Tracking Business Metrics (or Fun with Custom Metrics)

Most Stackdriver users work in technical jobs.  Those of us in such positions tend to think about problems from the point of view of technology.  While Stackdriver’s support for custom metrics is a great way to supplement application monitoring with additional technical technical measurements (like the number of alerts sent to users or the failure rate of a third-party API), it can also be used to monitor business metrics.

As an example of tracking business metrics (and making a fun little hack in the process), we recorded the wait times at the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.  The Massachusetts Department of Transportation fosters a relationship with developers by providing a number of different real-time and static transportation data.  Here we use the Branch Wait-Time Feed from the RMV.

The charts below show the wait time for licensing and registration for all 30 RMV branches for the week of Monday, March 17, 2014.  Data is recorded every five minutes, as reported in the RMV data feed.

The wait time for licensing and registration for branches, as reported by the RMV.  Data is for the week of March 17, 2014.

The wait time for licensing and registration for branches, as reported by the RMV. Data is for the week of March 17, 2014.

Obviously, the data in those charts is a bit too dense to be very useful. It can still help you choose to avoid the Springfield (red line) branch which seems to have among the highest wait time consistently.

The next chart zooms into a single day, March 18, 2014.  You can start to see the behavior of the individual branches.  While the curves corresponding to high wait times are obvious, there are also a number of branches that provide reasonably short wait times.

The wait time for registration for branches, as reported by the RMV.  Data is for Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

The wait time for registration for branches, as reported by the RMV. Data is for Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

We can zoom into the data set further.  Here are the wait times for March 18, 2014 at the Watertown branch, the branch closest to the Stackdriver office.

The wait time at the Watertown RMV on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

The wait time at the Watertown RMV on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

For branches with the shortest wait times, it pays to live near a vacation destination.  Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have consistent short wait times.

The wait time at the Nantucket RMV on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

The wait time at the Nantucket RMV on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

Looking at the data, several trends emerge.  For the shortest wait time, arrive early.  Wait times typically rise quickly after 9AM.  While the day-to-day service of any branch varies, performance tends to be similar across days.  Branches with long wait times on some days tend to have long wait times on most days; branches with short wait times on some days tend to have short wait times on most days.  Finally, you might be able to decrease your wait time by driving just a little further to another RMV.  For example, the Lowell, Lawrence, and Wilmington branches are within just a few miles of each other, but in the period observed, the Wilmington branch consistently had the shortest wait time.

Finally, here are live, interactive charts where you can explore the data.  Select a horizontal region on the graph to zoom in.  Hover over a line to isolate the curve and see the corresponding branch.

What business metrics should your company be tracking?

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