How to Build Great Looking and Functional Business Dashboards
Wouldn’t it be great if your business could access all its data, information, trends, reports and statistics through one tool or platform? Collecting, accessing and studying business data can be one of the most challenging and time-consuming activities for a business but one tool that can simplify the process is a Business Dashboard. A dashboard is a tool through which information can be easy displayed, tracked and evaluated in the most convenient manner.
In this article, we shall explore the topic of Business Dashboards further. By reading the information presented, you will be able to learn 1) everything you need to know about business dashboards, 2) why do all businesses need business dashboards, 3) building effective business dashboard.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BUSINESS DASHBOARDS
A business dashboard or simply Dashboard is a kind of an information management tool which is used for the purpose of tracking metrics, KPIs (key performance indicators) and several other data elements which are of importance to an organization or one of its departments. The origin of the term ‘dashboard’ comes from automobile dashboards where the driver is responsible for tracking the major functions based on a summarized information. The world of business has been looking for certain tools that can help them know whether their business is running at the right pace and in the right direction for a long time now. But with the development and use of dashboards, this area has been taken care of.
As far as your business is concerned, a dashboard can help visualize summaries of data in a format of comparisons, graphs, line and bar charts, trends, reports, statistics and exceptional cases, etc. There are four key requirements for a good or effective dashboard, and they are given as follows:
- The dashboard should be simple and communicates in the easiest manner.
- The dashboard visuals should offer the least number of distractions or confusions.
- Every dashboard should enable application of visual perception to visual presentation.
- It should support the well-organized business with useful data.
Types of Dashboards
There are 3 major types of the dashboard, and their distinction arises from the different role they fulfill. You decide which one can work perfectly for your needs and requirements:
- Strategic – Strategic or executive dashboards are those dashboards that offer the KPIs that the executive team of your company will track on a regular basis. This dashboard will provide a top level overview of the condition or status of the business along with the opportunities offered to it.
- Operational – As the name suggests, these kinds of dashboards display data or information that helps analyze or view the operational part of the business. This kind of a dashboard enables you to monitor the pulse of the operations and offer real-time data.
- Tactical – Tactical or analytic dashboards are capable of displaying both operational and strategic data. These enable you to view more data and get more insights in parallel. However, this functionality may not be required by all kinds of businesses.
Benefits of business dashboards for companies
- Alignment of departments – Dashboards offer an objective view of performance and inter-departmental activities and can serve as common ground for further communication. It helps departments be aligned and be on the same page.
- Consolidation of multiple data points – What dashboards do is that they collect data from multiple sources and consolidate it to one single reporting source. This can help you reduce time as well as your manual work, thus making it possible for you to share the data among the entire organization.
- More value out of data – When bringing the business related data in one place, business dashboards make it possible to compare those data and metrics more easily across departments or products. If a dashboard is well-designed, then it can help you gain much more understanding about the business developments and the current status of your company.
WHY DO ALL BUSINESSES NEED BUSINESS DASHBOARDS
As a business owner, you must know and understand the importance of collecting data and the convenience of analyzing it from in one place. But doing so is not really possible since apart from dashboards, there are not many ways to consolidate the huge amounts of data in an overview. Business dashboards not only offer a convenient display but also make way for accessing performance metrics and statistics simple. If you are still considering to implement a dashboard for your business, then the following points might convince you:
- Saves time – A business dashboard can save time of your executives who spend several hours a week trying to log information into reports and then running them. This saved time can be then invested on other important tasks and may offer increased productivity and profitability. As they say ‘time is money’ and the more time you save, the more money you make.
- Offers better results – A business dashboard helps you to address the issues or problems that need checking. Performance indicators are hugely instrumental in improving your operations by eliminating problem areas and capitalizing on elements that are working currently. This is another reason why you must consider having one for your business.
- Decreases stress – Stress at your workplace can lead to deterioration in performances and results. But with a business dashboard, it is possible to reduce this stress by reducing the amount of hard work that needs to be done. With an excellently designed dashboard updates can be sent to you and your team on a daily basis that cuts down on half your work and tension. The reports thus obtained can be used to compare data, make decisions and hence improve performance.
- Improves productivity – An intelligently organized business dashboard enables you to know performance indicators such as return rate, customer behavior development, etc. By knowing these statistics and trends, you can work in such a way that performance can be improved, thus increasing profits.
- Offers deeper transparency – One of the main reasons why your business needs a well-designed dashboard is because such a tool helps you to know what kind of forces are driving it at a given point in time. The well-illustrated graphs and the minutely detailed reports can pinpoint to the factors that may be working for you or the ones that may not be proving beneficial. The overall transparency offered is incomparable to that offered by any other business tool.
- Offers better overview picture – A business dashboard helps to provide a much greater overview of your data by dividing it into groups or blocks. On the basis of this kind of condenced overview picture, data can be easily analyzed, and better insights can be gained. The division of data into relevant groups gives you more capability of managing it and understanding the trends.
- Helps in tracking sales opportunities – Sales dashboards are a superb tool for monitoring and tracking services as well as products through their life-term. These tools can help you spot and identify those products that have the maximum potential of selling by analyzing the market and measuring other business statistics. Sales dashboards help to eliminate the necessity of manually entering data and comparing sales reports, etc.
- Offers marketing insights – Your marketing department may work very hard to collect and analyze data from the various sources. It may take you a lot of time to predict sales, forecast trends and build marketing strategies, etc. But with a business dashboard, this task can be made simpler and much less time consuming. This is another reason why business dashboards are so important for you.
