In my job I have the pleasure of talking to a lot of smart and committed people about their journeys to becoming successful dashboarders. Here’s what some of them learned by simply doing and by making a few enlightening mistakes along the way...

Don’t expect people to start using a dashboard just because you made it all pretty and put it up on the wall.

“Our team is already aware of their goals from previous team and company meetings as we work hard on the education phase before the dashboards are rolled out. We also started introducing the dashboards into weekly team and individual meetings. Teams and individuals began to understand that these are your daily activity goals and how what you do individually connects to the greater whole.”

Alexandra Mangold, Director Ops & Analytics, Brazen

Less is more. Nuff said.

“When it comes to building a dashboard, less is more. Just try to pick a few things that have an impact on the business and then work on the actions that improve the values. It’s a focus thing. When you have fewer metrics, it’s a signal to your team that these are actually the important values for our business.”

Niklas Slotte, Founder and CEO, Sayduck

“Measure half of the things you think you want to measure. Figure out what those things are, which things actually make a difference, and then REALLY focus on them. It’s not always easy to know what those things are right away, and they may change as the business grows, but it’s so easy as a new business to go in a million different directions and be distracted. Focus!”

David Abrahamovitch, CEO & Co-founder, Grind & Co

“My mistake when I started building dashboards was to get excited and think ‘I’ve got to fill it up!’. My first dashboard looked like a Christmas tree and created total confusion because there were too many things for people to look at. It helps to imagine the dashboard as valuable real estate. If every metric you add is going to cost you a hundred bucks, which ones would you put up?”

Alejandro Perez, CEO, Komet Sales

Metrics become useless if you swap and change them too often.

“I made the mistake of changing my KPIs too often while I was trying to figure out what I needed to measure. But that meant I didn’t have any month over month numbers to help me discover the right trends.”

Błażej Abel, CEO & Founder, Landingi

“Before you commit to a KPI, consider how long it will take for it to reach valuable and reliable analysis and then commit to that time frame.”

Eduardo Trevisani, Business Intelligence Analyst, Clickbus

Start measuring as soon as you can because it’s really hard to recover data retrospectively, then put your metrics up so people can see them.

“Do not wait with putting your metrics up. We should have put ours up earlier, even when it was just the four founders. The metrics spark discussion and that’s always a good thing.”

Florent Galland, Co-founder, Dougs

“Tracking data as early as possible is important so that you are informed by enough historical data to be able to set the right goals.”

Alexandra Mangold, Director Ops & Analytics, Brazen

“It’s almost an emotional beginning. We all have a number we would be happy if it went up. At the heart of it is that kind of emotional curiosity that motivates and keeps people engaged. Don’t necessarily start with the most important thing, don’t try to find the perfect metric. Think about what gives you an emotional reaction and it starts to get fun that way. Once it’s fun, it just starts rolling."

Max Keeler, Chief Projects Officer, The Motley Fool

Know your dashboard audience and build it for them, then encourage feedback.

“You’ve got to learn the culture and mindset of your teams. What helps one team may hold back another. I made the mistake of thinking that leaderboards would work well in the Accounting Team just because they worked so well for the Dev Team.”

Florent Galland, Co-founder, Dougs

“I can make a really pretty chart but if nobody cares or they don’t know what it means or it’s too complicated, they won’t look at it. You need to know what you’re trying to achieve with the dashboard and work around that. Put yourself in the end user’s shoes so you can build it for them. I’m totally open to evolving the dashboards so they show more of what people want to see.”

Alexandra Mangold, Director Ops & Analytics, Brazen

“Use the widget titles to make the data clearer on your dashboard. It must have meaning so people can quickly understand what the metrics are. Keep the title true to the metric. Don’t just call it ‘Tickets’, call it ‘Tickets on mobile platform today’. Titles can make all the difference in making a dashboard useful and understandable.”

Lucas Pereira Lima, Business Intelligence Developer, Clickbus

Get cultural buy-in for your dashboards by involving its users in the dashboarding process.

“I sit down with people so they can let me know what metrics they want on their dashboard and how they want it presented. I then proceed to build the reports and widgets in the underlying apps. This allows the new users to focus on getting the data they want onto their very first dashboard without having to worry about the practicalities of how it's done. I also involve people in the dashboarding process in such a way that the decision is not mine, it’s ours. I don’t tell people ‘Hey that doesn’t work’. I ask them questions like ‘Is this really going to help us achieve our goals?’. Instead of telling people what to do, I ask them questions to get them to a point where I want them to be. If you ask the right questions, you’ll get them to the right place. The difference is that you didn’t tell them ‘Here’s what you need to do’.”

Alejandro Perez, CEO, Komet Sales

What lessons have you learned using dashboards? Share in the comments below.