Business planning, IT

7 Tips to Build Impressive Dashboards for Your Business

DashboardsWith the increasing use of business dashboards, there is an accompanying risk of lackluster implementation of an otherwise good idea. Business dashboards allow useful information to be available at the fingertips of the people who need it most. Used to track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), metrics and other important data points, dashboards accomplish all this through the use of data visualizations. They are meant to simplify complex data in order to provide important information at just a glance. However business dashboards can sometimes suffer because of poor execution and configuration. Substandard dashboards serve only to stymie employee progress. Therefore, creating an optimized dashboard is an absolute necessity. Here’s how to create an impressive dashboard that your employees will find useful.

Relevance – There is such a thing as too much data. Unfortunately there is a tendency to fit in as much data as possible without considering its applicability. Unnecessary data left to clutter the screen can distract employees and ultimately waste their time. While it is good for dashboards to deliver information, your dashboard can quickly achieve critical mass. Your company’s chief financial officer does not need updates on server capacity or social media referrals. For this reason, dashboard creators should consider their audiences by tailoring widgets such that they are relevant to the individual using the dashboard. When an employee has to take the time to skip over data they don’t find useful, it equates to time lost and lower productivity. Dashboard creators, therefore, cannot use a one-size-fits-all approach when creating a dashboard. They must first understand the user and then fill the need created by that user.

Choose the Right Dashboard – Keeping in mind that because different departments and employees have different needs, dashboard creators must select the correct dashboard for each user. Here you can find 3 great dashboard examples for your management. In general, there are three main types of dashboardsfrom which to choose: the operational, the strategic/executive and the analytical. Each type has its pros and cons. The operational dashboard showcases data that highlights the operational side of the business such as server uptime, supply-chain and sales. The operational dashboard is the never center of your company, monitoring systems that are vital to your company’s smooth functioning. It will help you to quickly identify potential issues as they occur. The strategic/executive dashboard, on the other hand, will display key performance indicators that company executives require on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. This could mean periodic revenue, costs and sales pipeline. Lastly, analytical dashboards tend to serve users with both operational and strategic data while offering drill-down capabilities for access to more specific data and deeper insights.

Group Related Metrics – After you’ve chosen a specific board type, it is important to optimize the layout of your KPIs to create the best experience for users. For instance, if your board features both a financial KPI and sales pipeline, it would be wise to display these data points in close proximity to each other. Grouping similar metrics helps users to absorb data better while allowing them to note correlations between data points. Poor grouping, on the other hand forces users to search across the screen for the data they need leading to both frustration and loss of productivity. Grouping may follow certain trends such as Product (Inventory, development), Sales/Marketing and Finance (Actuals and forecasts). In addition to this, dashboard creators should reserve the upper left hand corner for the most commonly used metric since this is where our eyes first go when we read.

Keep Clutter at Bay– Dashboards are supposed to offer data at a glance. A crowded dashboard will have the opposite effect, as they deflect attention from the most important metrics. Unfortunately, in a rush to offer employees every possible stat, sometimes little thought is given to whether or not stats are at all useful. Stats must provide users with a satisfactory understanding of the company’s performance. In many instances, dashboards are used to provide an “apples and oranges” comparison of data that would not otherwise lend itself easily to comparison. Board creators must keep in mind that data is useless if not applicable and relatable. If the widgets do not help employees to understand the company’s standing then it is a waste of valuable screen real estate. For example just because a board is used by the company’s Chief Financial Officer, it doesn’t mean that it should display every single financial KPI available.

Unnecessary Refreshing – While it’s great to have important KPIs at your fingerprints, it may not be necessary to receive copious amounts of data in real time. In many cases, real-time data is too raw to be comprehended easily. Sometimes a weekly or even monthly data feed will do just fine. The refresh rate of independent widgets will largely depend on what type of business dashboard is in use. Undoubtedly operational dashboards will be required to serve up-to-the-minute information. On the other hand, executive/strategic dashboards will require far less real-time data.

Choose the Best Charts–A problem that crops up far too frequently when it comes to data visualization is the inability to select the best chart to represent the data. Some charts do lend themselves more easily to certain data types than others. A chart that is incorrectly used does not help the user understand the data in the way it should. It can also lead to massive confusion and a subsequent decrease in productivity. Bar graphs, pie charts and line graphs etc are not always swappable. Line charts, for instance are best suited towards timelines, pie charts for depicting parts of a whole while bar charts are best suited for nominal or ordinal categories. Dashboard creators should be acquainted with the various types of charts and their respective advantages and disadvantages. They should also keep in mind that a chart is meant for instant readability and that the type of chart that is ultimately chosen should facilitate this.

Building an impressive, useful dashboard need not be a difficult task. While there is a tendency to over think things, opting instead for simplicity and readability will help users to make the most out of their dashboards. With so much information available in a single click, the onus is on creators to present that information as clearly and concisely a manner as possible.

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