Running a business isn’t about getting the job done; it’s about getting it done better than your competitors. Whether you’re a longstanding logistics company or a fresh-off-the-press nonprofit, good reporting tools aren’t going to help you stay ahead of the curve. You need great tools. Below, you’ll find a few ways to take your data reporting to the next level. By the end, you’ll have a solid understanding of what makes a good dashboard great.
Good dashboards display data, but a great dashboard is interactive.
There’s a difference between seeing data and understanding it. At first glance, you might think your data reporting should simply provide the information you need. This is true – to a certain extent. In reality, visual data reporting goes deeper. It not only gives you data, but also lets you interact with it. The ability to interact with the information in front of you helps users understand the data better and enables you to take action.
How to do it:
- Provide a dashboard for reporting that let users drill down into important, detailed data sets
- Let users filter data so they can explore it in new, interesting ways
- Make sure related data points can be viewed side-by-side, for easy comparison
Good dashboards look nice, but a great dashboard looks nice for a reason.
You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a dashboard reporting tool by its aesthetic elements. Visualization is, after all, one of your dashboard’s key functions. You can take your dashboard design a step further, though – just by giving the visual element’s purpose. Your goal is to provide clarity for your data and the goals your organization is trying to reach. Without intentional design, viewers may be left wondering why the dashboard was created in the first place.
How to do it:
- Pick colors that work for a reason. If users know green means “go” and red means “watch out,” take advantage of these pre-ingrained associations. Your dashboard will look good aesthetically and also be easier for users to interpret.
- Use the right charts for the right information. Are monthly sales best displayed using a bar graph or a sparkline? A variety of factors determine the right choice; the key is to accurately determine the purpose of each chart and graph, and make sure the element serves that purpose.
- Use proximity to your advantage. Place related charts near one another on your dashboard. This will help trigger pre-attentive processing, as grouping objects together subconsciously relates them in the mind of the viewer.
Good dashboards give you everything, but a great dashboard provides what you need.
In data visualization, more isn’t always merrier. While dashboards give you the freedom to track and report on any metric you want, it’s important to avoid data clutter in your reporting. Too much data can lead to information overload, which may confuse and overwhelm your dashboard viewers.
How to do it:
- Prune data points that are redundant or don’t contribute to the key performance indicators (KPIs) of your organization
- Consider simply reorganizing your data so that only users who need those reports see them
Good dashboards track your goals, but a great dashboard drives you toward them.
For most businesses and organization, tracking financial goals and KPIs is their biggest priority. Tracking important KPIs, however, isn’t just about getting progress updates on your goals; it’s about finding new ways to reach them faster. When you effectively analyze performance, you can discover what you’re truly capable of.
How to do it:
- Organize your dashboard reports by KPI. If your team’s goal is to launch a new product in the next quarter, give your team a breakdown of every data point related to this goal.
- Ask questions of your data. Are you on pace to hit this year’s target? If so, how can you build on your strategy to move faster? If not, what related KPIs are influencing your team’s ability to succeed?
Good dashboards uncover problems, but a great dashboard points toward solutions.
Challenges are inevitable. Even the most successful organizations have learned to build on past success and overcome failure. One of the most important functions of your dashboard reporting tool is anticipating these challenges so you can prepare for (and prevent) them.
Your reporting doesn’t stop here, though. Instead of simply pointing out issues to overcome, it should also point in the direction of success. The key is to focus your reporting on actionable data, or data that helps you see a plan of action. In many cases, this involves multiple metrics that, when viewed together, reveal a hidden relationship between them.