Best practices for dashboard rollouts

Scott Dubois / March 4, 2019

Data is everywhere. So, what are you going to do with it? Before you can make any data-driven decisions, you’re going to need to design the ideal dashboard.

Dashboards are a vital tool for collecting data into actionable insights. Yet, they are often an under-utilized resource that have significant benefits for any business. A well-designed dashboard should align with your organization’s goals, help with decision-making, and increase ROI.

To have a full 360-degree view of your operations, you need to build dashboards that dig deeper into lots of different sets of data. Then you can correlate patterns across many metrics. Creating a single source of truth on your dashboards is possible.

Dashboards for Executives

According to CIO Magazine, there are three dashboards that executives should be most in tune with:

  • Strategic dashboards for organizational alignment
  • Operational dashboards for a look inside company processes and team performance
  • Analytics dashboards for the consolidation of insights

So, how will you build a dashboard so that it meets all these objectives? You’ll need to build something that offers data-agnostic connections and the capability to merge many data sources.

Connecting to All Your Data

Chances are, you have a ton of data created by your business. From sales and marketing stats to actual operations, your dashboard needs to be connected to every data source. This includes internal and external data. This data should be able to be analyzed and displayed on your dashboard to enable you to answer the questions about what’s happening in your company.

You’ll need to access data (typically in the cloud or on-premise) meant to drive successful decision-making, and you can’t do that if your data isn’t centralized. Data consolidation is a leading reason why companies design dashboards that go beyond data silos. A survey by Klipfolio found that over 50% of respondents named consolidation as the reason for dashboard use.

When you can glean insights all in one place, you can open up the potential of your data.

Data Merging

Consider how many sets of data do you have and how well these sets of data could work together if they were not in silos? Multiple data sets around the same activities offer more information. Because it’s nearly impossible to only have data from a single source, you need to consider how to blend applicable data sets.

For example, if you are a consumer goods company with multiple products, it would be more advantageous to see how all the data looks when merged rather than just having one view of an individual data set. There is a rich variety of data in the consumer goods market. This is both qualitative and quantitative, which when merged can provide more details about shopper preferences and other key insights.

Being able to successfully blend your data ensures that you are getting the best insights across the board.

Metrics that Matter

Not everything you can measure matters. So, it’s critical to determine the most important metrics that you should be watching. Every metric should be relevant to the company’s objectives around that activity, whether that’s understanding the conversions on a digital marketing campaign or looking at quality control measures in manufacturing.

There are certain key questions to ask to help you discern the metrics that matter:

  • How does a metric relate to the objective?
  • Is there a metric that can be designed to measure every contribution?
  • Is it possible to build a systemic and continuous means of measuring?

Further, if you are in a highly competitive market, consider adding third-party data to your dashboard for comparison. To know if you have the right set of metrics, you should be able to easily explain how each metric connects to objectives. If you cannot then you need to keep adjusting.

While standard metrics give you a picture of what is happening, the mix of “right” metrics expands the picture. Those metrics help you discern the “why.”

As an example, if you were attempting to measure the performance of a product, you might look at year-to-date performance against the budget. The type of questions you’d want to answer would be things like growth rates, outliers, trends, and if goals have been met.

Enhance Visualization

Humans are visual beings. We often absorb information more fully when it’s visualized. In fact, MIT found that 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. Dashboards should be easy to read with a viewer getting the gist quickly. Much of that user experience depends on the dashboard design. You are asking big questions of your data. It’s often highly complex but you can simplify it with the right visuals. Beyond just the basics of charts and graphs, there are other ways to enhance visualization.

Use a Variety of Visuals

Bar charts aren’t your only option here. Consider that the human brain processes a picture as one chunk of data. You can use different ways to showcase numbers and trends. Often adding different colors can be a good visual cue that certain information is more important than other pieces of information.

Real-Time, Interactive Data

With the most sophisticated dashboards, your data reports in real-time, allowing your company to be more agile. These real-time data sets create interactive dashboards, allowing users to instantly filter, adjust, calculate, and analyze. You’ll be ready to answer any critical questions with a few clicks.

Forecasting by Looking Forward

When you use visuals to look at trends over time, you’ll gain the ability to forecast better. For example, you may look closely at operational efficiencies and financial results. With better visualizations of these top priorities, you can easily scan these metrics to get a better picture of what’s happening now and the opportunities for the future. This would allow you to see win rates, discounting, commissions, and revenue.

Applying Data in the Field

Another important factor for a dashboard is that the data should be accessible in the field as everyone who needs its insights is not at the office. This can especially be true in manufacturing, construction, and other non-traditional industries.

You should consider how mobile your dashboards is. You may even want to design an in-house app that allows remote workers to easily connect with the information they need on their mobile phone.

Collaboration

Sharing information is a big part of what dashboards do. Employees from different departments now have a unified view. So, being able to share insights with those who need them is essential to your dashboard rollout success.

This can mean being able to look at data with a quick link or embedding certain dashboards into existing tools. When you are designing your dashboards, you’ll want to do a lot of testing and get feedback from real users.

Avoid These Dashboard Mistakes

While much of this has been covering best practices for designing your company’s dashboards, there are a few things you’ll want to avoid.

  • Don’t begin with too much complexity; simple is a better first approach. In time, you can get more granular.
  • Ditch metrics that no one understands. If it’s not meaningful to users, then it doesn’t need to be part of your dashboard.
  • Don’t clutter your dashboard with low-res graphics and images; it doesn’t need to be overdesigned; it needs to be scannable.
  • Don’t forget to maintain your dashboard post roll-out. Creating a dashboard doesn’t just happen and then it stays the same. Your company’s goals will change so your dashboard has to be flexible.

When rolling out your dashboards, take into consideration some of these ideas. Ensure that your dashboards meet the objectives and goals of your organization and impart the insights that your team needs to make the best decisions to help your business grow and optimize costs.

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