platform (even if it has no API – yes, we do magic for you), takes into account all touchpoints, never samples, connects to any CRM or ERP you use, has trained account managers to guide you, is here to stay and won't ever let you down.
By: Martin Faith
I have been exploring the possibilities of Power BI over the past year and, as I look back, I’m quite happy with that education. Over my professional career to date, my reporting has been done almost exclusively in Excel. Although I progressed as an Excel user and was becoming more effective with it, I couldn’t help but think that things could be easier.
Even if you're an Excel pro and can manage to query data into your worksheet with Power Query, the final output of your work is still a clunky chart or a pivot table. Where is the tool that produces sleek, intuitive and appealing reports the user will look forward to? A report that someone will look forward to? To me, at that time (and probably to you at the moment), this seemed like a far off utopia.
Fast forward to present day… Now, I work in Power BI on a daily basis, and teach a Power BI basics class. I see clients looking forward to the reports we deliver for them. Reporting is mostly synonymous with boring, not anymore. Here are the few ways Power BI makes your data analysis and reporting life better:
One Report to Rule Them All
Prepare each report exactly ONCE. One of the (many) reasons why people get frustrated with Excel is repetition of reporting – the same reports…over and over and over again. With Power BI, those days are done.
Prepare a report, set up your query infrastructure, check that your data source is working properly, and you’re all set. All you need to do is sit back and watch live data feed into your dashboards. You may need to ask your boss what to do with all the time you have saved yourself, your colleagues, and the company as a whole.
Cross Source Analysis
Some of your data is in your CRM, some is in a Google Sheet, there’s a bit downloaded from a web application. With Power BI, you can analyze all the data in one place, and possibly even in one visual.
You might need to work a bit on setting up a relationship between the data sources, but I’ve already found a few tricks to make this work.
Create a DISTINCT value list which establishes a connection between the two tables you are looking to connect, play around a bit with the data model, and off you go. Or even better, if you are looking to analyze your data over time, create a date table with CALENDARAUTO function, connect the dates through this table, and you can compare even apples and oranges over time.
Beautiful, Branded Reports
No more quirky filters. No more cross-tab references. A properly-prepared data model in Power BI lets you create reports that give stakeholders both a high-level perspective and the ability to zoom in and focus on the details that make a difference.
In fact, I’m using this right now. We’ve been able to reduce reporting for our agency clients from dozens of Excel reports prepared manually every week, to a single Power BI report page, which is
prepared once, branded, and easy to work with.
Everyone on the Same Page
Report sharing has never been easier.
We made this one in just a few minutes with a demo account. Expand it to full screen and click around!
No More Data Surprises
The feature I am starting to use more and more often is report notifications in Power BI Service. After completion of a report and its upload to Service, Power BI enables you to define a value-based notification. If I’m looking to hit a sales goal, reach a conversion KPI, or waiting for a price to sell, Power BI will let me know when the time comes.
In Roivenue, we use this feature for data load checks. If the data does not load properly, a notification monitoring its completion will pop up in my email and I can resolve the issue before anyone sees anything may be amiss. No more manually clicking through our accounts, checking them again and again to make sure our loads are complete. So, thanks Power BI for saving me hours of time each week!
Make your life easier and become friends with Power BI. For the price of a six-pack, you can have monthly access to all of the described goodies and many many more. Wide-ranging possibilities of data sources enable you to produce meaningful analysis regardless of what you do – if you are a marketer, technical analyst, or simply a curious blogger. Just try plugging in any Wikipedia page into Power BI Desktop and you will see what I mean.
It might seem like I'm selling Power BI a bit, but let me assure you that I am not affiliated with Microsoft in any way. I just want to help people use their data more effectively.