100 Years of Advancing Destinations

NEXT Steps with Business Intelligence Tools

Author: Guest Kirsten Van Detta, Senior Project Manager of Special Projects, Simpleview
Posted: September 03, 2015
Blog Topics Covered:
1 of 1

The research published in Phase 1 and Phase 2 of DestinationNEXT has rapidly become a core topic of discussion among the industry's strategic planners. In addition to identifying key DMO actions and strategies for sustainable success, Phase 2 also marked the launch of an invaluable diagnostic tool, capable of determining your community engagement and destination establishment. Together these two qualities have proven crucial in plotting your organization's overall strength as a destination. 

With applications like the online diagnostic tool and Destination Arena, DMAI has helped shift our industry towards a business intelligence (BI) mindset by helping us quantify what we consider success. In order for DMOs to measure themselves against these markers, leadership will need to turn to BI tools to help look inward and identify opportunity for growth. Using tools such as database and reporting systems, digital dashboards, and big data mining, DMOs are better positioned to cultivate actionable insights and make more informed decisions.

By utilizing business intelligence tools, your DMO can:

  • Interpret volumes of data
  • Identify new opportunities
  • Sustain long-term, competitive market advantages

Whether you are in the market for a BI tool, or are simply looking to maximize the insight drawn from your current one, the points addressed below will help you understand how dashboards, your data, and BI tools as a whole can help your organization make the shift from an Explorer destination to that of a Trailblazer!

Using BI Tools to Create Efficiency

As a DMO, the burden of proof falls to you. At every turn, you are asked to prove your relevancy and show the fruits of your labors to leadership, stakeholders, and your community. This means you must collect information from multiple sources, compile reports and presentations, and distribute each collection to its intended audience. But what if there was a BI tool that could ease the burden of gathering data from multiple sources and reduce the requirement for manual distribution?

You're in luck! A digital dashboard provides one of the best ways to display real-time progress and outcomes in an on-demand format while pulling data from multiple sources.

Sales Dashboard

If you are not sure what a dashboard is, we would define it as a broad data visualization tool that displays multiple metrics (measurements) or key performances indicators (KPIs), typically in real-time. In other words, it's a visual representation of an answer to a question. And "real-time" means it can be an answer to a burning question.

How are we doing with recruiting tourism ambassadors?
What is the level of partner engagement on our extranet?
How is the sales team doing with closing business?
Has the traffic on our site increased since we contracted with an SEO firm?

All of these questions, and many more, can be answered in an easily digestible format when you use a dashboard tool. Graphs, metrics, and contextual drilldowns can provide a holistic view of how your DMO is moving toward or exceeding your goals.

Refining Your Data

If a dashboard tool sounds great and you're ready to add this to your family of BI tools, you need to start with asking yourself two questions: "Where is all of our data stored?" and "How are we tracking key information?"

Why these questions first? If you want to show something like the number of E-newsletter signups month-over-month alongside the E-newsletter email opens/click data, then you will need to know where you keep both the E-newsletter signups and the email click tracking information, as well as how you are tracking a signup in your system.

Going through this exercise, metric by metric, often lands you in a place where you realize you may not have been collecting the right data needed to answer the questions being asked or that the data was collected inconsistently and is jumbled to the point where the end result could be misleading. The implementation period of any new BI tool often leads to deeper insight on the health of your data. Fear not! Use this to your advantage. The earlier the course correction, the better. As you identify where data collection needs to be refined or cleaned up, simply make the change. Don't wait! It's worth the extra effort to gain a dashboard or report with more precise information. Clean and accurate data is a beautiful thing.

Establishing Metrics and KPIs

As you're getting to know your data better, take a step back and look at your goals. Are you spending time tracking information that relates to both your performance and productivity goals?

A performance metric, as defined by DMAI, is "a measure that helps to define and quantify the results of the DMO activity". These would be goals like the Marketing department's number of online conversions by specific campaign or Sales' by-year production.

A productivity metric, also defined by DMAI, is "a metric that illustrates the relationship between the DMO performance and its resources". These would be goals such as Membership's prospect conversion ratio or the Visitors Center's cost per walk-in.

Both of these types of metrics lend credibility to your measurements and provide actionable information for decision makers. As such, they should be some of the focal points of your reports and/or dashboards. These metrics show not only the progress towards the goal, but the activity that boosted your progress to that point. This can help the viewer understand whether a change in approach is needed or if the status quo seems to be working.

Once you have zeroed in on the right data for answering the right questions, you need to consider how the answers will be communicated.

Displaying Data with Context

I'm going to throw a number out at you. It's an important number. Ready?

$127 million (economic impact).

