Dashboards and Data Viz

I visit a lot of customers throughout the year. I spend roughly 2 weeks of every month in front of new faces, introducing them to iDashboards. We cover the training manual, software, storyboarding and building dashboards from scratch. We work through multiple exercises with dummy data to get individuals used to the feeling of creating things with our software. Almost invariably, the proverbial wall is hit. When it comes to building charts and dashboards based off of the customers’ data, I get a sea of blank faces. A mild form of analysis paralysis sets in and these once competent & interactive participants retreat rapidly into their shells.

When it comes to working with your own data, it’s important to remember that what you create doesn’t need to be perfect. Too often individuals are concerned with thinking that every chart they create is must be included on their final dashboard – It doesn’t have to. It often helps to get the creative juices flowing but simply creating some basic charts to get a feel of how iDashboards will handle and display your data. This usually leads to ideas for additional charts and dashboards.

Read next: Data Preparation, Demystified

One important tool for helping overcome this mental energy sink is storyboarding. Storyboarding is a term borrowed from the animation industry. It’s a way of laying out exactly how your dashboard will look, before committing to the build process. In order to successfully complete a storyboarding session, you need to follow a few rules:

  1. Verify the data exists and you can access it.
    • Nothing is worse than spending precious time on an engagement trying to track down IT resources to open up data access.
  2. Draw a basic 4 panel frame.
    • You can always add or subtract from this. It just helps to relieve the ambiguity around the design process.
  3. Identify the metrics that need to be displayed on the dashboard. Keep your target audience in mind as you do this. For example, a Sales Manager might not  need to see the volume of calls for a call center.
    • Split your metrics up by the product, and timeframe. For example; Average Sales, by Sales Manager, then Account Manager, Current Month vs. Same Month Previous Year.
  4. Figure out what chart you’d like to use to display the data. Keep in mind; this may determine the layout of the data required.
    • At this point, draw the chart in your 4 panel frame.
  5. Determine the layout required to support your data. Chart types, pivots and drilldowns should all be considered.
  6. Repeat steps 2 – 4 for each of your metrics.

Following this procedure will assist you in the creation of your dashboards. It should act as your roadmap to success.

Matt Crawford– Technical Consultant, iDashboards


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