5 tips for modernizing your products with analytics

July 23, 2019
Jiri Tuma's picture
Principal Product Manager

Every SaaS product creates a ton of user content and system-generated data, which product teams have historically used to build a set of pre-canned reports for a “Reporting” tab for product users, administrators, and other kinds of users.

However, the vast majority of software companies are failing to scale their reporting efforts beyond that set of original reports, rendering the report function a low-value feature that the product might be better off without. Typically, the reason for ignoring reporting ties back to one of these common claims.

Top claims from product teams

“Our product core feature is X, why should we invest in reporting and analytics? Besides, nobody is even using it.”

Every product has a set of key capabilities or features, and it’s understandable that a team would rather invest in things that have already been proven to “work” in your market.

But what about your competitors? Surely they have some data, so how are they leveraging it? Are they offering raw exports, pre-canned reports, or dashboards, or have they turned the market upside down and built their product around data by building modern AI-driven analytics? If so, what steps can you take to quickly close that gap and get a competitive advantage, reducing churn rate, and getting new customers? By ignoring how reporting can help you influence product adoption, you’re leaving an opportunity for a competitor to move in and offer a better or more useful experience.

“Here’s a list of the top five most requested reports, so let’s just get these done and we’ll be all set!”

Oh, the efficient product manager! You’ve done your homework and figured out that these five reports are the most important for your existing customers. Once these five are built, you’re probably planning on finally focusing on things that are “more critical,” like your product roadmap or product strategy. Well, guess what? Once you build this top five, there’s another top five that will follow.

Your developers will need to look for an efficient way to build out these reports, otherwise they’ll spend hours and hours building custom reports as needs arise. The right analytics platform can embed into your product and enable your customers to safely explore data and get insights on their own without ever leaving your product.

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“Our customers are requesting over 100 reports! Let’s have some data experts build them in a BI visualization tool and run regular exports.”

Yes, let’s move this product issue out of the development team’s queue and make it someone else’s—like data experts—problem! 

While relying on data experts may sound like a good idea, it can quickly get out of control. Think about the cost of giving every user your favorite dashboard tool. Or the cost of expanding from 100 reports to 1,000 reports for each and every customer. And then the cost of maintaining the data warehouse and data marts, and of cleaning and prepping the data all the time. Not to mention the fact that your data experts have now become a bottleneck, thanks to less-than-efficient SQL queries for every report they build.

And wait, it’s not only about building, scaling, and maintenance costs. Consider permissions, access control, provisioning, and more integration problems that traditional BI systems are simply not built for.

“Let’s not overcomplicate our product and architecture. We’ll just share the raw data. Everybody knows how to use Excel and Tableau these days!”

The PM-Architect thinking about sustainability first. Go ahead and start sharing the raw data, but you’ll be losing access to the most important asset your product has to offer: a better understanding of your users.

Your competitors are likely facing a similar challenge, and it’s just a matter of time until one of them chooses to build superior analytics instead of sharing raw data. Always look beyond your architecture and never lose sight of what data can do for your product. Maybe there’s a way you can add analytics into your product using analytics platform that’s built for product teams and sustainable SaaS architectures?

“We already have reporting and analytics dashboards. Customers love it, so we’re all set!”

Congratulations! You’re one of the few successful SaaS businesses. You’ve made data accessible, and people find the reports useful.

But what’s next? In the words of Steve Jobs, “People don't know what they want until you show it to them.” Can your current solution enable you, your developers, or data teams to experiment with insights and embed them right into the user workflows? How about leverage machine learning and AI to deliver recommendations? Or safely automate some of the most mundane work for your users using data?

Is what you offer today truly the best thing for your tomorrow’s market?

Take your product reporting and analytics to the next level

Development teams have always leveraged third-party components, SDKs, and libraries. But with SaaS as the new standard for delivering products, we’re seeing the rise of third-party purpose-built platforms for anything from handling your product transaction emails to notification and messaging services. Embedding analytics and reporting is no different.

Unlike other BI tools or pure visualization components, the GoodData analytics platform is built to seamlessly integrate and embed analytics within the SaaS environment. It enables you to bring data from various sources together, removes the complexity of managing ever-changing reporting needs thanks to a shared semantic layer, provides a wide range of UI embedding capabilities that help product teams deliver a seamless experience, and dramatically reduces or eliminates the custom reports backlog with intuitive self-service data exploration capabilities that are designed for every business user.

Beyond data and analytics capabilities, GoodData’s cloud-based multi-tenant architecture is governed with an end-to-end SLA; product and development leaders can rest easy knowing that the platform can scale as well as their own product, serving different customer needs and providing users with the kind of reporting and analytics that put competitors in the rearview mirror.

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