These are the 7 aspects to consider when building a dashboard:
- Purpose: Why is the dashboard being built? This is the absolute core. If this can’t be clearly articulated it is more likely to be a request that has come from an MI (management information)/BI (business intelligence) background that just wants information just in case. And if it’s “just in case” then they don’t know why.
- Audience: Who is viewing the dashboard? Consider four main groups and their interests. Executive, service/product/process owner, operations, and customer. Each has a different vested interest in the underlying data.
- Action: What are they going to do when they see it? I’ve said it before, but if you don’t know what to do when you look at a dashboard, it’s useless. In a car, you are constantly checking speed, with fuel as probably your second data point. If either is not where you want it to be, you know exactly what to do next. If your dashboard doesn’t facilitate this, it’s not right, yet.
- KPI: What is the main KPI the dashboard is focused on improving? If you have multiple KPIs it will draw attention away from the above; what action to take. If it’s a summary of multiple KPIs, consider creating indexes to keep the focus central, and ensuring it’s not a confusing experience when it’s viewed.
- Supporting data: What data is required to enable better action taking? If it’s SLA performance, consider giving attention to information that will enable operations teams to take action before a failure, rather than leaving all the lovely detail for a month-end review.
- Visual and design: The need for UI/UX sensibilities is no longer limited to a happy few. There are some great resources online that help with choosing colours and chart types, but the selections should all bring everything together.
- Simplicity: Too much information is a real thing. Don’t be afraid to take away elements until you’re left with the core essentials. The simpler the dashboard, the easier it is for the audience to take action. Going back to the car analogy, when you have too much going on, on all the screens available in modern vehicles, not only does it mean you aren’t sure what to focus on, meaning you could end up with a speeding ticket. But you could end up writing off your car because you’re trying to keep MPG at a good level.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” (Drucker)
To round this off, it would be worth making it plain; this all relates to culture. The business response to information, good or bad, sets the tone across the entire enterprise. Transparency, through meaningful dashboards can make great strides to solidifying positive and sustainable culture change.
Culture of course impacts far more – you should also read something by m’colleague on DevOps culture.