By PowerBuy // 3 September 2014 // Related Categories: Tips

6 Sins of Data Dashboards

“Big data” raises big questions about how to make meaningful business decisions without getting lost in the detail. The concept of “Data Visualisation” is all about how you interpret your data to best understand what is going on in your organisation in a real and meaningful way.

Dashboards are a great way to get a visual snapshot of your data. Many of you might be familiar with website dashboards such as those offered by Google Analytics, and medium-large organisations regularly implement executive dashboard tools such as iDashboards and Domo to track performance of Key Performance Indicators across each department.

If it’s time to implement or upgrade your data dashboards then make sure you avoid these six common mistakes:

Mistake 1: Starting with complex goals

It is easy to get overly ambitious and aim to provide highly detailed, real-time dashboards across multiple areas in your business that also allow users to customise many dimensions. Instead, focus on a couple of key areas of the business where quick improvements will bring big rewards, work through several short cycles of “prototype, test and adjust”. You can expand the spectrum later as your proficiency improves

Mistake 2: Using metrics no one understands

Your business metrics are probably so familiar to you that common terms seem obvious to you. Make sure your dashboard uses metrics or concepts that your broader audience (staff and stakeholders) understands.

Mistake 3: Cluttering the dashboard with unimportant graphics and widgets

Keep your dashboard simple but visually appealing. Resist the temptation to make your dashboard too flashy or over-designed, sometimes the art in painting is knowing when to stop painting.

Mistake 4: Underestimating the time or resources to create and maintain the dashboard

Because your business dashboard is typically compact, it is easy to think that it should be quick to create and maintain. But in fact, a dashboard project takes on-going resources to design, launch and maintain. Bring in the right skills for each stage and budget resources for the whole project. There are plenty of incomplete, unpublished dashboards around.

Mistake 5: Failing to match metrics to the goal

Often, working dashboards showcase activities of a single department. Instead, consider how your dashboard could connect each department’s efforts to your organisation’s critical goals and objectives. In this way you can drive top level management objectives via performance dashboards delegated to every level of the organisation.

Mistake 6: Using ineffective, poorly designed graphs and charts

Take care in how you design your graphs and charts. There are some great books around on chart design but the best option is often experimentation in a tool that lets you use different display types to see what works. Don’t use complex displays where simple ones will convey the message and ensure colours are visually appealing rather than distracting.

Getting quick wins with your dashboard project will build the momentum of your project and help you to find funding for further development. Certainly the end goal is a set of dashboards that report across all areas of the business but this may take months or years to achieve especially where there are different systems used in different parts of the business. This is all the better reason to start work sooner rather than later.

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