/ Inside Domo’s effort to build the best Coronavirus tracker

If you’ve visited our Coronavirus Tracker more than once since it launched on March 13, you probably noticed no two versions were alike. From a simple page that provided real-time data on the number of cases and deaths in various regions of the world to the robust tool that it is now, the tracker has evolved a lot during its six-month lifespan, becoming more visually appealing and powerful with each iteration.

Among those who have overseen the tracker’s development from the very beginning is Ben Schein, Domo’s vice president of data curiosity. Before COVID-19 hit the U.S., Ben spent a good chunk of his work week speaking at conferences, meeting with prospects, and providing a high level of thought leadership within the data domain. Now, his days mainly revolve around making the tracker better than it was the day before.

I recently caught up with Ben to talk to him about how and why the tracker has matured, and how it’s helping Domo customers take even greater advantage of the Domo platform.

Q: Thanks for joining me today, Ben. Domo’s Coronavirus Tracker sure has come a long way since the first version that was put out there. Do you mind explaining why?

A: It’s interesting to go all the way back to the original version. But as you can imagine, it was put together almost overnight. So, while it got a ton of traction, it wasn’t perfect.

Now, the tracker’s not only prettier, it’s got the kind of bones that allow us to add context, so that the user can drill down into so many different areas of the pandemic. One bucket allows us to look at the same data differently, and another allows us to understand what’s changed recently.

That’s more of the persona now. Is the pandemic getting worse or better? How can we highlight what’s happening? And how can we make Domo’s capabilities shine through? Those are the questions that continue to drive us.

Q: I know you and your team are always looking for ways to make the tracker better. To what extent has the user played into the changes you’ve made?

A: It’s a combination of things, including events, such as when the Paycheck Protection Program got released. The Small Business Administration has a Box account with a file for each state with PPP data, so we were able to incorporate that information.

But a lot is indeed generated by our customer base. For instance, we had a customer that was interested in data that Oxford had around government responsiveness. So, that pushed us to make changes, as well.

We’ve also redone some pages around how we talk about the data. Several weeks ago, we added the Data Explorer, which is basically the result of people saying they liked the simplicity of the old site and didn’t care to drill down; they just wanted the raw data on cases and deaths by region.

We take everything into account, but it’s always a balance. We want to be reactive to what our customers want, but we also want to continue to ask ourselves, “What is out there? What is interesting?”

Q: Such as the data Apple and Google recently released about mobility?

A: Yeah, we added that data last month. They released their own reports, but what intrigued us was the ability to provide a place where you can look at those reports side by side. Apple’s is more about transit. Google’s is more about locations. So, now I can see how mobility is changing in, say, Spain, based on both datasets.

But I still believe that a lot of the real power of this tool comes back to our customers. When our customers can actually pull the data that’s freely available into Domo, they can combine it with their relevant data. That’s where a lot of the power comes from. That’s why we’re trying to maintain this live source of data—so people can share it back out and use it in conjunction with other data.

Q: Have any customers used it in a way that’s made a profound impact on what they’re trying to achieve?

A: A travel agency we work with is looking at how it can use the data that’s available to help people as they start to think about traveling again. A national automotive chain has used the tracker, as well. And I know a large consumer packaged good (CPG) company was looking at data points from China, so it could begin to make production plans in other countries that were flattening the curve. Last I checked, more than 700 customers had used the tracker to some extent, and built cards off it, as well.

What’s great about our tracker—especially compared to our competitors, whose are more visualization-based—is that you can blend its data with your own data, which means you can use Domo to run a live website versus just using the visualization. That gets back to this whole idea of embedded content and BI leverage, which we’ve been touting for some time now.

Q: Speaking of competitors, where do you think Domo’s tracker ranks?

A: I think in terms of our ability to be real-time, and to blend data in real-time, it’s second-to-none. We use Worldometer data to stay more current, and then we use the Johns Hopkins University data once it catches up. So, we’re very much about being a real-time site for metrics. I think our alerting and our emails are pretty good, too.

But, ultimately, it’s about the Domo product. Being able to get this data quickly, and organize it well within the Domo product—those are our differentiators. Other trackers might have a lot of the same capabilities, but they’re probably using multiple tools to get that done.

Q: This project has obviously impacted your job. What has that been like?

A: Having this responsibility has provided me with the kind of real-life example I’ve been trying to bring to life around the importance of BI leverage and “data for the 99%,” as I call it. It’s given me a platform to actually test it out, and it’s allowed me to be involved in some pretty cool stuff, such as helping states try to navigate one of the biggest issues of our time.

Q: What’s next with the tracker?

A: We’re just going to continue to explore the possibilities with it. You think about the (U.S.) election, you think about the Olympics. How can we continue to find what’s relevant to quickly get insight out and share conversations that maybe wouldn’t have happened otherwise? Are there other pages we could add? Are there topics we haven’t considered yet? Do we try to engage more directly with our customer base in terms of, “Hey, can you submit a visualization using the data?”

Those are some of the things we’re looking at. To some degree with this, we want to be able to generate business for Domo, but providing a public service is still at the heart of the resource. I think we’re striking the right balance between those two pieces.

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