Tilting the windmill by Alistair Croll

Posted by Alistair Croll

Apr 22, 2014 4:38:21 PM


In the year since Lean Analytics was released, I’ve spoken with all kinds of companies, from fledgling founders to global giants. The early-stage firms have few constraints, and they’re free to experiment. But it’s the big companies, hamstrung by convention, who have the most perplexing questions.

Any modern author can see what parts of their book is resonating with readers, looking at e-book data to find the phrases that were highlighted by their audience. In our case, one of the most popular is, “being an intrapreneur is like tilting at windmills,” a reference to the mad Don Quixote and his futile fight against machinery.

Many people trying to change things from within have an almost Sisyphean task ahead of them. If, as Steve Blank says, a startup is an organization designed to search for a sustainable, repeatable business model, then it follows that a company is an organization designed to perpetuate one. But the assumption that tomorrow is like today, only more so, stifles innovation and kills companies.

Over the past few months, I’ve been interviewing product managers, innovation officers, and technologists at some of the world’s largest companies, trying to understand how they balance the sustaining innovation that keeps the cash flowing and the lights on with the disruptive innovation that opens up new opportunities.

So far, four big strategies stand out. They keep score differently, they frame product creation as a study, they innovate on product, market, and method, and they manage a three-tiered portfolio.

Here’s a bit more detail on these.

Different ways of keeping score

One of the biggest challenges Intrapreneurs face is that of competing metrics. Large businesses have annual budgets, and tie compensation and bonuses to the attainment of known goals rather than to the discovery of new ones.

Companies that manage to innovate recognize that tomorrow’s businesses look bad when seen through today’s lenses.[i] Consider Blockbuster and Netflix. Blockbuster made much of its revenue from late fees; Netflix had none, so it looked less attractive to the incumbent.

To deal with this, companies create new metrics (such as the number of assumptions confirmed or repudiated) and different timeframes (such as weekly or monthly budgeting.) Data on innovation projects is reported in aggregate on an annual basis to the host company, but the individual projects are shielded from the tyranny of long budget cycles.

It’s not innovation, it’s research

To tackle the stigma of failure, some of the companies I’ve talked with treat innovation as a form of research. Small startups might be surprised at how much primary research costs large businesses. A global study, conducted by a large research company, requires many months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete.

Rather than saying, “we’re going to create a new division to sell widgets,” some Intrapreneurs say, “we’re going to study the widget market.” Then they use the budget for the study to enter the market with a minimum viable product and learn quickly.

This has two key consequences:

  • First, it provides more direct understanding of users and emergent markets. The project is free to talk to anyone—and more often than not, in truly disruptive innovation, the new users aren’t part of the current business.[ii]
  • Second, it satisfies the organization’s need for predictability and success. If the innovation is a failure, the Intrapreneur can say, “great news, we now know all about the widget market, and here’s why we shouldn’t enter it.” If, on the other hand, the innovation is promising, then she can say, “the widget market is attractive, and we’ve already created a beach-head product.”

Product, market, method

Startups often talk about product/market fit, the moment when you’ve found the right product for the right market and things just snap into place. I’ve found there are three big dimensions, and the third one—method—is often overlooked.[iii]

Innovation on method is one of the reasons we’re in a renaissance of entrepreneurship: we have a fundamentally new channel through which we can source and deliver products. We’ve moved from physical channels with high coefficients of friction to online models made up of bits, mobile devices, and web sessions. Many of today’s innovations aren’t new products or even new markets—they’re new methods.

Consider Amazon as a book publisher:

  • In its early days, it sold books (an existing product) to readers (an existing market.) What was new was the method it employed: centralized distribution and web-based ordering.
  • Later, the company introduced the Kindle e-reader—a new product to the existing market (readers) through now-existing methods (online purchase.)
  • And finally, because e-readers had variable font size, the company could reach a new market (the legally blind) with an existing product (e-readers) and channel (online purchase.)

There have only been a few other truly fundamental changes in written history, such as the replacement of muscle power with steam power, and the resulting industrial age; or the replacement of word-of-mouth with mass printing and literacy. Both of these changes offered an entirely new method of doing things, and triggered a flurry of innovation. 


Intrapreneurs in big companies know this, and spend much of their time on method innovation—sometimes called go-to-market strategy, but with a far more speculative and experimental angle.

