So much has been written and discussed by other writers and experts on the topic of creating and designing a Dashboard. In this write-up, I want to try to simplify and summarise the process and steps that can serve as a reference to Marketers, data analysts, Sales and Operations that have a need to design and create a Dashboard.
Dashboards have become the front-end “go-to-tool” to visualise data, business intelligence and insights to the business. Dashboards are widely used in organisations for operations, measurement and performance management in a single, one-page view.
In the process of creating and designing a dashboard, it is important to understand the different types of Dashboards and identify the most suitable dashboard for your company and or department’s needs. Most importantly, it is vital that you understand WHY you want to create a Dashboards. The purpose of the dashboard, how it will be used and who will use it is fundamental before any decisions are made on the TYPE of dashboard.
Some situations will still require you to sell the benefits of a dashboard and you can then use the following to highlight why businesses today need well designed and implemented dashboards:
- Well designed and implemented dashboards safe time – the manual and ad-hoc reporting and running around for data will come to an end
- Dashboards create consistency and common understanding of measurements, data points. Comparing apples to apples!
- Dashboards will save money
- Dashboards create alignment between strategies, objectives, tactics and procedures
- Monitoring and collecting insights about key tactics such as customer behaviour, effectiveness, efficiency, financial accountability and operations can reside in dashboards
- Dashboards facilitate a goal-driven and performance culture – Operations, Sales, Marketing and finance are just a few departments that benefit
- The creation of flags or alerts within a Dashboard with indicators will highlight issues or gaps before it become problems
There are 4 well known types of dashboards:
- Analytical Dashboards – Analytical dashboards use past data to identify trends, enable forecasting and predictions for future opportunities, Comparisons, combining data and “what-if” align strategy and execution
- Strategic Dashboards – Strategic dashboards are high-level and for all management levels – provide quick overview to monitor the health/opportunities of the business
- Information Dashboards – Information Dashboards organizes and presents important information from a large amount of data. This kind of dashboard combine data from different sources and direct the attention to focus areas and red alerts
- Operational Dashboards – Dashboards for monitoring operations require monitoring of activities, day to day activities, resources, events. This type of dashboard has an operational and not strategic focus. Operational dashboards is very effective when data is real-time and management workforce
Asking a few questions will also lead you in choosing the type of Dashboard and what it will be used for
Step 1 – Identify your audience
- Who will be using the dashboards?
- If the dashboard is mainly aimed at Executives or analyst an Analytical Dashboard will be most suitable
- Operational dashboards are mainly aimed at Line managers, General workforce, execution teams, call centres
Step 2 – Select your type of Dashboard
- What business problem(s) we are trying to solve?
- Analytical Dashboards are most suitable for the creation of trends, forecasting, identification of future opportunities, comparisons, strategy alignment and creation of insights
- Reporting on KPI’s, time-sensitive data, day to day activities and managing a workforce, operational dashboards is most effective
Step 3 – Data Data Data
- What is the state of the data infrastructure?
- Where does the data reside?
- How many data sources need to be considered?
- When multiple data sources need to be combined into a single dashboard for visualisation, it is most likely an Analytical Dashboard
- Will you be comparing apples-with-apples?
Step 4 – What data and metrics will you display?
- What gaps exist in our performance?
- What are our goals?
Step 5 – Dashboard refresh frequency
- What are the data latency requirements?
- What will be the Individual metric refresh cycles?
In most instances, you may have a need for analytical and operational dashboards to report on different areas or operations of the business. In some cases, you may start with an operational dashboard to report on the day-to-day activities and it can lead to the need for a strategic, analytical and helicopter view dashboard.