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Embrace Data and Testing Will Come Naturally

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embrace_data_660x440One of the takeaways from this year’s Click Summit was that “an organization must embrace data before it can leverage testing.” This seems obvious on the surface, but it is actually a powerful insight that hints at the mechanism by which a testing culture can grow within an organization. It also suggests some practical steps for building a data-driven business.

READ MORE: Get the top 110 takeaways from Click Summit 2014

For a testing culture to take root, everyone in an organization must be encouraged and inspired to ask questions. Unfortunately, when ideas are based on gut feelings and personal preferences, there is little room for productive discussion—especially when strategy and approval trickles down from the top of the org chart. Looking at data—even simple, descriptive data—can help open the conversation in an objective, meaningful way.

Perhaps more importantly, effective testing cannot be executed without this foundation of data. Organizations can test before they embrace data, of course. But the result is typically a series of tests that attempt to confirm assumptions or identify major problems in strategies already under implementation. It’s better than nothing, but it can’t provide the learning necessary for iterative testing and sustainable growth.

Data forms the foundation for testing and is crucial for building organization alignment. Without trust in data, testing will meander along an aimless path, stutter and stop, and fail to clear the many common hurdles that hinder high efficiency, successful programs.

So how does an organization embrace data? The process flows through three stages:

1. Get familiar with data
The first step is to familiarize key team members with the most common metrics. Organize a weekly meeting to look at changes in basic traffic numbers and user patterns.

2. Ask questions
The next step is to start using this data as part of the decision making process. It can be difficult to incorporate data into existing brainstorming meetings if it doesn’t play a role already—so instead use data review meetings to spark brainstorms. Ask questions about trends and fluctuations and develop a strategy for answering these questions.

3. Seek answers
As the questions build and participation becomes more natural, the group will begin to move in a predictable direction—applying testing methodologies to find verifiable answers.

Seen this way, it’s clear that by embracing data in even a basic way, testing—and all the power inherent in this approach—will follow closely behind.

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Did you find this interesting? Get 109 more insights from Click Summit 2014.