Think about all of the reports that you look at in a typical month. Dashboards, KPIs, variance and exception reports, employee performance metrics, website analytics, and dozens more are enough to make anybody's head spin. For most companies, though, the majority of these reports are at best a waste of time, and at worst actually causing strategic harm, because instead of adding value, they're simply Vanity Analytics.
Vanity Analytics is a term I first heard about 7 years ago from a CFO I was working with, and after he explained to me what he meant, it was like a light went on in my brain. We were both new to the company, and looking at the reporting tools they were using. The head of IT proudly told us that their reporting solution could create over 150 unique reports for different departments.
Within 15 minutes the CFO had declared the system useless, and when I asked why, he told me 'These are nothing but Vanity Analytics. They look like they're important, and they look like they're telling the reader something about the business, but they're worthless. When I look at a report, I want to know within 10 seconds whether everything is performing to expectation, or if I need to intervene. Anything less is a waste of time.'
Over the years, I've been lucky enough to be involved in businesses that differed wildly in industry, size, and sector, but in all of them I consistently found that the majority of reporting could be classified as Vanity Analytics.
Give it a try - the next time you get a report, ask yourself 'Does every piece of this report immediately draw my attention to an area that I can directly act on, or reassure me that everything is running smoothly?'
If not, you're almost certainly looking at a Vanity Analytics, and almost certainly wasting your time with it. And I don't think any of us have too many extra hours in the day to waste trying to find relevance in useless information.