Three-tiered portfolios

Big companies don’t work on one thing at a time. They have a portfolio of innovation projects, and they manage them much as an investor might manage investment, balancing risk and novelty with predictability and familiarity. The best companies put innovation into three distinct portfolios: sustaining, adjacent, and disruptive.

  • Sustaining innovation means doing more of the same, better than before. It’s focused on continuous improvement and optimization, and it’s required to remain competitive against known threats. Sergio Zyman, CMO of Coca-Cola, once described the role of marketing as “selling more things to more people for more money more often more efficiently,” which is a good summary of companies in the first tier of a portfolio. Traditional accounting metrics and KPIs apply in this tier; execution matters.
  • Adjacent innovation involves changing one aspect of a business model—either the product, the market, or the method. There is risk and uncertainty involved, but it’s close enough to the existing business that it’s familiar to the organization. The metrics in this tier are different, however, so it’s important to learn quickly. Iteration matters most. Projects “graduate” to the first tier of the portfolio when they become predictable and find a home within the existing organization.
  • Truly disruptive innovation involves changing many aspects of the business at once. It’s unfamiliar to the existing business, and needs buy-in from the very top of the company to happen. Metrics here deal with the speed at which the organization is identifying and testing new ideas, and discovery matters most. Projects either “graduate” to the second tier of the portfolio when they become measurable, or they warrant the creation of an entirely new business group.

We can summarize the difference between these three groups by their core focus and how well we understand the problem and solution:


What’s next?

I’ll be spending the coming year digging deeper into this subject at www.tiltthewindmill.com, giving people who sign up for the mailing list access to many of the interviews and case studies. I’m not sure whether it will result in a book, a podcast, videos, or simply a better understanding of the issues—but in Lean style, I’m hoping to find out.


More resources:

Lean Analytics FREE online workshop 

Interviews with data-driven entrepreneurs 

Got any questions? Contact sofia@geckoboard.com


[i] (I should point out that many of the ideas here aren’t new. Long before startups raised the banner of product/market fit, H. Igor Ansoff’s two-dimensional matrix described innovation along those two dimensions. The Three Horizons model of innovation comes from McKinsey and Geoffrey Moore’s writings. And the tension between sustaining and disruptive innovation is at the root of Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma.)

[ii] For a more modern example of listening to the wrong customers, consider the cloud computing industry. When large server vendors asked their best customers what they wanted, they were told, “more of the same, bigger and cheaper and faster.” At that time, cloud computing offerings from Amazon Web Services failed these tests in every respect: they were less powerful, more expensive, and less reliable than physical servers.

But Amazon wasn’t targeting CIOs and enterprise IT. Instead, it was talking to startups, application developers, and CTOs—who wanted involved pay-as-you-go pricing, high aggregate capacity, and quick launching of new servers. This is a classic example of the Innovator’s Dilemma; studying a market by entering it, cheaply, is a far more effective way to discover new criteria than surveying your existing customers.

Later, of course, cloud technology matured so that it’s possible to build faster machines (by sharing the load among many of them), save money (by varying capacity with demand), and create more reliable applications (by failing gracefully across data centers worldwide.) So in the long run, cloud computing met all of the CIO’s needs—which is why incumbent server vendors are scrambling to launch cloud offerings.

[iii] Marketing purists will point out that the broadest possible definition of product includes the entirety of brand, channel, delivery, pricing, and surrounding services, so there’s no need for the “method” dimension. While this is true, it’s a point often lost on organizations of all sizes, particularly those for whom sales is a separate function from product management or research and development.


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The 'Heartbleed' security bug and what to do next

Posted by Paul Joyce

Apr 9, 2014 5:13:49 PM

On April 7th, a critical vulnerability was reported in OpenSSL, software used by the majority of service providers on the internet to encrypt communications. The vulnerability is officially known as CVE-2014-0160, but also referred to as Heartbleed.


As always, our top priority is the security and privacy of your data and the engineering team at Geckoboard moved quickly to secure our servers and conduct a security review.


The result of the review is that we've found no evidence of any Geckoboard accounts or data being compromised. However, in line with best practice, you may wish to take some additional precautions. We would recommend you to:

1. Change your password
To do so, log in to your Geckoboard account, go to Account Details in your profile and change your password.

2. Regenerate your sharing URLs if you use sharing dashboards and sharing loops
Log in to your Geckoboard account and click the 'Share' icon in the top right corner. You will then see the URL you have previously shared with people. To change this or to lock your dashboard, click the padlock icon. Clicking the padlock icon once will lock the dashboard, clicking it again will generate a new sharing URL. 
To regenerate your sharing loops, go to 'Sharing loops' in your profile, click the name of your sharing loop and click 'Regenerate.'

