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How to democratize dashboarding and unite people around your company goals

When talking to our customers, I often find that one person in the company owns the dashboards. Usually, this is the person who initially brought them in, and they become responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the dashboards.

The benefit of this is that you have someone in the business who really cares and believes in the difference that dashboards can make to team performance. But as soon as more teams get on board and you need more dashboards, it’s not sustainable for one person to manage them all. It’s also much easier for teams to feel accountable for their metrics if they build and own their own dashboards.

So, how do you distribute ownership and share responsibility? How do you create a second generation of enthusiastic dashboarders?

What are you actually delegating?

Dashboards on their own are nothing but software. Most people don’t want to become dashboarding gurus, they just want a tool that helps them hit their targets.

When you’re delegating dashboard ownership to others, you’re actually delegating ownership of setting goals. It’s crucial that these goals align with the wider company goals. Involvement in the goal-setting process, for example using Objectives and Key Results, can be a great way to achieve this.

“As an organization it’s easy to say you empower your employees. To truly empower your employees, you have to provide them with all the information they can absorb and give it meaning. Because every employee is tied into the success of the business and each department is focused on customer satisfaction and related goals, the need to gain insight into the heartbeat of the department’s business is imperative. Out of this comes a very unmandated, natural need to be able to see information. That drives the request from the most junior people to change the data insights available. For example, we ship toll transponders to our clients of various types. Knowing inbound orders, quantity on hand and projected need are vital to main the right ‘just-in-time’ inventory and keep capital costs low. For anyone in the company to glance at the state of inventory and know we are running low helps us stay lean and efficient given our goal of maximum value at the lowest cost to our clients.” John Andrews, President & CEO, Bestpass

Watch out for misaligned goal-setting through silos

The whole purpose of dashboards is to create unity and focus around your company’s objectives and goals. If you tell a bunch of different teams to ‘go off and create your dashboards’, there is a risk that metrics will be decided in silos, leading to a loss of alignment and confusion around the main business objectives.

It’s easy to prevent this by repeatedly communicating the high-level company goals and then being involved when the dashboards are planned. If the second generation of dashboarders are regularly reminded where the company’s focus is, they can ensure their metrics tie directly back to it.

“If you mention the vision to anyone on your team, they’ll sort of remember but they’re not thinking about it all day long like you are. They’re thinking about that Javascript bug or whatever it might be. So you have to reiterate this vision to them over and over and over again.” Jon Crawford, former CEO, Storenvy

Get to the ‘what’ before the ‘how’

Understanding how to use a new dashboarding tool may feel daunting to someone. You don’t want them to waste time trying to figure out how to get the data in rather than focusing on what important data to display.

“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.” Alejandro Perez, CEO, Komet Sales

Another way of removing the ‘how’ barrier is to get the new dashboarder to use an analogue process like The Post-It Note Approach to help them find focus while removing any technical distractions.

Experiment, share and give feedback

Remind your dashboard trainee that dashboard creation is a process. They won’t get it right the first time and that’s okay! It’s important to experiment – figure out the metrics that matter, play around with how they’re presented on the dashboard, make a mess of it, tidy it all up, and eventually find focus.

After a few rounds of trying different versions, the dashboard will be ready to share with other team members, who should be encouraged to give feedback.

Since dashboards constantly change as the business changes, it’s very important to review them regularly to ensure they’re still aligned with the company’s higher level goals without taking ownership away from the creator.

“I involve people in the process, and even if I know I’ve made my mind up on where I want to be, I involve people in the process in such a way that the decision is not mine, it’s ours, and that’s a whole different story. With a dashboard it’s the same deal. 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?’ I ask a lot of questions as a general business principle. 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

Summary

  • Involve teams in setting their own goals and targets to create a sense of ownership and cultural buy-in.
  • Constantly remind teams of the company’s main goals and objectives to ensure alignment.
  • Start by letting the dashboard trainee focus purely on which metrics they want to display while you help them with the practicalities of getting the dashboard set up.
  • Remind them that dashboarding is a process and that it’s ok to experiment.
  • Check in regularly but avoid taking ownership away from the creator.
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