In my last post, “Got Lots of Data? Get Dashboards!” I talked about some of the ways that dashboards can be used to transform data into useful business intelligence. Today I’d like to discuss some of the things that you need to take into consideration to ensure that your dashboards actually meet this goal.
Determining what information should go on your dashboard
One of the best things about dashboards is their customizability. Your dashboard can have the exact information your end user needs, in a format that your end user will find most useful. But if you don’t take the time to find out what users actually need, your dashboard might end up with the wrong information, presented in a wrong or confusing format. For example, you might build a dashboard that illustrates sales per product, only to learn that the Sales Manager never looks at per product data – it’s the “by region” results that are important to her.
This is why you need to ask each of your users (or an appropriate representative sample of each category of users) lots of questions before you design your dashboards. You need to know what information is out there, and what information is important to people. For example, you can ask…
• What are your key performance indicators?
• What are you currently measuring?
• What metrics do you regularly review?
• What metrics would you like to be able to review?
• What level of detail is important to you?
• How do you need to see information aggregated – by product, by region, by sales person, by customer, or what?
One thing to keep in mind is that dashboards can aggregate data from multiple systems (such as sales, production and accounting) into one place. The good news is that this means that information that was never available before might now be easily accessible. The bad news is that this means that your end users may not even know what they can ask for.
This is why dashboard creation is also about anticipating what people will need. When we create dashboards we always like to ask the end users what their business issues are. Our goal is then to figure out a solution for them, and build for that. We’ll also ask questions such as “what five things do you do as a sales person?” This gives us a look into their world, further helping us anticipate what information will help each person the most.
Creating different dashboards for different people
We use Microsoft SharePoint to create dashboards for our clients. One of the things we like about SharePoint is the ability to create one basic dashboard and then customize it based on who is accessing it. Plus, it allows us to create dashboards that are “drillable” (i.e. users can start with the higher level information and then drill down into the details that matter to them).
For example, you might have a sales dashboard that shows the number of leads, prospects, closed sales, deals in progress, etc., all broken out by sales person or region. The main dashboard could show top level information, such as the number of deals closed this month. This might be all your CEO would need to review on a regular basis. But your National Sales Manager may want to know which regions are driving the sales, they would be able to quickly drill down to see that information, with detailed results for each sales person. And individual sales people might only be given access to the company-level information plus the details of his or her own results.
Keeping user experience in mind
Always keep your end user in mind when you’re designing dashboards. I can’t stress this enough. Think about the simplest, most intuitively organized way that you can present the needed information. Then, before you do the actual programming, show the mock-up to some of the people who will actually use the dashboard to get their input. Your programmers might think that a dashboard is intuitively obvious and easy, but your users might not agree!
Need help creating amazing dashboards that will enable better business decisions and improve your bottom line? Give us a call. We’re here for you!