If you have any questions about this or any other matter then please drop us a line at support@geckoboard.com



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Solving problems with a data-driven mindset at Geckoboard

Posted by Tatsuya Ono

Mar 31, 2014 3:30:00 PM

Our Senior Software Developer, Tatsuya Ono, shares his experience on implementing a data-driven development process.

At Geckoboard we make more than 10 million external API calls every day to show real time data on users’ dashboards. We support more than 100+ service providers - each with a different API. They could be using HTTPS, LDAP, REST or SOAP along with OAuth or Basic Auth and each service will have their own response format and data structures. We carefully design and develop our widgets to ensure that accurate and meaningful data is shown across all dashboards.

Tackling API limits

One of the challenges we face is that some APIs perform rate limiting (e.g. Twitter). Many service providers have limitations to their API usage to prevent malicious users from making a large number of requests. Fortunately for us, most service providers understand that we’re not malicious and Geckoboard being able to access their API is valuable to their users so we often get a looser rate limit. Of course we still have a responsibility not to flood their API with requests and make sure we’re using it as efficiently as possible.

Understanding the problem

One day, our support team received emails from a number of customers saying that some widgets were not updating properly at a specific time of the day. On further investigation we found that these widgets were making API calls to one specific service provider (let's call them Acme corp for the purpose of this post). Our suspicion was that the errors were caused by an API rate limit being reached.

We monitor our API calls with Librato through Statsd. The data from Librato (see image below) showed us that our suspicion was correct.


Acme Corp, it turned out, is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like many of our partners their API rate limit is reset at the same time each day. We were reaching this limit late in their day (PST) meaning errors for our customers in Europe were ocurring between 6am and 7am UTC (PST is 8 hours behind UTC).

Discussing a solution

The next step was for the team to discuss the problem and find a solution. Here are the actions we came up with:

  1. Reduce the number of API calls by increasing the time between widget reloads

  2. Talk to Acme corp and ask them to increase our rate limit

  3. Improve our widget code to make fewer API calls

The first step was a very temporary solution until we could work on the other actions (increasing the refresh time would be detrimental to customer experience).

Our next step was to negotiate with Acme corp over the rate limit. They kindly offered to increase the limit by 50 percent, but they also wanted us to reduce unnecessary API calls (which we intended to do as a third action anyway).

For these widgets, the user can select the time period of the data to be displayed. If a user wants today's data we have to update the widget more frequently. If a user wants yesterday's data, we only have to update the data once in a day. Unfortunately we were making the same number of API calls whether the user was requesting data for today or yesterday. Regardless of the user’s configuration, our system updated the data in same cycle and made same number of API calls for those widgets. Our solution was to cache data for widgets whose configuration didn’t mean that the data need to be fetched all of the time.

Getting the metrics

Prior to joining Geckoboard I would’ve started working on the code straight away. But at Geckoboard we have a slightly different culture: we’re data-driven, and we want to be convinced that we’re taking the right approach by using data. In this case, we wanted to know how many API calls could be cached.

I updated our library to count API calls grouped by the date range (i.e. what time period this widget covered) of the data.


From this graph we learnt that nearly 50 to 55 percent of API calls could be reduced simply by caching the result for a longer period.

Focusing on the solution

We found that we needed to fix several different codebases. At first, we needed to tweak a library for widgets to cache API responses in an easy way. Then we had to update the code for each widget, which took a bit of time. A few different developers had to be involved to do this.

Although the graph on Librato gives us great information, it’s not easy to judge if we actually achieved our desired goal. We wanted to share a goal within the team that was easy, clear and intuitive. We needed to focus on this goal and that's where Geckoboard helped. I created a little script which exported data from Librato, aggregated it and then pushed the data to a dashboard.




It shows some simple numbers that immediately tell us if we achieved our goal or not. Normally we tend to forget about the purpose of what we’re working towards, and are satisfied with delivering some functionality or a hotfix. This dashboard helps to prevent us falling into this particular pitfall.

Achieving our goal

After I set up the dashboard, our integration team started working on the fix, however things were more complicated than we thought. The data processed by Acme Corp, it turned out, would suffer from unpredictable time lags. That, coupled with the fact that their API doesn't reveal the status of their data processing, confuses matters

The cache strategy we planned was not able to work out as we expected. Nevertheless, we continued to tweak our approach whilst opening a dialogue with Acme corp around how we can help improve things from both sides, a process helped by sharing the dashboard we made showing the efficiencies we’d made.