Is that good or bad? Did it go up or down? You don't know? Neither does anyone else without any context surrounding that number. When presenting quantitative data using a BI tool, it's extremely important that the numbers displayed are paired with supporting information that provides context.

A graph showing your DMO's previous year's economic impact of $103 million, alongside a metric showing the $127 million dollars of economic impact in the current year, provides perspective. That would help a viewer see that $127 million is good!

While it may be tempting to make your dashboards look like an actual car dashboard, full of gauges and needles pointing to big numbers, consider that the viewer who needs to make decisions or inferences from that data may need more context to truly understand the meaning of the numbers they're seeing.

Managing Focus

Reports and dashboards allow you to provide a visual representation of your data so that the eye can easily scan the numbers and graphs without the brain having to run too many data comparisons. Often times, though, the sheer number of graph and color options, along with the ease of use in a BI tool, can lead to a dashboard or report that looks more like a piece of abstract art filled with rainbow pies, zig zag lines, and multi-color bars reaching for the sky rather than a clear, concise piece of decision-making art.

In order to avoid this mistake, it's important to remember that the viewer's eyes should be drawn to the most important piece(s) of information first. They will need to see that information before they can process the supporting information.

The types of media you use for display can help direct eyes to where they should look first. For example, if the viewer is your VP of Sales and the number they need first is bookings by year, then make that the most prominent visual on the screen by using a graph. Their eyes will be drawn to that first and then will move to the supporting metrics.

Drilling Down into the Specifics

Your CEO is scanning the Executive Summary dashboard or report. She sees that your partnership numbers are growing, total visits to your website are up, and the services team has assisted on more leads YTD than the whole year last year. That's great!

"But wait", she wonders. "What types of partner businesses are we recruiting the most? Is it restaurants? Hotels? Attractions? Of those website visits, how many are unique? What sources are they coming from? And that services team deserves a party! I wonder how we're tracking the leads that were serviced."

It's important to give the end user a way to answer the questions on their mind. With a static report, if the answers are not already on the report, you can retrieve these answers and add them to the report before the next review, but over time, this can lead to a very long report.

With a dashboard, the best way to do this is with definitions and drill downs. The ability for the viewer to draw out more information from one number provides a level of interactivity that not only answers the viewer's questions, but can keep the viewer engaged.

Drilldowns in Dashboards

A definition would be an explanation of how the number is being calculated. It should be easily accessible within the dashboard in order to provide quick answers to questions like "Is this counting new partner businesses that joined this year but have since closed?" or "Is this counting service requests too?".

A drill down is a way to provide additional metrics that tell a more specific story. "What types of partner business are we recruiting the most?" A quick click of a drill down button and the CEO should be able to see the types of businesses joining by percentage or perhaps a bar chart showing totals in each category.

Viewer Permissions

You've worked hard to get this far. You scoured your data. You identified all of your metrics and KPIs. You've built multiple dashboards, with each telling the story you want to tell. You are ready to break the bottle on the bow and launch it to the world. Have you decided who gets to see which dashboard? If not, you will need to address user access and permissions.

The information displayed and the audience viewing it go hand-in-hand. Information meant for one set of viewers may not be appropriate, or even useful, for another. This is why most BI tools provide a way for you to allow or restrict access to information.

A reporting tool might provide a PDF or export option which would allow you to select your audience before providing the report. With a dashboard tool, however, security settings that allow you to provide a specific level of access for each dashboard should be available. You may want to have a dashboard report specifically for your board while another one may be for public consumption on your website. Having the ability to determine access for this type of information is critical.

Correct information to the correct audience.

NEXT Steps

If you are ready to maximize the use of your existing BI tools, and maybe even add another couple to your arsenal, then you are ready to hear what your next steps should be for transitioning your DMO into a DestinationNEXT Trailblazer. Take a look at the steps below to see the next trail you need to blaze!

  1. Take the Phase 2 diagnostic assessment and identify which category your destination falls into on the Scenario Model
  2. Review the "Next and Best Practices Impact on Key Drivers" in the DestinationNEXT Guide
  3. Discuss how your organization is or is not addressing each practice
  4. Review existing data and data sources in order to create reports and/or dashboards to track progress in each area

About Kirsten Van Detta

Kirsten Van Detta is a Senior Project Manager of Special Projects for Simpleview. Formerly a CRM Senior Lead Analyst, Kirsten has been with Simpleview since 2010. Today, she serves as the go-to industry knowledge resource for CRM and Destination Dashboards.

Are you in the market for a business intelligence tool? Simpleview's Destination Dashboards is a newly built data visualization tool that integrates with the industry's leading CRM and is designed specifically for DMOs. For more information, email info@simpleviewinc.com to schedule a demo, or visit our website at www.destinationdashboards.com.