Dashboards and Data Viz | IT

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and IT leaders operate at the forefront of business technology. Their primary job is to manage the information, technology, and computer systems necessary to support an organization and their goals. IT leaders are also responsible for articulating the value of that technology by explaining how it makes the company more profitable. In order to accomplish that task, however, they need to have easy access to performance metrics.

That’s where a CIO dashboard comes in. CIO dashboards can be used to visualize key operational metrics that are relevant to IT staff members, CIOs, and other business executives at the company. That way, everyone is able to understand the impact that IT systems and functions have on the health and performance of the business as a whole. Making this data easier to access and understand provides everyone with the information they need to make important decisions.

Benefits of a CIO Dashboard

Benefits of a CIO dashboard

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what it takes to build an effective IT dashboard, you may be wondering, “Why would I want to build a CIO dashboard in the first place?” There are numerous benefits to introducing IT dashboards into any organization:

  1. Measures and monitors performance. With an IT dashboard, you get complete visibility into what’s going on in the department. You can quickly and easily resolve any staffing, security, or project-related issues by measuring the effectiveness of your IT support team.
  2. Easy to read and understand. Without a clear view of how your department is performing, you can’t identify which areas are in need of improvement. Dashboards put your key metrics in one view, so you can easily find the information you need and communicate it to other members of your department. If you don’t have a lot of time to really dig into the data, you can quickly scan the dashboard to see if there are any major issues.
  3. Updates in real-time. Many IT departments are overloaded with requests for updated, new spreadsheets and reports. Dashboards update automatically, which ends up saving a significant amount of time and resources. You can act on the data right away and start making improvements.
  4. Easy to make comparisons. Data without context is practically useless. Dashboards allow you to easily compare your current datapoints to those from the previous period or year. You can also find hidden relationships and correlations that you may not have noticed if you were simply looking at an Excel spreadsheet.

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Creating A Dashboard Your IT Team Will Actually Use

IT metrics dashboards

It’s important to make sure that a dashboard that will largely be used in the IT department is catered to that audience. Don’t be afraid to involve your company’s CIO in some of the planning stages of the dashboard creation process. If you are able to effectively determine which metrics they are monitoring on a daily basis, find the most effective way to deliver that information to them, and follow best practices, you will be on the right track for building dashboards that engage, enlighten, and educate.

Top KPIs for CIOs

Key performance indicators (KPIs) measure how successful your IT team is at accomplishing tasks, goals or objectives. While the specific KPIs that you choose to actively measure and analyze will vary based on the day-to-day tasks that your team is responsible for, here are some metrics that CIOs generally like to keep an eye on:

  • Operational Metrics: Online application or service availability, system uptime, and production incidents.
  • Organizational Metrics: Individual performance charts and department scorecards.
  • Cost Management Metrics: Cost of delivering IT services, cost of resources, and budget variance.
  • Customer Satisfaction Metrics: IT request response, close rate, and feedback surveys.
  • Security Metrics: Percentage of devices not up-to-date, the number of vulnerabilities, and risk ratings.
  • Quality Assurance Metrics: The amount of bugs/issues per project and incidents over time.

Some IT departments have multiple dashboards for different responsibilities. They may have one dashboard with all of their security metrics and another to monitor their ticketing system. It all depends on the department’s functions and goals. The key is to have dashboards that provide real value by either helping you monitor the status of existing tasks and projects or depicting the results of those activities.

CIO Dashboard Best Practices

Once you’ve established which key performance indicators you want to track with your dashboard, you can move on to the building stage. This process will vary depending on which dashboard building software you are using, but these are some universal best practices to keep in mind when creating your IT dashboard:

  • Know your purpose. Some dashboard builders, especially those who are very comfortable working with large amounts of data, fall into the trap of creating dashboards with simply too much clutter. Once you know the purpose of the dashboard you are creating, it is much easier to separate out the meaningful data points and focus in on those.
  • Understand your audience. Who is this dashboard for? How will they be viewing the dashboard? Knowing the answers to these questions is crucial in terms of providing the best possible user experience. If your audience is not exceptionally data-minded, you may need to provide some context behind what you are trying to show with your charts and graphs. Additionally, if they will be viewing the dashboard on their mobile phones, you will need to take that into consideration when formatting your data visualizations.
  • Ensure alignment with business goals and outcomes. IT dashboards provide a great opportunity to show business leaders where their IT budget is going. This makes it easier for IT professionals to effectively communicate the value of their work.
  • Storyboard. We call the dashboard planning process storyboarding, a term we borrowed from the animation industry. It’s just four simple steps: 1) Choose 4-6 metrics. 2) Draw 4-6 frames on a whiteboard. 3) Sketch a chart or graph in each frame. 4) Add color. When you plan out how you’d like your dashboard to look and what story you want it to tell in advance, you are less likely to run into unexpected and frustrating roadblocks.
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