Straight Talk

I have spent a number of years going to customer sites to teach them how to create dashboards.  I have been asked many times how to build a great dashboard and how to determine the dashboard metrics to show.  I can tell someone to point here, do this and change that color on a dashboard, but the color and the artistic aesthetics are not what make a great dashboard.  What makes a great dashboard is the data that is contained within.

A dashboard needs to contain the proper information so organizations are able to make accurate business decisions.  Executive management needs to see strategic data that will allow them to steer the direction of the organization.  Management needs to view tactical data to make sure the goals of the organization are being met.  Those working on the floor and in the field need operational data to determine how they are charting against their individual goals.  A pie chart with a blue background in the upper right corner may look nice, but does it help the user of the information make the right choice between ordering more parts and standing put?

Well, then how do you know what the right metrics are?  Questions, questions, questions.  I ask a lot of questions surrounding each of the metrics in question.  Questions like “Who will be viewing the dashboard?”, “What are the users’ roles?”, “What are the time-frames associated with the data (point in time, YTD, etc.)?”, “How often does the data need to be refreshed?”, and last but not least, “What do you want the solution to look like?”.  So, when visiting a customer site I try to guide them down the road to informing their users, not coloring their users’ lives.

Matt Gentry, iDashboards