While working with Alyvix and NetEye as a Project manager for several companies, I have found that very often simplicity can make the difference, and in my opinion this is especially true for Dashboards.
It is definitely a good idea to rely on dashboards in order to make sense out of your company’s data, but some dashboards do a better job than others.
The main goal should be to build dashboards that will turn mountains of data into actionable insights.
Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen, and there are way too many dashboards out there that do not drive any action, and hence give no value. Dashboards that drive no action are little more than charts on a page, usually because they are missing one (or more) of the following aspects:
1. Data Quality and Data Autodiscovery
Good data is the most important aspect of a great dashboard. Obviously you need clean data, but besides quality you can’t ignore:
Having automated data feeds: If you are planning to use a dashboard as a decision-making tool, you must automate your data feeds. Don’t make your dashboard’s accuracy rely on manual processes.
Having a complete picture: If you want an effective dashboard, it must give a complete view of your data. This should also include data from outside sources, since the reality is that senior management will ask questions about everything that impacts the business anyway.
2. An Effective Presentation
How can you display your data in a useful way? Let’s boil this point down to three crucial parts:
a. Avoid Vanity Metrics
Your dashboards may look nice, but if they lead to no action, then they are not based on Actionable Metrics. The key to an effective dashboard is to know the difference between Vanity Metrics and Actionable Metrics. Actionable Metrics are those that help you make a decision.
You have to spend a lot of time revising the metrics for your company dashboard to cut down on all the numbers that really aren’t important enough to provide any useful action item.
When you build a business dashboard you should make all aspects clear and concise so even aspects that are not used regularly or by all employees are simple to find and understand.
Simplicity is the key.
“If your dashboard does not fit on one page, you have a report, not a dashboard.’’
This rule is important because it acts as a natural barrier to cramming in too much information, makes data presentation easier, and makes the dashboard more understandable.
Now, what happens if you need to include more data than can fit on one screen? In these cases, use a tabbed dashboard (or a linked dashboard set) This will let you create organized dashboards that don’t overwhelm users.
Different users want to see different data. Or, they may want to see the same data, but organized or presented differently.
The most common – and deadly – mistake is the desire to show everything to everyone. It is important to make a mockup of the dashboard and get the organization to agree on what the various stakeholders should be seeing.
3. The Delivery
How will you deliver access to your dashboard?
The “delivery” aspect of your dashboards largely depends on your business and your goals for the dashboard. However, there are a couple of key points to consider:
a. Go beyond the PC
You may have the best, most useful
dashboard ever created.
But, if it’s not accessible whenever and wherever your users need it, is it still a useful dashboard?
Dashboards shouldn’t be tied to the desktop.
Place monitors everywhere you need, and use them just for dashboards. This is not a waste because this way your dashboards will track your progress and goals throughout the day, and will always be accessible to your employees.
b. Go beyond the screen
Another big problem is that your employee can’t possibly stare at your dashboard every second of the day. But if you rely on that dashboard to monitor the real-time health of your business, what can you do? How can you spot problems if you’re not looking at the dashboard?
A good dashboard should provide the option to set up intelligent email or SMS alerts. You can set these alerts to notify you if your data exceeds or drops below a certain threshold. These instant alerts will help you address problems as they happen.
An effective Dashboard is an important asset for making fast and fact based decisions, taking care of the above points when building it will probably make you spare a lot of time an effort.