If you read my post on Dashboard creation: The Post-it note approach, you’ll know all about the planning stages of putting a dashboard together. But as I mentioned, a great dashboard evolves over time and requires some nurturing. Just like your garden needs constant weeding so the good stuff can flourish, your dashboard needs a regular tidy-up so your most important metrics can shine.
Make a habit of regularly setting some time aside to review your dashboard layout. Here’s a checklist to help you figure out which of your KPIs can be removed in order to take your dashboard to the next level:
1. Are all the widgets useful?
The best way to answer that is by asking another question: What is the dashboard for?
An executive dashboard should contain KPIs that match back to the overall business strategy and objectives. Meanwhile, a departmental dashboard should contain KPIs that monitor the department’s current strategy but that also directly feed back to the main business objectives.
In short, know your most important metrics from the top down to always ensure you have the bigger picture in mind.
Then you need to talk to the people, the people who are using the dashboard that is. The users can tell you which widgets they never look at – some metrics may have become less relevant due to changing business and project priorities. They can also tell you which metrics they find more interesting and actionable or which metrics are difficult to understand.
2. Can any of the metrics be displayed more efficiently?
Two data points may be saying the same thing, in which case they can be amalgamated into one widget. For example, it might be possible to replace several number widgets with a single line or bar chart.
Consider whether the visualisations you’ve chosen are the right ones to make the data easy to take in. If your dashboard isn’t glanceable, it could also be suffering from widget overload. A great solution is to group the widgets and spread them onto a second and even third dashboard. The dashboards can be set up to run in a sharing loop, serving up your most important metrics in easily digestible, bite-size chunks.
3. Do you really need all those different types of visualisations?
Using several different visualisations purely to add variety to your dashboard will only make it look messy and you will lose the glanceability. This blog post by Geckoboard CEO Paul Joyce explains why.
Always go for the most appropriate visualisation. Your choice will partly depend on how often the users want the information to be updated. Is it daily, weekly, monthly and how do you most clearly visualise that?
4. Is the layout still logical after you’ve made changes?
Your original arrangement may not make sense once you’ve removed some of the widgets. Use logical groupings and put your most important widgets towards the top left-hand side of your dashboard. Space is limited so be smart about how you use it.
Despite your best intentions, when you create a dashboard, some metrics may turn out to be less interesting than you expected. The data may turn out to be too variable to be useful or to enable you to spot trends or it may just be too slow-moving. You can only learn these things by having tried them out so don’t be afraid to make changes and to experiment.
Make a dashboard detox part of your routine and you will see your dashboard mature and become an invaluable, indispensable part of your business.
We’d love to hear how you got on. Tell us about your dashboard journey in the comments below.
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