Implementing a data-driven culture

In software development, the need for data, analytics and data insights are like the need for an accurate map for someone driving a car. We know that no matter how quickly you try to drive, it's impossible to reach your destination if you're driving in the wrong direction. But we (as developers) sometimes forget that and go down a blind alley - wasting time and money.

When we started this process, I was uncomfortable spending time not coding. It took dicipline to take the time to set up the necessary tools for this process, and I found myself initially choosing the wrong metrics. I felt unease at the thought that I may have been creating an inaccurate map for myself (which might be worse than not having a map at all)... But a couple of months later I suddenly noticed that things got better. We’ve got a good set of tools/services and libraries to communicate our data with, and gradually we learnt how to choose the right metrics and communicate these to the team. Now I can get the metrics I want quickly, and I rarely find myself choosing the wrong metrics.

So don't worry if you're just getting started with updating your processes - take it from us it’s perfectly normal. Try and apply the data-driven mindset to three or four sprints: analyse the problem you're tackling and share a clear goal. You and your team will soon enjoy the benefits of data-driven culture.


Got any questions around data-driven development? Don't hesitate to contact us at support@geckoboard.com or leave a comment below.

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How to run Geckoboard on a Raspberry Pi

Posted by Łukasz Korecki

Mar 17, 2014 5:46:00 PM


Here at Geckoboard we love our dashboards, so it's not a surprise that the Product team has a couple of screens setup showing different dashboards.

Being nerds (and all that), we decided to use some Raspberry Pis to drive our dashboards. As software engineers we also try to automate as much as possible so that our Pis don't require much effort to set up.

This article talks about how we made it quick and easy to set up a new Pi to run Geckoboard.

Note that this tutorial was designed to work only with Raspbian.

Where to buy your Raspberry Pi

We buy our Pis from Mod My Pi, who has a very nice deal for a great price. It comes with a case, a Pi and an OS installer pre-loaded on the SD card. This package makes any further setup trivial and saved us a lot of time. We recommend the newer model with 512MB of RAM, as it's a lot faster and more suitable for running Geckoboard.

By default, the only option to get your Pi online is to use a wired (ethernet) connection. That's good if you don't mind having a couple of cables lying around the office. If you want to go wireless there are plenty of options with some detailed guides on how to get your Pi set up.

Compatible screens

As the Pi has an HDMI out port, you can connect it to any TV or monitor made in last 5 years. We're using a bunch of old Dell monitors for this.

Geckoboard setup

Create a dashboard and copy its sharing url: you can find out how in our Knowledge Base.

Pi setup

Unpack your Pi, insert the SD card and connect it to a screen and a keyboard. When installing OS you have to choose Raspbian.

After a successful installation this configuration screen will show up:


Select boot type and and choose the GUI option:


Confirm and save all changes.

When you see the desktop, verify that you can connect to the internet or set up a Wi-Fi connection.

Almost there

We've prepared a script (open source) which will automate everything else.

Run these commands in the terminal:

export DASHBOARD_URL=https://example.geckoboard.com/dashboard/AAABBBCCDDD 

curl -L https://raw.github.com/geckoboard/gecko-pi/master/install.sh | bash

Wait until it reboots and then you can safely disconnect your keyboard and mouse. The Pi will take it from here and it will even restore your dashboard after reboot in case of power loss.

In case of any problems with the script - please file an issue, we'll deal with it as soon as possible.

Any questions? Contact support@geckoboard.com or leave a comment below.

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Geckoboard’s Anatomy - An Intern’s Study

Posted by Mehdi Beddiaf

Mar 14, 2014 9:59:28 AM


Gekkonidae Data Tabula, meaning 'Gecko which gathers data and displays it on dashboard.' Geckoboard is a rare species of lizard found in several areas of the world from Japan, to Finland, right through to Venezuela.

Data is the heart of Geckoboard’s business and the data-driven culture its DNA. But what are the Geckoboard’s characteristics? What's its diet ? And what do we know about its morphology?

First, let me introduce myself: my name is Mehdi Beddiaf and I’m a Geckoboarder engineer intern coming from France, it has been a couple of months now that I analyse the Geckoboard. This is me who will answer these questions and as a naturalist, I will describe you the Geckoboard’s anatomy.



