This is a story of how we built a working BI tool in one sprint.
It shows how easy it is to screw up if you don't ask questions (even when building for yourself). It also shows that you don't always need to solve all problems. Creating a tool that simplifies the process can do the trick (and then some). Assisting the human brain rather than replacing it was key to the success of this project
Early in 2018, we were a couple of months into a presidential campaign. We had opened 20 or so regional offices with over 60 to go. The main goal of the early stages of the campaign was to register at least 350,000 people (but no more than 7,500 per region) to support the nomination.
We needed a way to track how many supporters we had registered, their locations, and if we had enough time.
Create an easy-to-use BI tool that will allow campaign management to track campaign KPIs, identify trends, and make data-driven decisions.
This is a happy story about how we almost screwed up (bigly). As a team, we had experience of working together on a bunch of smaller political campaigns. And for a long time, we’d been discussing the need for a proper campaign CRM down the line.
Ideas were circulating, we routinely discussed random features we definitely knew we wanted to build. Wireframes were occasionally passed around, everyone seemed to have some kind of shared vision of a system. The scary part was that the system looked like an extremely complex product to build.
Email and SMS campaign management tool, supporting time and action-based chains of emails and texts
Audience segmentation based on geography, user actions, previous engagement and communication
Campaign performance tracking
As a team, we were sold on this vision. But purely out of curiosity, (and as part of my UX-research self-training) I decided to do a set of formal user interviews.
in charge of vision and strategy
At any given moment I want to see how the campaign is performing overall. What are our current KPIs. What regions are performing particularly well or poorly. What cities look the most promising for the next campaign office. I’m ok with ugly tables, just show me the numbers.
I want us to track all interactions and any engagement with supporters and volunteers so that we can have targeted campaigns later.’
responsible for finance and operations
I need one place where campaign management can see the current overall state of a campaign at a glance.
If there is a crisis, I want to know about it. If some of the regional offices are failing, I want to know.
I want to see how many real signatures we can expect to get in each city. It would be nice to track the budget and its conversion to our key metrics (registrations and signatures). But I doubt we can build it quickly enough.
I’m ok with raw data and numbers.
works in HQ, responsible for 10-15 regional campaign offices
I don’t know. I probably want to know how many people signed up in each region, how many volunteers we have and if we can contact them
works on the ground, in charge of a regional campaign office
I want to know how many people signed up so that we can contact them and convert them to volunteers or donors
in charge of outreach and engagement
I want to know how our outreach campaigns affect the key metrics.
If we do local context campaigns, do they perform better than federal for specific regions.
Can regional campaigns affect the federal context?
yep, the candidate
I want to understand what works and what doesn't. What actions increase the amount of website registrations and what actions don’t. I want you to be able to tell me this. This is the only thing I care about
After we all agreed on the updated product vision and set of questions, we had one more problem to figure out — scheduling. Political campaigns tend to be messy to manage at the best of times. Being in the very beginning of a very aggressive political campaign in a very aggressive environment while juggling a bunch of projects can be overwhelming.
We knew that the task at hand called for focused work and ideally some headspace, but it was hard to imagine any of that happening at HQ.
Track overall campaign state → Track the key up-to-date metrics
Track performance of campaign offices → Ability to segment key metrics by region (and or groups of regions), ability to easily see if we have a working campaign office in the selected location or not
Predict total amount of expected signatures from each region → Show the number of confirmed and unconfirmed registrations, come up with some prediction model
With these charts we were able to see the general state of the campaign (the number of registrations) and the overall trend (if the registration rate is slowing down or speeding up) as well as make rough predictions if we had enough time. It was also easy to spot exact days/weeks when something happened that caused an unusually high or low number of registrations.
As you can see, we also added a bonus feature: the ability to select a specific interval to see the exact amount of registrations during that time (to estimate the impact of certain events).
inputting relevant events
The key was not to build a ‘smart’ analytic tool that could track and connect every event to its measurable outcome. Even if such technology existed we had no time to implement and fine-tune it to make it useful. Luckily we had access to something better — human brains. Not trying to substitute the human brain with technology, and allowing human intelligence to be part of our product became our silver bullet.