‘Do you have any examples of how other people set up their dashboards?'

This has to be the question I’m asked most frequently when I speak to people who are just getting started with Geckoboard. Sadly, the answer is pretty much, ‘No, not really, sorry.’ Because in spite of the rise of data’s prominence over the last few years, very little has been written about how to build an effective dashboard.

In fairness, a really good dashboard for your business is going to be quite dependent on what it is you’re trying to do. The dashboards that Dow Jones have up on their walls are going to be somewhat different to those Lyst are using - as they should be.

However, I believe that a little inspiration goes a long way, so I’m going to share one of our dashboards with you and explain a little bit about some of the choices we made in creating it. Even if the metrics aren’t 100% applicable to your business, I hope some of the layout and visualisation choices are useful.

Edit: Find more inspiration with these dashboard examples.

All eyes on revenue

This is our ‘Daily stats’ dashboard, which sits on the wall of our Shoreditch office. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s just one of many that we have. This particular dashboard evolved from a daily stats email that’s fed into our team chat application, Flowdock.

Click image to enlarge. Image will open in new tab.

Daily stats dashboard
Please note that we've used dummy data for this image.

We’re focused on growing our revenue rather than our userbase, so we’ve put MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) front and center. The most prominent information on the board is how much MRR we’ve added this month, with a goal visualisation on that widget showing us how close to our target we are. Seeing the goal really adds a sense of competition to the whole thing, and acts as a great motivator for the entire team. The line chart provides extra context - it gives us a sense of what kind of month it’s been, as well as how it compares to the previous month.

The rest of the board is taken up by key stats about the company - what’s our current MRR, how many customers do we have, etc. Although all very interesting, it was important to make the decision that these should be secondary to the ‘MRR this month’ widgets in the middle. As the saying goes: ‘If everything’s important then nothing’s important’. It’s very easy to create a cluttered mess of interesting numbers, but the discipline involved in cutting them down and crafting a useful dashboard forces you to think about what matters to your business.

Making data a part of the conversation

A good dashboard is one that embeds itself into people’s daily routines. We’ve found that a great way to get people to repeatedly engage with our dashboard is to add a bit of ‘sugar’ to the more slowly varying numbers. We show subscriptions and cancellations in real-time, for example, which gets people looking at the board throughout the day.

For us, though, the best treat of all is the secondary stat on the ‘Total MRR’ widget, which shows us the change in MRR yesterday. It answers the question ‘Was yesterday a good day or a bad day?’ Every morning, as people arrive at the office, they’ll look up and comment on the outcome. They might start a discussion with other members of their team as to why the number is what it is. Sometimes they’ll draw on the other stats on the board to add weight to their arguments.

Team cohesion first, decisions second

Recently, the ‘Plans added this month’ bar chart struck up a conversation about pricing strategies that otherwise might never have occurred between people who might not usually have been involved. This is one of the great benefits of sharing data like this on a dashboard – it allows for cross-functional collaboration to emerge organically.

As you might have guessed by now, this isn’t really a ‘data-driven decision-making’ dashboard. Instead, it’s an integral tool to help build team cohesion. Though simple, this dashboard gets everyone in the company thinking about how we’re doing, and what we could do better. It sparks great conversations that lead to new ideas - and that’s priceless.

Are you interested in sharing your dashboard design on our blog? Get in touch with adele@geckoboard.com. Your data can be replaced with dummy data at your request.

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