What makes a good Dashboard for reporting information?

What makes one Dashboard stand out from the rest? I’ve often given this some thought in my daily working life and here are my thoughts.

Firstly we could ask the age old question, what is a Dashboard? There are lots of ideas out there, “a single page, like the dashboard of your car, giving you the important facts needed to get you from a to b.” is probably the most common definition.

One thing I’m fairly certain of is that in the real world a single page dashboard asks more questions than it answers and the simple dial people love to (sometimes over) use doesn’t give you the full story, just the ending. So perhaps a single page dashboard is just one element of the bigger picture. This would take us neatly onto the “Dial to Detail” style of reporting suggesting a top down approach to analysis. If the “dial” gives you the ending then it would make sense that the “detail” is the story but is that the best approach to managing performance?

Is performance management about investigating why something has happened (or possibly gone wrong) or should the focus be more prevention and ongoing journey towards more efficient operational processes and increasing your organisations skills?

Having the right data to analyse and being able to supple this information to the right person to analysis is key to success although I’m always curious when organisations employ a team of analysts. In my experience these teams usually began life as report creators who churned out information by request. These teams are often asked to shift focus and asked to spend more time analysing the information, they’re analysts after all. The reason I find this shift somewhat curious is because I’m not sure how exactly that’s supposed to work. I believe people managing the people and processes on the front line are far best placed to complete this task and far better placed to make effective changes based on their findings. I believe a front line manager knows their own area and information should act as an additional tool in this process. Leaving the task to the “back office”, who don’t have a full understanding of all these areas, seems strange. Better to change their job titles rather than give them unreasonable tasks.

Mobile phone apps are popular at the moment but why is that? There are many reasons why this is but one of these reasons is because it allows every person to customise their phone to their own needs. Not too long ago when you bought the latest phone you were stuck with the makers own calendar, calculator, task list, snake game, etc. Now that’s changed with the advent of smart phones and what seems like a limitless supply of apps. So now my phone has become very personal to me. If I were to swap my phone with someone else’s, even though the phone may be the same, the apps I inherit will probably be of little use to me in my daily life because they don’t meet my needs.

This makes me think that reporting performance information has to be personal to succeed. For example if we have three people as our internal information customers; The CEO, Sales Director and Operations Director. We could safely assume the Sales Director and Service Director will want very different information in their regular reporting so two reports are created, one for each, and both reports also go to the CEO who has to then “fish” for the bits of information from both reports which interests them. People are asked to “fish” for information far too often. Organisations I’ve been involved in have anywhere up-to 100 regular reports being produced and few are aimed at an individual or role. Most cater for a service or department leaving most people fishing.

Have you ever been on the internet looking for something slightly out of the norm? You cast your hook, see if anything bites then you real back and try again. That process can be very wearisome and it doesn’t take too long before you feel frustrated with the whole process and the fact information you need isn’t at your fingertips.

Information gathering can be very frustrating for an individual if they’re having to, in effect, create their own dashboard by collecting information from a variety of sources.

The takes me to what I believe is the answer. What makes a Dashboard useful, usable and used is that it’s designed around the person or role and only including information required and in a format for them to be effective. The fewer roles each dashboard is targeting the better.

One response to “What makes a good Dashboard for reporting information?

  1. Pingback: Requirements Gathering | qlikcentral·

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