What Is a Tracking Plan and Why Do You Need One?
Best practices
Thora Gudfinnsdottir

Thora Gudfinnsdottir

September 28, 2020

What Is a Tracking Plan and Why Do You Need One?

Picture the most chaotic project you’ve ever worked on that was saved at the last minute by an overhaul of project planning. You know the one--the project that kept you late at the office, blew deadlines, and caused every person on your team frustration.

That is, it did, before you and your team rallied behind one another, set out a detailed plan of attack to get things back on track, and saved the day. 

To do this, you had to sit down and figure out exactly where you were going wrong and then lay out all the steps, processes, and best practices you need to correct the chaos and reach your end goal. 

Now, let’s say that instead of this chaotic period of product purgatory taking up your time, it’s actually bad data that’s eating up your productivity. Or, as we say, you’re having a Bad Data Day. Like it's project management cousin, a Bad Data Day is a chaotic hole of confusion. Product managers and developers alike can never figure out what’s going on with it, causing inconsistent insights and, if we’re being honest, a bunch of colorful language and headache. 

So, like you did for your chaotic product release, you need to block out time to sit down and deal with your Bad Data Day, head on. The key to doing this? A data tracking plan.

This tracking plan will help us turn our Bad Data Day into a Fantastic Data Feeling. As a centralized document that our entire organization uses, we’ll be able to conquer our Bad Data Day, and ensure our data helps us make progress toward our goals.

In short, our data will go from our biggest bummer to our greatest asset.  

But before we help improve our Bad Data Day and transform into our true rockstar selves, it’s important to understand what a tracking plan truly is, and why we—and any modern business—need one to deal with bad data in the first place. 

What is a tracking plan?

A tracking plan is a central document that everyone in your organization can refer to for data management best practices. It standardizes the events and properties you track, determines where within the code your analytics should be placed, and outlines the reason why each event is being tracked in the first place.

Your tracking plan should include the rundown of what events and properties matter most to your product performance. These metrics should be carefully mapped to your customer journey so that you can see how well you’re serving your users’ needs at each step and build a better product in response.

Ultimately, your tracking plan will be your single source of data truth so that all analytics across every one of your platforms tie neatly together. This will allow you to focus on what your data is telling you rather than argue with it.

Why you need a tracking plan

Long story short, you need a tracking plan so you can have what everyone at your company wants: good, clean, informative data.

But there are typically three things that get in the way of such data:

  1. Too much tracking: This is your classic “garbage in = garbage out,” where you measure everything and then can’t parse what matters.
  2. Too little tracking: This means no tracking was set up (or only set up for irrelevant metrics), so customer behavior is locked away in a black box.
  3. Inconsistent tracking: This is the most common issue and is the result of chaotic event and property naming (e.g., customer_signup vs customersignup vs signup) that prevents you from getting the whole picture from your data.

Thankfully, a tracking plan can undo the damage caused by all three of these data plagues. And, in the process, it will help everyone—from your product managers to your developers to your salespeople—make better business decisions and understand the impact of their work.

Here are the four main reasons you need a tracking plan.

1. To ensure you can accurately measure progress toward your goals

If the bar you’re measuring your progress with is bent or broken (e.g., bad analytics tracking and unreliable data), you don’t actually know how you’re measuring up to your goals.

A tracking plan gives you the framework you need to measure progress toward your KPIs by ensuring that the bar with which you measure yourself is accurate. Without this central source of truth, your core set of metrics won’t be defined, your events and properties won’t match up, and you’ll be guessing at your progress.

With a tracking plan, however, you can measure progress toward your goals by examining and selecting the metrics that support your user behaviors and directly correlate with your mission. Your tracking plan will then ensure that you’re capturing all the data you need to get the full picture, unlike many companies who see 60% to 73% of their data go to waste.

2. To help you understand what customer actions matter most

Building a tracking plan forces you to identify the biggest signalers of user behavior and satisfaction. This helps you understand your customers better and build a product that best suits their needs.

You need a tracking plan to get this understanding, because simply tracking every user action doesn’t tell you an accurate or clear story of your user experience. In fact, the “track everything and we’ll sort it out later” approach is one of the most headache-inducing legacy data practices around.

You can better understand your customers’ actions thanks to a tracking plan by auditing your full user journey, identifying the main goal and purpose of your product, and then focusing on the metrics that tell you whether a customer realizes this benefit.

3. To empower developers to implement tracking consistently

A well-thought-out tracking plan is the clarity that helps  developers implement tracking consistently by creating a single source of tracking truth that they can refer to for naming conventions and code placement.

Your tracking plan helps empower developers to take ownership of the implementation of analytics and ensure tracking code is placed consistently. As part of the journey to clean analytics tracking, developers can easily check to make sure naming conventions for events and properties are inline with best practices, and that tracking is implemented correctly across each platform.

As a result, all of your related data will match up, and you’ll never have a Bad Data Day again. 

4. To help you make better product decisions

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a tracking plan helps you make better product decisions by giving you good, clean metrics to back up new features and changes to your platform.

As any successful founder and developer will tell you, it’s not enough to build a great product once. You have to continue to improve and deliver more value. Data, as a result of your tracking plan, shows you where and how to do this.

You’ll make better product decisions with your tracking plan in place because you’ll have a common language (data) between all teams and shareholders. This will let you advocate for changes, help you understand what to fix and adjust, and tell you when it’s time to pivot your product offerings based on market demand and fit.

Upskill your data with the tracking plan—and data tool—that fits your needs

It’s easy to feel apathetic about adding another governance document to your to-do list, but tracking plans aren’t like the rest. These superheroes of data will completely shift how data works for your company if you put in the work to create one to match your needs.

Avo can help. We give companies the ability to make the right data-driven decisions with clean, reliable, accurate product analytics. Through our platform, you can easily manage your tracking plan, send implementation instructions to developers, and collaborate with your team to tie together all the data from the platforms you use most.

Together with good data governance best practices, we can help you quickly set up and enforce your tracking plan so you can spend less time wrestling data and more time shipping a great product.

Start using Avo today.