The Internet is full of recommendations for dashboard best practices and examples, but would you be able to put into words what a dashboard actually is and what purpose it serves?
The sacred Oxford Dictionary might be the first source to turn to. Leaving aside definitions concerned with cars and carriages, we obtain the following: “A graphical summary of various pieces of important information, typically used to give an overview of a business”.
And now, after this overwhelmingly technical and detailed definition 🙂, are you able to spell out what a dashboard is?
Let’s turn to specific examples for some help. It may seem that the secret of a dashboard lies in detailed and easily accessible visualisation of a company’s business performance:
This screenshot has been referred to as a perfect dashboard, but is it really?
Avinash Kaushik wholeheartedly disagrees. According to him, the main purpose of strategic and tactical dashboards is to drive action, which is why they have to be about insights and business impact – not about numbers and figures.
Sweetspot follows a similar approach with its focus on performance. Raw data, available and comprehensible only to analysts, is not going to drive action.
Your individual input will.
Therefore, it is nearly impossible to come up with a miraculous and one-size-fits-all definition for a dashboard (sorry to disappoint you, guys). Basically, because there are as many of them as there are individual dashboard users, which allows creativity and insights to truly flourish.
How do you create these individually tailored dashboards and, most importantly, how do you drive action from them? By promoting the importance of collaboration and allowing the users to express their opinions directly upon the data, without having to resort to infinite Word documents, PPTs, emails, calls, notes, etc and thus separating data from insights.
Data and insights belong together. The intermediate step is your individual input.
We definitely agree with Avinash that analysts should deliver insights, recommendations for action and business impact together with the data presented in the dashboard. But we do not want to reserve the access to data for the analysts. Every single user should have a chance to contribute to the company’s business performance, and we aim at doing so with storytelling.
Your insights do not have to stick to a certain template. Restricting people’s thoughts and ideas to determined patterns won’t lead to creativity and collaboration. Open-formatted comments in a comprehensible language is what it takes to generate insights and drive action.
And you, how do you transform data into insights? Do you listen to your dashboard users to drive action?
Not Another Dashboard.