Whilst tracking through my OneDrive I rediscovered the theme I developed for an analytics session at Ignite 2017. I still think the theme is relevant today so I’ve decided to turn it into a blog post. If you were in the session you’ll notice that I’ve tweaked it a little bit 😉

No metal can claim a legacy comparable to Gold

Gold, I mean the yellow precious metal, is incredibly hard to find. In fact, all of the gold mined since the dawn of civilisation would not fill a 50m swimming pool. Yet gold is the greatest metal we have. Wars have been fought over gold, love continues to be expressed with gold, gold underpins every currency, technology exists because of gold, gold has changed the landscape of the world.

The real challenge with gold is in its discovery. It is very rare and very small. But at over $1224 per 100 ounces once discovered the effort is soon rewarded. And the reward does not stop there. Through its properties it is the metal that keeps on giving and gaining in value. It’s not just its material properties that increase its value. For every ounce of gold there is a story that will describe its discovery, its use and its impact. The stories serve to increase its value.

But why the metaphor about gold (apart from the fact that it’s in the post title)

When it comes to nurturing, growing and proving the value of Yammer (or any technology for that matter) we need to pan, sluice and mine our way through tonnes of analytical ore to find the nuggets. Once we find the nuggets we need to discover and share the story about the nugget. Sometimes the nugget will have little monetary value, like the flakes in a Prospectors pan but when combined with other flakes and stories suddenly you get real value.

The primary gold extraction techniques are panning, sluicing and mining. These techniques are often combined to first locate a seam, then ascertain the value of the seam before finally embarking on the extraction of the seam.


The analytics tools for tech solutions e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Yammer, SharePoint are no different. Consider the OOTB options for Yammer or Teams: the Admin reports and the Office 365 Adoption pack enable you to find the potential for gold though changes in broad trends in the same way a prospector would look for a favourable bend in a stream or a shelf in a rock face. However, whilst panning is free, just be prepared to stand waist deep in cold mountain water for many months for little return.


Data exports are akin to sluicing. You’ll end up parsing thousands of rows of data with the odd gold nugget getting trapped in the filters (if you set the filter just right). Sluicing also requires you to build your own sluice which means code but can be helpful if you need to prove a theory using statistics.


The admin reports, content pack and data export will provide trends but are unlikely to reveal the actual reason for the trend. The trend is the ore and we need different tools to extract the gold.


For maximum efficiency extracting the gold will require you to sink shafts through your data and use a crusher and a washer. Like exploring for real gold, data can only give an approximation where to sink a shaft. It takes human interpretation to position it accurately and to translate the discovery into a meaningful nugget complete with its story. Whilst this approach seems data intensive you should not rule out good fortune when nuggets are brought directly to your attention by your community.


Analytics is a great discovery technique to quickly filter through thousands of posts and conversations. The findings can sometimes be used to quantify or approximate value when something is found e.g. an increase in users. It’s only when the nuggets are combined with stories that the real value is determined.

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