Inside the Gecko


Geckoboard is a datavore eating JSON and XML with a clear preference for beautiful JSON full of data. It feeds selectively and carefully to prevent itself being injured my harmful data. It attacks and kill large amounts of data by accessing through APIs so that it may be able to swallow them easily.



Geckoboard is able to vary its coloration and pattern through combinations of pink, blue, red, orange, green, black, brown, light blue, yellow, turquoise, and purple.

However, I could establish a non-exhaustive list of patterns. Indeed, it’s not unusual to see patterns like pie chart, bar chart, number chart, funnel, highchart, world map...etc.

Color change in Geckoboard has functions in social signaling and in reactions to sales stats, visits stats and other conditions. The relative importance of these functions varies with the circumstances, as well as the patterns.

Adhesion ability

Geckoboard toes have special adaptations that allow them to adhere to most APIs with the use of OAuth or OAuth2. The fields arranged in layers on Geckoboard forms enable attractive van der Waals' forces between the services and the APIs. The data sources of Geckoboard are also self-cleaning and will usually remove dirt data within a few steps.



More than anything the Geckoboard is peaceful and lovely, except if you are a data obviously!

Geckoboarders enjoy to have a drinks together, play Street Fighter or darts, eat burgers or burritos every Friday lunch or talk about data.

Geckoboard has a data-driven culture and the metrics which it cares about are happiness, good listening and problem solving. Geckoboard leitmotiv is Do unto others as you would have them do to you. These are all the values that it tries to share with its customers.



Geckoboard’s left cerebral hemisphere takes care of business decisions, the CEO, while the right cerebral hemisphere, more technical decisions, the CTO.

The Growth team is the lung of Geckoboard, this essential respiration organ has for principal function to transport data from the APIs into the bloodstream of the SaaS, and to release digested data from this bloodstream into the cyberspace, more precisely on dashboards within the cyberspace.

The Product team are the muscles of Geckoboard, they are primarily responsible for maintaining and changing posture, locomotion, as well as movement of internal organs, such as the contraction of the heart and the movement of data through the digestive system via the code.

They are also responsible for the hunt by finding new services to integrate, for the courtship display by developing new widgets on Geckoboard’s skin and to recover from wounds by fixing bugs.

A new species of Gecko is coming

Finally, Geckoboard is an amazing species with lots of tailored skills to collect data through API and I’ve learnt so much things by observing it.

However, I’ve witnessed several mutations recently. This Geckoboard is better, faster, stronger, it has a biggest assortment of skin colors and patterns, most important it eats more and more data.

All these observations lead me to an inevitable conclusion: I’ve found a new species of Gecko,

the Gecko Gojira Data Tabula, Gojira from Japanese  "ゴジラ" or Godzilla in English language, in reference to the most famous and terrifying Kaiju.

Natural competitors, you have been warned, there is a new predator on top of the data chain and it is going to make short work of you, run you fools!


P.S. I would like to thank Rob for this opportunity, the Product team for all their advices, the Growth team for their happiness and everybody for this amazing experience. I will miss the Friday lunch, the Street Fighter games and of course all Geckoboarders. (Thank you for your patience with my French accent too.)

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Rhys Taylor, CMO at Saasu, on why data visibility is everything

Posted by Johanna Johansson

Mar 11, 2014 9:41:00 AM

Saasu, a pioneer in online accounting software based in Sydney, Australia, has always believed in the importance of data. At Saasu, data is the ultimate deciding factor. Saasu’s Chief Marketing Officer, Rhys Taylor, shared his insights around data-driven marketing and what it takes to build a culture where data and intuition can work together.

What's Saasu and what's your role in the company?

Saasu is a global accounting platform. We connect to banks, e-commerce platforms, point of sale systems and productivity tools to provide a complete overview of business activity. Our online product is used by customers in 50 countries around the world.

We build software that makes managing your accounts rewarding by helping business owners and advisors gain insight into performance, and ultimately enabling them to make the right decisions leading to continued growth. It’s not just about bank reconciliations and compliance for us.

As the CMO I head up the marketing team and oversee our plans for growth. I also spend time focusing on our customers - their level of satisfaction and feedback is important to us and helps us take the product in the right direction.


What's your data culture like at Saasu?

We’re very open here at Saasu, and data visibility forms an important part of that. There’s not a lot going on that every member of staff isn’t aware of. We believe that if you're sharing the right information (and that it’s accurate), it can be a great motivator. 

