“What gets measured gets managed” – Peter Drucker
I was flying from Pune to Delhi and had the opportunity to accompany two PMO’s senior official in adjacent seats. They were discussing increasing trend of data-driven decision making in every business and associated complexities. How has the era of digitalization provided us with tons of data with underdeveloped insighting skills? One of them said: People who work on data, who are close to data and its complexities and who do a lot of analysis ultimately produce another set of complicated data with no insights. The other one said: People who summarize data for final decision making have not worked on data in detail and hence are not able to visualize the comprehensive picture. The analyst in me woke up and started contemplating the power of structured data.
Why do we need structured data or a smart dashboard?
We as marketer/analysts get mesmerized with the endless pool of data that digital marketing tools leave us with. It becomes imperative to arrange, analyze and read the data efficiently and that’s why there is an increasing buzz of Dashboards. A Dashboard can be implemented in any organization, an MNC or a startup. Word “dashboard” has been borrowed from Cars where dashboard provides details of your journey similarly in a business context it provides the life summary of a company. Most companies/ individuals use dashboards to organize data and facilitate decision-making process and most importantly to avoid a possible serious migraine. A good dashboard not only help stakeholders but it also helps in increasing employees’ efficiency and motivation. Over years, dashboards have become a very common tool in many organizations. Traditionally, dashboards have merely been evaluating success metrics coupled with some graphs and charts in a single page. With increasing amount of data, dashboards are providing more of confusing information with a hodgepodge appearance. But to make data available from digital marketing more effective, we need to design dashboards which are a union of utility, usability, and beauty
Let’s look at a sample dashboard
Such dashboards are a challenge which is nothing but just a data puke and of no value to users. Dashboards should contain thoughtfully analyzed data aligned to business goals accompanied with relevant insights and recommended action. We need to stop calling everything a dashboard. Dashboards need to have fewer number and more actionable words
Let’s have a look at another example, snapshot of a company’s performance
This may not look like a data puke, a great summary to look at, i.e. a customized data puke. It may be having right numbers but no insight or recommendation. Such data puke cannot help any organization use digital marketing platforms effectively. We need to stop calling such data pukes as dashboards and focus on creating more action oriented dashboards, i.e. strategic/tactical or analytical/operational dashboard
When do we need dashboards?
Different stakeholders need different outcomes from a dashboard. The continuum of millions of data to a smart dashboard looks like something below. When we move from an analyst to a CEO in stakeholdership, value added by a dashboard should increase as well. It is an immense pleasure for an analyst to see a dashboard that is not only presentable but also provides profits to the bigger business. It is useful in accessing data and establishing accountability and interactivity. Dashboards can be beneficial in the following scenario:
- When your business has scope to improve, but it is just not improving
- When you are unable to make use of endless data available to you
- Your current approach is unable to yield the desired ROI
- Competitors is out performing in market
Now that we are well aware of importance and need of a smart dashboard. Let’s move on tips for creating a smart dashboard.
How to make your dashboard effective?
A dashboard should follow IABI model; Insight -> Action -> Business Impact. Most important thing to remember is the purpose of a dashboard is not to inform or educate but to drive actions. A good dashboard would look something like the adjacent picture.
Some of the things to keep in mind while designing a simple yet powerful dashboard should be:
- Don’t data puke, always include insights and recommendation
- Never leave interpretations for the users/ executives
- For performance metrics, consider end to end picture, all possible reasons, and outcomes
- Always set the context in a dashboard. It helps leverage existing benchmarks or competition.
- Understand your audience very well like their extent of knowledge and comprehension ability.
- Good design should tell a story with less clutter and noise
- Start with the highest level and most important data and then move on to intermediate segmentation
Some of the specific designing do’s and don’ts:
- Fit the content on one view entirely on screen
- Avoid showing single number reference rather show a degree of change for ease of comparisons.
- Choose user-friendly data visualizations for e.g. circular representation may look prettier but human brain finds it relatively difficult to comprehend.
- Don’t clutter your visualization, like don’t use data labels wherever not needed.
Smart dashboarding will help you achieve all your business goals. Start getting real-time insights with your pool of uninterpretable data and boost your KPIs. Simplify your data to get actionable insights. Make productive use of too much data that era of digital marketing gives you.
Keep Dashboarding and Keep Growing.
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