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Data Science, Startups

Engagement: The Key to a Data Driven Culture ft. @UseNotion

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

A “Data-driven culture” is what so many businesses aspire to be. They think that if they have the data, organize the data, and use the data to make decisions, that they will automatically infuse it into the very fibers of their corporate culture.

If only it were that easy.

Yes, obtaining data and organizing it may be the first necessary steps towards creating a “data driven culture,” but unless you can get your team excited about using that data – it’s close to worthless.

Having a data-driven culture means that everyone – not just analysts, product managers and marketers – understands the data you’re collecting, can find the data you’ve collected, and knows how to use that data to improve and optimize their work. And, of course, it’s not about your team just knowing how to use the data, but feeling empowered, encouraged, and even excited to make data an integral part of their work.

For that to happen, employees need reasons why adding data to their lives will make their work easier and get them better results.

But, engendering enthusiasm can be an uphill battle, especially if your mountains of numbers tend to scare people away.

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Startups

The Lean Startup Way to Fail ft. @AshMaurya

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

The road of progress is paved with failures – that’s not a quote; in fact, I made it up – but when you’re talking about Lean Startup methodology, it’s nevertheless true. If we don’t fail, we can’t grow, which makes failure actually very exciting, and something we encourage. Failures force us to question our convictions, and possibly discard them to make way for new ones that work more effectively.

When you think of failure that way, it’s not so bad. But, it also opens the door to the possibility that:

You’re doing failure wrong

In Scaling Lean: Mastering The Key Metrics for Startup Growth, author Ash Maurya (also author of Running Lean and creator of Lean Canvas) talks about the right way to deal with failure so you can reap the most benefits from what appears, at first, to be a significant setback.

“Can you find the common theme across these discoveries: penicillin, microwave, X-ray, gunpowder, and vulcanized rubber? . . . In each of these cases, the inventors were seeking a specific outcome and instead got a different outcome. But instead of throwing away their ‘failed’ experiments, they did something very different from most people: they asked why.”

As Maurya points out, Lean entrepreneurs today don’t fail, they pivot – but if pivoting means rushing to correct course, instead of examining the cause of the failure, you’re doing it wrong. In fact, pivoting  might not be the best response at all. Only through careful, collaborative analysis can you determine whether to persevere with your hypothesis, pivot your strategy to reach your goal by different route, or chuck the idea altogether.

Whichever route you choose, you’ve been given an opportunity. When a hypothesis doesn’t hold true, you have the ability to learn things about your customers that you never would have otherwise – by asking “why?” (a lot).

“Why?” lets you dig deep into the reasons far below surface assumptions. The “5 Whys” exercise developed by Toyota Motor Corporation can be a useful tool after just about any failure, crisis, setback, or experiment.

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Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Startups

Build, Measure, Learn, + Communicate ft. @LauraKlein

build-measure-learn

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Build, measure, learn. They’re the fundamental building blocks of Lean Startup methodology. Critics equate this 3-part cycle with tossing half-baked products to consumers to see if they work – a mistake easily made if you don’t fill in the spaces between Build – Measure – Learn with a little common sense and a lot of communication.

But first, let’s clear up a miscommunication. This isn’t simply about building a product. It’s about a lot more than that.

The goal of Build, Measure, Learn isn’t to build a final product, or even a prototype. It’s to learn as much as possible about your target audience, their pain points, price points, and possible solutions through incremental, iterative engineering. The value of approaching product development this way, rather than the waterfall model (in which a set of requirements leads to product design, followed by implementation, verification and maintenance), is that the product develops as a result of customer feedback from the beginning, rather than developing the product before sending it to Alpha and Beta testing.

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Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Startups

Test Big Strategies via Small Experiments ft. @AshMaurya

test-big-strategies

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

“The best way to test a big idea or strategy is through small, fast, additive experiments.” – Ash Maurya, Scaling Lean

Lean startup methodology is predicated on the idea of making a minimal investment (and taking minimal risk) to learn the most valuable lessons. When it comes to creating highly effective strategies, the method is the same: creating small, fast, low-risk, highly informative tests.

How do you create “small” tests?

Small tests begin by getting to the heart of your strategy – what is the biggest, perhaps riskiest, assumption your strategy makes?

Ash Maurya in Scaling Lean: Mastering The Key Metrics for Startup Growth uses a content strategy as an example.

For instance, if you wanted to test a new content marketing strategy, what would you do? Here’s a possible task list:

1. Pick a name for your blog.

2. Register a domain.

3. Design a logo.

4. Set up a WordPress site.

5. Publish your first blog post.

6. Promote the blog post.

The first four items on this list require acquisition of additional resources. While relatively inexpensive in money terms, they cost time, which is more valuable than money. More important, they don’t do much to test the riskiest assumption in this strategy, which is ‘Can you write compelling content that engages your audience?’ This is tested only in steps 5 and 6.

Do you even need your own blog to do this? You can instead leverage other people’s networks by guest blogging first. Not only does it get you to step 5 faster, it also takes care of step 6.

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Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Startups

How to Create a Lean Startup Culture ft. @UseNotion

how-to-create-a-lean-startup-culture

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Some describe work ‘culture’ as a “learned process,” or “a set of rules and standards,” or even behaviors that fall within a proper and acceptable range according to the organization. Those sterile definitions may work for traditionally corporate environments, but startups? No. Startups have a culture all their own.

Startup culture – it’s a work hard, play harder, scrappy environment of passionate people willing to do what it takes to achieve greatness (or at least a profit). And that culture asserts itself through establishing a shared sense of purpose, a shared “why” for the what you’re producing. If you’ve come that far in your startup journey, you’re ahead of most.

And heck, that culture can be so motivating, innovative, and even profit-maximizing that large organizations of all kinds are adjusting their strategies and policies to encourage a startup mindset in their enterprise companies.