Everyone at Saasu has three KPIs they manage, and these are unique to each individual. These KPIs guide each person day to day, week to week, and year after year. Essentially what it boils down to is that it’s their job to make their metrics ‘better.’

The idea is that these numbers are shared amongst the team to create accountability, and this expectation is set from the beginning. When somebody comes on board now, they know their KPIs are going to be up on the wall. They know that their colleagues are going to see what’s going on. There's no surprise in that sense. Instead, the attitude is, ‘Yes, I really own this role. I own this position, and I'm doing a great job.’

Sharing KPIs in this way makes everyone aware of the different priorities we each have. It means when you tap someone on the shoulder or send an email needing help with a project, you can understand why the person won’t drop everything - or if it’s even something they should be involved in in the first place.

Openness helps everybody understand everybody else in the business. It works well for us. 

How do you choose your metrics?

Choosing what to measure is a big deal. If you’re focused on the wrong numbers, you won’t achieve your goals in business. It’s too easy to get caught up in vanity metrics and run around in circles improving them.

We look strategically at the business and what we want to achieve, and then look at the staff we've got. We consider everybody's roles. Roles here change from time to time. People develop new skills, people develop new interests, and an important part of working at Saasu is that you get the opportunity to, I guess, define your own position description.

As roles are created or change, a member of the management team works with each individual to decide on their KPIs.

It’s quite a holistic approach in that we consider carefully before we choose to put a number up on the board.


Download the full case study to get Rhys' advice on how to become more data-driven.

Download PDF here.

Saasu Case Study


About Saasu

Formed in 2000, Saasu is a global online accounting platform serving customers in over 50 countries around the world. Saasu was recently ranked the number one accounting system for small and medium businesses in an independent survey of 3,500 financial professionals carried out by the AICB.



More resources:

Lean Analytics FREE online workshop 

Interviews with data-driven entrepreneurs 

Got any questions? Contact sofia@geckoboard.com

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Jesper Juul Andersen, COO at BetterNow, on the importance of choosing the right metrics

Posted by Sofia Quintero

Jan 29, 2014 5:39:00 PM

We recently had the opportunity to talk to Jesper Juul Andersen, COO at BetterNow. Jesper shared his perspective on the importance of choosing the right metrics and told us how BetterNow tackles this challenge.


 BetterNow is an online social fundraising platform for charities all over Europe. Supporters can create their own fundraiser or donate to their charity. 

Reading time: 5 min.


How do you go about choosing the metrics that matter to BetterNow?

We always start with looking at the overall goals of BetterNow. In our situation, we know that what we're looking for can be found in our lagging metrics*. For example, we want to maximise the total volume of donations that goes through BetterNow, but this is not a very action-oriented goal as these are difficult to influence in the short term. Instead, we try to break down the lag metrics and turn them into lead metrics**. These metrics can for example be number of blog posts written, number of opportunities added in Salesforce, response time to support tickets, or other metrics that employees can influence on a day-to-day basis. So we start out with the big overall metrics, as they are of interest from a business intelligence perspective, and then we break them down to more useful metrics that we can act on on a daily basis.

Why did you start using Geckoboard and how were you communicating your data before?

Prior to Geckoboard we used another solution, but it was discontinued (metricly). We have always been very keen on communicating the metrics in our organisation, but until we started using Geckoboard we were struggling to find the right solution - now we’ve finally found what we were looking for! Not only is it very easy to set up, but we have more connections to all our cloud based systems than ever before. And it looks amazing on a big screen. 

After you placed your Geckoboard on a big screen on the wall, did you notice any form of impact or any changes as a result of creating data openness?

Hehe, well - we still have problems with that because of our boxee and the whole Google spreadsheet memory leak thing, so it has actually been turned off most of the time. But the goal of having these metrics on the big screen is bigger employee ownership. So we are almost only showcasing lead metrics which each employee know they can influence. Having it on a big screen for everyone to see simply increase ownership of these metrics.

What do you think are the biggest challenges when building a data-driven culture? 

The biggest challenge is without a doubt to identify the right metrics. This is a very difficult job, good metrics need to be aligned with the overall goal, and at the same time be metrics that employees can influence on a day-to-day basis. Don't just measure what you can measure - take the time to identify the right metrics and and then do whatever it takes to find and measure these metrics.

What advice would you give to an organisation that is trying to become more data-driven, but doesn’t necessarily know where to start?

