How to build a business dashboard that really works

How to build a business dashboard that really works

If business dashboards are a thing of the future how do you build a business dashboard that really works?

So many organisations are building them for internal use as well as for external use.

You are probably the same.  You may have a few Tableau or Power BI dashboards in your organisation that you use.  The real challenge is that a lot of these dashboards aren’t used properly or they aren’t used by the right people.  SO the question is how do you make a business dashboard that really works.  What do I mean by “work”.

I mean that someone uses it regularly and gets a lot of value out of it.  Does it pass the toothbrush test?  Are people using it at least once a day?

If the dashboard isn’t being used every day, then something isn’t right.

How to build a business dashboard that really works

Now, for most people, building dashboards is not in the wheelhouse.  It is something that is an additional piece of work that they have had to learn how to do and something that usually gets tacked on to their everyday job.

But building a dashboard, one that really works, is complicated.  To build one that everyone engages with takes an awful lot of effort and expertise.

Whilst it can be easy to get started, it can be hard to build a dashboard that really works.

So there are three sure fire ways to make sure you create a dashboard that really works:

  1. understand who your audience is and what they want to see
  2. make sure you have access to all the data you need for the dashboard
  3. make sure you are using the right tool

Understand who your audience is and what they want to see

Before you start building your dashboard do you know who you are building it for and why?

If you don’t then go and find out who it is and ask them what they want to see.  If you know who they are and what they are going to look at, ask them why.  Ask them what the questions are they want to ask the dashboard and what answers they are hoping to find out they don’t already know.

To be honest, most people already know the answers, but the big challenges come if the answers they get don’t meet their expectation.  This is where a dashboard is really good.

It is crucial to talk to the potential audience, ask them the questions they would ask of the data and ask them what sort of answers they are hoping to find from an interactive dashboard

Make sure you have access to all the data you need for the dashboard

This is fundamental and should seemingly go without saying.  Obviously, you have the data somewhere, hopefully.

But what kind of format is it in? Typically, a lot of dashboards are built off of excel data.  It’s just the easiest way to get started.  But a lot of the rich data or metadata is not stored in Excel. You’d find this in a CRM database like Salesforce or SAP and to be honest they can be a bit hard to get access to.

Unless you have an open and progressive IT team, it might be difficult to get the data so you will need to rely on exports.

The key is to work out what data you need to support the questions that will be asked of the dashboards.  Once you worked out what data is needed, work out where this data is kept in its most raw form.

I’m not talking about export summary or data dumps. If you want to create a dashboard that is automatic and hands free, you need to tap into the source data, not into the exported data that James sends you via email each month that you then save to a special location so your dashboard gets updated.

That’s not sustainable.

If you don’t have the data you need or can’t get access to it, then change your perspective on what you will be creating.  There is no point building a dashboard that won’t be able to deliver the answers they need.

Make sure you are using the right tool

There are so many dashboarding tools out there at the moment.

Some are really easy to get started with and others are a little more challenging or expensive.  The choice really comes down to the key objective you hope to achieve with your dashboard.

If you are a small organisation you might be able to share your dashboard files amongst each other.  If you are a larger firm, then you will most likely need a more robust way to share your dashboard with colleagues and other departments.  Maybe you need to provide them remotely.

The key consideration here is to make sure the tool you chose lets you distribute the final dashboards in a way that suits you.

The other thing is to make sure the tool works within your existing tech environment.  If you are on Active Directory and all have Microsoft accounts then Power BI might be the best choice.  If you use G-Suite, then Google Data Studio could be the easiest option.  Otherwise, Tableau is most likely the one for you.

If you have a slightly bigger budget then consider Domo or Looker.

One final consideration is what level of technical skills do you have in house to support the dashboarding tool.  Some of the dashboard tools are very easy to install and use whereas others are a little heavier on the technical side.  Consider the support and technical skills you may need to run these dashboards. Also, consider the community support and knowledge base for each before taking the leap.