The vanityness of a metric depends on what a team can do with it

Raghu Thricovil
Jun 7, 2016 · 2 min read

Recently one of the best conversions I have seen within teams, thanks in part to the Lean Startup movement, is the discussions on Vanity vs. Actionable Metrics.

One definition of vanity metrics:

“Vanity Metrics [noun] : Data collected about a company or its users that do not help entrepreneurs make decisions. Many claim that these metrics serve no purpose other than to make the entrepreneur feel good” — startupdefinition.com

As we look at vanity metrics from the perspective of a company, the word “entrepreneur” above should be replaced by the word “teams”. As we consider a product and marketing team working together to deliver a product to market, certain metrics that might be vanity for one team might be actionable for another.

Lets consider download metrics for a product. I have seen many a product teams’ chests swelling with pride looking at these download numbers. Engineering a great product is a prerequisite for success. But, other than that, the product (engineering) team has little to do with download numbers. Download numbers are a vanity metric for the product (engineering) team because the engineering team has a limited ability to impact the metric in case it doesn’t trend the right way.

But for the marketing team, download numbers are an actionable metric. The marketing team on the other hand, CAN ramp up marketing (e.g. with the ‘Feel the power’ campaign) and the download numbers can pick up again. So a metric can be vanity for one team while being actionable for another.

So in short:

“The #vanityness of a metric depends on what a team can do with it”

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