Getting the most out of your dashboard reports
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 you can take an integral part of your organization’s success, data reporting, to the next level.
Good dashboards display data, but a great dashboard is interactive.
There’s a difference between seeing data and using 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.
How to do it:
- Provide tools that let users drilldown important 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
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 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 elements purpose.
How to do it:
- Pick colors that work for a reason. If users know green means “go” and orange means “watch out,” take advantage of these pre-ingrained associations. Your dashboard will look good and 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 truly determine the purpose of each chart and graph, and make sure the element serves that purpose.
- Use proximity to your advantage. Sure, it might seem like a good design choice to have visually similar reports in the same space, but creating diversity in your reporting can emphasize important metrics.
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. Prune data points that are redundant or don’t contribute to the key performance indicators (KPIs) of your organization. Before you start hacking off too many reports though, consider simply reorganizing your data so that only users who need those reports see them.
Good dashboard track your goals, but a great dashboard drives you toward them.
For most businesses and organization, financial goals are the most important ones. But many factors contribute to this one, all-important KPI. Tracking important KPIs isn’t just about 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 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 “why.” 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.