- Improves employee performances – When the employees of your business know that their performance is being analyzed and evaluated through a dashboard, they tend to work harder and offer more productivity. This helps to improve employee performances throughout the workplace and hence benefits you by improving profits. Since employees become more aware of the fact that they are being compared with one another on various grounds, they make more efforts to improve upon each task they perform.
- Social media management – The dashboards that social media sites offer to you may not be enough to show you all the important insights and this is where a business dashboard proves useful. Through a dashboard of this kind, you can better manage your social media accounts, the campaigns you are running as well as get a more comprehensive view of the developments and statistics. It can get very difficult to log in all the different accounts and compare the data from the different sources separately for marketing managers but with a good dashboard, this task is hugely simplified.
BUILDING BEAUTIFUL AND FUNCTIONAL BUSINESS DASHBOARDS
Business dashboards have proven to be highly useful in leveraging the importance of summarized data. Not only do they speed the process of decision making but also enable the creation of alignment of data. But this is only possible if the dashboard is created with enough consideration and by considering certain rules and suggestions. To come up with a beautiful and functional business dashboard, you can follow the following given points:
1. Choose the most important metrics only
Business dashboards are often very cluttered, but this can create confusion in the mind of the onlookers. This is why it is important to select very carefully what metrics you want to add so that only relevant data or information is displayed. There is no fixed rule as to which metrics you must select as every business may have different requirements and needs. In order to select which metrics must be included, you can consider the following given factors:
- Is the metric really necessary? – The first question that you may need to ask is whether the metric is even necessary or not.
- How does the metric contribute to your objective? – You may also need to analyze the way in which the metric is contributing to your overall objective or goal.
- Do you have data to throw light on this objective? – You have to test whether you can gain the relevant data to assess those metrics.
2. Pay attention to its visual appeal
Another thing that you may need to consider while choosing or designing a business dashboard is its visual look and appeal. You must make sure that the overall attractiveness of the dashboard is good enough for you and other business executes to use it. A well-designed dashboard is one which is pleasing to look at and high in terms of usability. The following are some factors that can be considered to make it visually appealing:
- Data grouping should be done logically: Data must be arranged and displayed in logical blocks of information or groups, as otherwise it can cause only confusion by the reader of the dashboard. All the financial information must be grouped together whereas all the marketing related data must be placed together and so on. Grouping must be done according to the departments (marketing, finance, accounts, sales and so on), according to the product, according to the people using it or similar categorization. The way the data is displayed is what determines how our eye will move on the dashboard and which order will we read the data presented. Thus, it is very important to place data logically and in proper categories.
- Graphs, charts, and widgets, etc.: For a functional and streamlined dashboard, it is important for it to have charts, widgets and graphs etc. so as to display information in a systematic way and so as to throw light on the trends and reports in a simplified manner. There is a host of graph and chart types available for you to choose from, but you must select the type carefully, focusing on its relevance and suitability to your overall design.
- Color, shapes, lines, etc.: Another part of the overall visualization that you can consider is the kinds of colors used, the shapes used as well as the kinds of lines and thicknesses chosen for different elements. There are many tools that can help you control these visual attributes but make it a point to avoid using cute widgets and 3D graphics to keep the dashboard subtle.
- Captivating design: The overall design of your dashboard must be compelling and captivating enough to enable your employees to work on it with ease and without getting bored. The design includes not only the visual appeal but also its functionality. The dashboard is an effective data discovery tool that must create a natural flow of spotting relevant information.
3. Users’ needs must be kept in mind
Creating a single dashboard to meet the needs and suitability of the entire organization can be tough but is equally important. While the development process of the dashboard is going on, it is crucial that you keep in mind the entire audience and try to address the needs of each one of the users. From marketing executives to sales representatives and from partners to customers, every individual must be able to operate it and should be able to meet their individual objectives. A good dashboard is one which can be understood even by the slowest employee of your team. The visualization tools must be used in such a way that the gist of the data can be evaluated in a matter of seconds. Basically, simplicity is the key to creating a user-friendly dashboard.
4. Clear communication and easy exporting
A stunning dashboard is one which communicates clearly and sends the message in the simplest possible way. There must be no scope for confusion or roadblocks in the flow of the data displayed. Another factor that can help you come up with a highly functional dashboard is its easy replication or exporting. Make it a point to create your dashboard in such a way it can send its message through other platforms like Excel sheets or PDFs as well.
5. Concise and responsive
When one element can perform the task of four, then there is no point crowding your dashboard. Information must be displayed in the briefest or concise way to enable easy navigation and reading. Moreover, the dashboard must be quick and smooth as well. It must be able to enable access to huge amounts of information effortlessly without difficulties in navigation.
6. The number of times refreshing is required
In order to ensure optimal performance of the dashboard, you must pay attention to the frequency or how often it needs refreshing. Refreshing must be spaced in such a way that one can save their time and avoid the unnecessary manual refreshing. Some examples of the refreshing rates of dashboards include daily refreshing, weekly refreshing, monthly refreshing as well as real-time refreshing. An operation dashboard may need real-time refreshing whereas a strategic dashboard may require refreshing on a less regular basis.
As a business owner, you must know that a business, as well as its needs, change on a regular basis. This is why, it is important to create your dashboard in such a way that it can be changed or updated according to the changes in the business’s requirements. While the development process is going on, make sure the larger picture is taken into consideration and the dashboard is flexible enough to add/delete sources of data, change the settings and data amount can be increased with time.