Dashboards 101

 

Data visualization dashboards have a lot of uses for different situations, but the goal is always the same—to provide insight into key data at-a-glance, with the ability to drilldown into the details as needed. For example, think of the information that is important to you personally.

The dashboards that I use most often are actually on my smartphone. A dashboard is, after all, a place to show the data that is most important to you and that is what my cell phone screen does. My smartphone (after much trial and error) has two screens and three dashboards that show me information I have identified as important for my day.

My first two smartphone dashboards show sports scores, family events, birthdays of friends and more. The third one, however, is my notification center, which alerts me to new emails, missed phone calls, date, time, weather and more. This allows me to take immediate action based on what I see. For instance, when I look at the notifications on my smartphone dashboard and see the weather, it helps me decide if I should wear a polo shirt or a sweater.

Much like I condensed and organized my smartphone dashboards based on what information was most important for me to see at-a-glance, business decision-makers need to decide what data is most important for them to see in a dashboard. We have all kinds of data from many different sources available to us. We need to decide what the focus of each dashboard is. Once we decide the focus, we will be able to figure out the information that means the most to us.

What data will help us make the best business decisions? We probably do not need to know all the details of every appointment we have, but rather just knowing that we have things planned is good enough. We can always drilldown into enhanced details when we need to.

So, the next time you are looking to build a dashboard, just think to yourself: what is going to help me make the best business decisions? After you decide what data you would like to see, think about what the story it is telling. If the story makes sense, can you get to the details, or data, that make that story? If so, it sounds like you have a great start to a very powerful dashboard.

Have you created smartphone dashboards? What stories do you tell on your mobile device?

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