Identify your overall goals and the metrics that best align with them. Thereafter start the process of breaking down these overall metrics into action oriented metrics that each employee can influence. To be successful you really need to take the time to do this right, as the problem with measuring and using metrics is that people change their behaviour according to it. This is a good thing if you have chosen the right metrics - but bad if you have chosen the wrong metrics. Locating the data in your organisation and in your systems, and setting up the API connections to your dashboards is the easy part - thanks to Geckoboard.


*A lagging metric is referring to an event that is currently happening, but you're not able to measure its impact until after it has happened. These metrics are normally easy to measure but hard to improve, as you can't see the result of your actions until they have happened.

**Lead metrics are trying to predict an understanding of the future. They will indicate what's most likely to happen, and by doing so they give you a chance to change the outcome.


Download PDF here:



Other links you may be interested in:

Interviews with data driven entrepreneurs.

Case studies, white papers and research.

Contact us at sofia@geckoboard.com

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Topics: Case studies

New integrations: AppFigures, StatHat, Delighted, Server Density V2, and more

Posted by Sofia Quintero

Jan 27, 2014 5:44:43 PM


We are constantly working on improving current integrations and adding new ones to the widget directory. We’re the most connected dashboard in the market and we plan on keeping that up (so that you can keep up with your data).

Here’s a list of improved integrations and new additions.

Improved versions: 

af-0114AppFigures: This app-tracking platform gives you access to all the numbers you need. Get the latest on sales, downloads, worldwide reviews, and ranks in an instant. Find out more about AppFigures here.

sd-0114Server Density: Version 2 of Server Density is here! Use Server Density to control your servers from multiple providers by monitoring their metrics in real-time and get alerts. Get more info about the improved version here

New integrations:

sh-0114StatHat: Track all your events over a specific period of time.

d-0114Delighted: Know your customers? Measure your customer happiness with Delighted. 

m-0114Mandril: Get all you email stats directly from Mandril. (We also integrate with MailChimp.)

g-0114AdWords: Finally. All your PPC metrics in one place. 

k-0114Keen.io: Love Keen.io? Get instant access to all your event-based data.

Check them out in the Widget Directory!

Anything missing? Let us know what integration you would like us to improve or build and we will make it happen. Send your integration requests to: help@geckoboard.com

Ready to learn more about metrics and data-driven culture?

Check out some awesome interviews here and get the all the intel you need on how to become more data-driven.


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Topics: integrations

Tech: Indicate your build status with programmable light bulbs

Posted by Leo Cassarani

Jan 20, 2014 4:24:00 PM

Today we’re open sourcing Lightbuild, which allows you to indicate Continuous Integration build status using Philips Hue light bulbs.

We’re a pretty curious bunch at Geckoboard, and we’re always looking for interesting ways of taking information and using it in a way that makes everyone aware of what's going on. So when we had some programmable
Philips Hue light bulbs delivered to the office, a light bulb instantly went off. (Yup, said it.)

Philips Hue light bulbs may look like normal light bulbs, and you screw them in and switch them on just like any other light bulb. But the wireless LED technology inside of them (you can turn them on and off, and change their colour remotely) is sort of awesome. So we decided to do a little experiment.

We instantly recognised the potential for connecting the light bulbs to Jenkins (a Continuous Integration server), and have them report whether a build was successful or not by changing the colour of one of our light bulbs in the office. In order to do so, we created Lightbuild.

Lightbuild was developed after a few node.js coding sessions (and some ample reading of the Hue documentation). Initially we’ve only added support for Jenkins, but other CI servers/services could easily be implemented.

Getting started

To get started with Lightbuild, just fill in your Jenkins configuration parameters (username, password, hostname) and save them as config/ci.json. Then all you need to do is launch Lightbuild by running:


Depending on whether it's been run before, you may need to press the button on the top of the Hue bridge to grant Lightbuild the necessary permissions.

Once it's all set up and ready to go, Lightbuild will poll your Jenkins server every 30 seconds. If any of your builds are currently broken, your light will turn red; if all your projects are passing, then the light will turn a soothing shade of green. See the gif below for a demo of what it might look like next time your build breaks:



By default, Lightbuild will use whichever bulb has an internal ID of 1, but you can set a different number by setting the LIGHT_ID environment variable.

Note that as Philips does not expose their Hue API over the internet, you will need to run Lightbuild from within the same network as your light bulbs. For more installation and usage details, see the README. If you run into any problems or have any suggestions for future improvements, please open an issue on GitHub.

