It should come as no surprise that every organization needs data to compete and find success in today’s business landscape. The most challenging part, however, is turning your data into information that audiences want to consume. That means choosing the right way to display and share your data. A dashboard is obviously our format of choice, but should it be yours too? It all depends on your data challenges and needs.
4 Signs Your Data Needs a Dashboard
1. Your data lacks context
Data is only useful if you and your audience can understand and interpret it. When you are looking at a spreadsheet filled with numbers, it can be hard to see the big picture and purpose behind the data. When data is visualized through a dashboard, you are adding necessary context to your data.
Selecting a chart type and color scheme are crucial towards drawing your audience’s eye to what is important. You may also want to consider adding context through labels, captions, annotations, or legends. Integrating text into your visualization can guide the user’s interactions, emphasize key points, underline trends, and line up a specific interpretation.
What kind of context might your audience benefit from? The Tow Centre for Digital Journalism outlines two types of context: observational and additive.
- Observational – Supports reflection on a data value or group of values that are depicted in the visualization. This type of context facilitates comparisons and highlights outliers
- Additive – Provides context that is external to the graph or chart and not clearly depicted in the data. This includes background, temporal events, and any other relevant information that may provide an additional layer of understanding.
Dashboards make it easy to add context to your charts and graphs. You can create an interactive hover element to a data point that conveys observational context, incorporate a ViFrame to add an introductory paragraph that provides the additive context needed to explain your dashboard, and more. The key is understanding what you need to communicate and then finding the right visual elements to help your audience comprehend that information.
2. Your data is unorganized
If you’re one of those people with a million tabs open on your computer at any given moment, or (even worse) you are constantly looking through stacks of paper reports, you probably need a better system. Unorganized data also makes it difficult for businesses to make accurate, informed decisions, especially when the data is incomplete or flawed. Not to mention, sifting through huge unorganized data sets wastes hours of valuable time, giving competitors an advantage.
Dashboards serve as a single repository of information, eliminating the need to look through multiple reports or databases. They can connect with all of your data sources – Excel spreadsheets, SQL databases, and more. That way, you can have all of your business metrics in one view, helping you save time and make more informed decisions. ETL tools are also helpful for organizing, cleaning, and preparing data to be visualized through charts and graphs.
Read next: Going Paperless with Digital Technology
3. It is difficult to communicate your data
One challenge that many businesses face is communicating their data to various audiences. Technical employees may want to dig into the details, while managers just want the big picture. Dashboards give you the ability to satisfy both of these audiences. When you look at a dashboard, you are automatically given a high-level view of your metrics through easy-to-understand charts and graphs. If you want to see the information driving those numbers, you can incorporate drilldowns. An example of this would be clicking on a chart that represents total sales to see how each sales representative is contributing to that number. When you keep you audience’s needs in mind, you increase the chance that they will pay attention to your data and improve dashboard adoption rates.
When you use dashboards to improve data communication, you also increase…
I have personally seen a dramatic increase in productivity when data is published through dashbards for all to see, especially in a sales capacity. No one wants to be last on the leaderboard! Instead of simply communicating your metrics with your team, you can take it a step further and encourage them to engage and interact with your dashboards. They are user-friendly for everyone, not just data scientists, and there are options to secure the backend data by issuing viewer licenses to other employees.
4. Nobody is really doing anything with your data
Many companies dedicate time and resources towards collecting and monitoring good data, but their efforts end there. Some may even create a few reports based off that data and their interpretations of it, but not very many people in their organization (if any) are reading it. If your organization wants to be data-driven, but can’t quite seem to get there, it may be time to find a better way to analyze data.
Traditional reports and spreadsheets are static and time-consuming. As soon as a report is created and printed off, it’s already outdated, so they need to be updated constantly. Dashboards, on the other hand, allow you to tell a story with your live data by using dynamic and colorful visuals, all in real-time. They are also much more engaging because users can interact with the data and customize the design to fit their specific needs.