You’ve identified a few select metrics to focus on for the quarter that will have a meaningful impact on your company’s objectives. You’ve built a laser-focused dashboard for your team to help them see where they stand against their goals day-to-day.
Take a second to Google “business dashboard” and you’ll find a range of software options that approach this “now what?” in a variety of ways. Some products do a great job of producing dashboards that can be sliced and diced by team members in order to interrogate data in minute detail.
Others generate static dashboards that are emailed at frequent intervals to the whole team, giving them a snapshot of their performance (when they choose to dig through their inbox to find it).
At Geckoboard we believe a dashboard is a dashboard, and should:
- Contain only the most vital information you need to do your job
- Show the most up-to-date information possible
- Give you the numbers you need to make decisions in just a glance, without any interaction
Much like an automobile dashboard allows you to quickly understand key information at a glance (e.g. your current speed, fuel level and whether or not are any critical alerts such as an overheating engine), a business dashboard should be easy to glance at frequently and be understood with the smallest amount of effort.
Dashboards are most effective when displayed prominently in your office on a large screen (e.g. TV or monitor), making key information available at a glance.
Dashboards aren’t supposed to be interactive
Just as a driver should be focused on the road, you want your team focused on moving your core metrics forward. You want them focused on driving business growth. Car manufacturers discovered long ago that giving a driver the ability to drill into every readout and setting their vehicle is capable of providing would very easily distract and overload them with information.
Presenting the bare minimum amount of information and removing the ability to interact with the numbers means a driver can get exactly the information they need instantly with no ambiguity.
In much the same way, a business dashboard’s purpose is to provide clarity and answer fundamental questions about current performance, rather than distracting your team with endless data configurations and unnecessary complexity.
A key advantage of having your dashboard on a TV is that there is no element of interactivity whatsoever. Once your dashboard is up on a monitor there is no confusion, no distraction and no hiding from the truth.
Keep this in mind while deciding on the metrics for your dashboard and designing a layout for it - the data on your dashboard shouldn’t need any fine-tuning or slicing-and-dicing in order to be useful to your team.
Experiment with your dashboard’s location
A key question to answer early on is ‘where exactly should you position your dashboard(s) in order to have the most impact’? After all, they should be visible at a glance for everyone involved with improving the metrics they display.
One way to do this is to experiment with different locations and angles.
Tunde Noibi, Senior Manager of Customer Success at Marketo, explains the quick and easy way he tried various dashboard locations without committing to drilling holes in the walls:
“My team sits in an open-plan space, so before getting a screen permanently mounted, I wanted to find the perfect spot for it. I simply put a screen on a rolling TV cart and moved it about until I figured out where the dashboard would have the biggest impact.”
Being able to easily try out different locations and angles for your dashboard will enable you and your team to experiment and find the ideal spot to mount your dashboard permanently.
What are the ideal locations for a TV dashboard?
Every office layout is unique, but there are some proven spots that are worth considering.
The office watercooler is that magical place where people take a minute or two out of their day to hydrate, and just as importantly, take a few minutes to get their heads out of their work. Since members of different teams often spark up conversations there, it makes a great location for a TV dashboard, especially one that focuses on cross-departmental or company-wide metrics.
Positioning a dashboard here or at other natural office mingling spots like a microwave, fridge, or coffee machine allows team members to absorb company metrics throughout their day, and can be a great way to prompt data-centric conversations between employees from different teams.
The entrance of your office is an ideal spot to display company-wide metrics that keep everyone aware of what it is they’re contributing to.
Because everyone passes through this location at least twice a day, it’s an extremely powerful location that can be used to show “must see” company metrics that everyone should be aware of. It’s also a great way to greet employees as they walk through the door and are getting ready for their days.
Jindou Lee, Founder and CEO at HappyCo, discovered this when the company became dangerously close to running out of cash during its first year:
“As a Founder, I always have one eye on the company finances. Early on, we came close to running out of money and I wanted to communicate some urgency to the rest of my team and be transparent with the situation we had on our hands. I put a dashboard up in the entrance to the office which people had to physically walk around to get to their desk, and on it was one visualization showing the amount of cash we had in the bank. Seeing that every day when coming into work was a stark reminder to everyone that this is reality, not Silicon Valley!”
High visibility locations
Depending on the layout of your office, there may be some areas that are naturally in everyone’s line of sight while at their desks. This is prime dashboard real estate for company-wide metrics, so embrace it!
Use that space to mount a screen on the wall, use a projector or even hang a TV from the ceiling to make sure you’ve got your dashboard in a visible position.
Clusters of desks
Your workspace may be organized into teams and departments that have their own clusters of desks.
One of the most effective ways of splitting out your dashboards is to think carefully about the metrics that are of interest to everyone in a particular section of your workspace. Then design a dashboard to focus specifically on them and display this next to their cluster of desks.
Having a team-specific dashboard gives the team a focal point to rally around, provides a sense of shared ownership over their metrics, and for some teams (e.g. sales) can spark healthy competition as team members try to outperform each other. Here are some examples of individual team dashboards based on departments and roles.
Some clusters of desks might have members of different teams working next to each other. It’s important that everyone can see the metrics that are important to them effortlessly. If you have people from different teams sitting together, consider these three options:
- Display a single dashboard that incorporates metrics from different departments
- Create two (or more) specialized dashboards and string them together in a Dashboard Loop that will cycle through them throughout the day
- Add another screen next to the cluster of desks, and display a dashboard on each one
The route you take will depend on the set of metrics the teams are working on, space and budget, but remember the key is that everyone has clear visibility of the metric or metrics that they are working to improve.
Helpful questions for the best placement
Wherever you’re thinking of positioning your TV dashboard, here are some other key points to keep in mind to ensure things go smoothly:
- Will team members who are furthest away from your screen be able to read the most important elements of the dashboard? If the data isn’t clearly visible, you can increase widget sizes, increasing the font sizes on your widgets using larger widget titles, adding headings to label groups of metrics on your dashboard, or consider investing in a larger screen.
- Are there suitable power outlets near your screen and any device you’re using to display your dashboard? If not, is it feasible to run an extension cord to your chosen location?
- Is your dashboard visible at a glance to everyone on your team who needs to see it? If not, consider tweaking the layout of your desks to give a clear line of sight, or mount additional screens to display the same dashboard in several spots.
- Is your dashboard likely to be affected by direct sunlight that might obscure it with glare? Adjusting the angle of your screen or investing in an anti-glare filter can offset this.
Want to dig deeper? Check out this short guide explaining TV dashboards best practice.