That culture isn’t necessarily Lean, but it can be. And when it is, the combination of passion and process can yield extraordinary results.

Read More on Notion


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Startups

5 Reasons You’re Failing at Lean Startup Methodology ft. @UseNotion

5-reasons-youre-failing

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Most startups fail – that’s the premise of The Lean Startup, its methodology and analytics. It’s all about setting up your startup for success by waiting to build until you know exactly what your customers need and will pay for, and then embarking on a journey of data-driven improvements.

All the while, you’re investing as little as possible to learn the most possible, making the iffy, insecure world of startup entrepreneurship a little more sure, a little more stable.

It’s no wonder that startup founders have taken notice. Something that lowers risk and improves the ultimate product? ‘Where do I sign up?’ – right?

But here’s what few people are willing to tell you: A lot of startups also fail at adopting Lean Startup methodology and there are a few reasons why.

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Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Startups

The Happiness 😊 Equation of a Data-Driven Culture ft. @UseNotion

thehappinessequation

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

When you introduce a KPI dashboard, you can expect to see some deer-in-headlights looks from your employees. They can only imagine two uses for tracking their data – you’re judging them based on it, or you’re micromanaging them with it.

Fear of data is understandable. The truth is, most of us have been burned by data (in the hands of bad managers) in the past. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In fact, introducing a data-driven framework can actually make it easier to promote engagement, productivity, and yes – even happiness within your organization. Do it right, and your team will appreciate data as the wonderful tool it is and enjoy their work more.

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Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Metrics, Startups

How to Use Data to Unlock Your Next Promotion ft. @UseNotion

how-to-use-data-to-unlock

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Squeaky wheels. They tend to get more grease than the rest of us. Even if the other wheels are more effective, the squeakers are attention-grabbers. And in business, it’s often those who grab attention for their efforts who gain recognition (and raises and promotions), leaving humble types quietly toiling away without due reward.

In a competitive job market, you need to differentiate yourself from your peers to get ahead, but that doesn’t mean you have to start squeaking louder. Nobody likes a braggart. It’s much better to have your praises sung for you, and there’s no better way to do it than by having the value of your work proven by data.

Being Data-Driven Can Transform Your Perception – and Performance – at Work

Whether you manage a company, a department, a team, or just yourself, using KPIs or OKRs to track progress is an effective way to stay motivated and prove the efficacy of your efforts at the same time. KPIs – key performance indicators – change depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, but most importantly, they are measurable values that demonstrate how effectively you’re achieving your goals. Most often, KPIs are also SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound.

And each one is a stepping stone towards your larger goal.

OKRs – objectives and key results – are similar, but a little different. This is a technique for setting and communicating goals and their results to get each person in a team moving together in the right direction.

Use one or both, but either way, you’ll be adopting a system of setting specific, measurable, realistic and deadline-driven tasks that align your team with the company (or even just aligning yourself).

They also provide clear direction, so everyone involved knows exactly what to do next.

The other perk of instituting simple data gathering and analysis is that it allows you to figure out what’s working well and what isn’t, so you can adjust your strategy or even find ways to help the company as a whole.

But the real magic comes after you’ve been pursuing these KPIs and OKRs for long enough to track your success rates.

Anyone can talk a good game. Most people do, at least in front of the boss. But few are able to back up their claims by showing a data-based trajectory of success.

And, when you have a suggestion, management will listen when you can justify your idea with numbers, charts or graphs. You’ll become the authority on the topic!

Read More on Notion


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Metrics, Startups

Lean Analytics: Why the “One Metric” is More Complicated Than it Sounds ft. @UseNotion

lean-analytics

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

“The One Metric that Matters” – sounds important, doesn’t it? There’s been a lot of talk about “the One” in Lean Analytics circles, but I’d like to let you in on a secret:

The secret is that the One Metric changes over time. It could change year-to-year or quarter-to-quarter, depending on your growth stage and what matters most to you now.

And, the One Metric for your company is often different than the One Metric for another company.

So the One Metric just got a bit more complicated. But when you get down to the heart of the One Metric, it becomes relatively simple again:Find what is most important to the health and growth of your company right now, measure it, and improve on it.

Let’s take a look at how you can do just that.

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Metrics, SaaS, Startups

Why Every Team Needs Quantitative Goals ft. @UseNotion

whyeveryteamneedsquantitivegoals

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

The mistake I see most often: Companies hit a million or two in revenue, and not every department has quantitative goals. Sales always has a goal – but does marketing? What are their quantitative goals in customer success? What are engineering’s quantitative goals it has to hit this quarter? Do you have a point system? Do you have a card system? Most marketers are like ‘I don’t have a lead commit, I just have a budget.’ We’re not in that world anymore. We all have to set measurable goals.

– Jason Lemkin, founder of SaaSTr, Metrics that Matter Webinar, April 26th 2016

Jason Lemkin, venture capitalist and founder of SaaSTr, says the biggest mistake he sees with companies in the start-up phase ($1mm – $2mm ARR) is not that they don’t track CAC or LTV or one single metric, but rather that each division, from sales to marketing to product to customer success, and even engineering, don’t have specific quantitative goals.

In short, each department needs to find their key metric to drive success in order to keep getting better.

And, while Lemkin doesn’t go into the specifics for each department, his rule of thumb is crystal clear:

Figure out a goal for every department. Most importantly, set a baseline based on what you know, then drive that up or down.

Sales has always been driven by metrics and quotas. Why not other departments? With the data gathering and tracking technology we have at our disposal, there’s no excuse not to try and optimize every process, every department and every team.

Here are some suggestions for success metrics — Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) — that make sense for the key players in your start-up phase company: Engineering, Product, Customer Service, and Marketing.

Read More on Notion


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.