If you’re looking to share build information with your team then a combination of Hue lights and Lightbuild is a good way to achieve this.

Did you like this experiment? Drop your feedback in the comments, or head on over to the GitHub repoStay tuned for more engineering related posts from Geckoboard!

PS: We're hiring!
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Topics: Developer, Open Source

Zorro Circles: focus small, go big - how to motivate your team to stay data driven

Posted by Johanna Johansson

Dec 17, 2013 12:19:00 PM

zorro_(3)Zorro (yes, the masked man who lives in a cave and swings his sword like no other), did not automatically become the hero he’s known as today. As a young man his ambition far exceeded his knowledge and skillset, but without the right tools to achieve the desired goal, Zorro quickly surrendered to alcohol and despair. Luckily, Zorro met Don Diego - a retired sword master who recognised Zorro’s potential. Don Diego taught him about focus, perseverance, and strength until Zorro one day was ready to take on the villains he had always wanted to conquer. So how did Zorro go from being a depressed drunk to a praised hero? Baby steps.

The concept of Zorro Circles

The concept of Zorro Circles is a metaphor for how we can follow our ambitions and achieve our goals by tackling the challenges we face one by one. Gradually, as we become ready, we can complete what we set out to do.

When Zorro first started out he had no focus and no control. He wanted to do too much, too quickly. His training began with the drawing of a single circle in the sand. Don Diego told Zorro that his entire world now existed within this circle, and he had to master what was inside of it before he could move on to the next circle. Through time and dedication, Zorro mastered circle by circle. As he learned how to command his emotions and began to understand and utilise his skills, he eventually had the ability to accomplish his goal. (His goal in this case being to take on the army. No big deal.)

The importance of being in control

The feeling of being in control is imperative to our behaviour, so when our work and life balance falters our sense of control rapidly declines. We have a natural need of being in control, which explains why we sometimes have strong reactions to change - we feel like we’re losing control. However, psychologists have found that levels of productivity, happiness, and health are affected by the perception of how much control we have, as opposed to how much control we actually have.

Inherently, as humans, we use our emotional side of the brain (after all, it’s what helped us evolve: “danger, run!”), but as society developed, the cognitive part of the brain became more dominant: think first, then react. It’s the civil thing to do, right? But despite logic and “knowing better” - once we’re starting to feel stressed or overwhelmed, our emotional side of the brain takes over. This, referred to as “emotional hijacking” by Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, can have huge negative effects on our professional life. This is where Zorro Circles come in. Zorro Circles give us just enough control in a situation that appears overwhelming, and once that first sense of control has been established we can gain more and more.

Conquer your data and motivate your team - the Gecko Effect

In biology, the Gecko Effect is known as “the ability to cling to different smooth and rough surfaces and detach at will” - in other words: adaptability. In this case, the Gecko Effect refers to the sense of control that is perceived when your data, and in essence, your success, has a constant visual presence in the work place. By seeing the impact you have and the results that come from it, you can adapt your practices according to what your data tells you. Let’s take a look at SaaS business Podio to see how Geckoboard changed the way they work with data.

Podio, an online work platform for collaboration and project management, realised that they didn’t have an understanding of how they were doing as a business. With one team in Copenhagen and one team in San Francisco, it became clear to Adrian Young-San Roessler, Product Manager at Podio, that they weren’t fully aware of the impact of the work they were doing. This had to change.  

As they introduced Geckoboard to the work environment, they identified the metrics that mattered to them, and one central dashboard was set up in the office. The link was then distributed to remote team members so they could access the same data. Almost immediately you could see the effect in terms of the awareness it generated, and a few months later Podio started to set up more boards to focus on more specific areas.

Today, among other boards, Podio has something they call the ‘beat-the-numbers’ board, where they look at some very important, first-time user metrics. “Those numbers really help the product team to stay informed using the right data and it also allows us to see the impact of our work,” says Adrian. Podio also put the loop feature to good use, having different sets of data rotating on the board. “People passing by stop in front of the board to discuss what’s going on, which is really great,” Adrian continues.

So, much like Zorro and his circles, Podio started off with one board focusing on the very core metrics of their business, and when they were ready they added more. Employees were constantly in the know of what’s going on and could clearly see the impact they were having on the business. This resulted in a sense of control and also spurred motivation among team members.

So who are your villains? What do you want to conquer? Go on, draw your first circle and focus on what matters.

Want to know how other companies motivate their teams by using data? Check out our case studies.



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