Top 10 Tips for dashboard success

Helen Tanner
Founder & CEO | Data Cubed Limited
26th May 2017
Member roleChamber member

·        Do you have a single view of your data?

·        Do you have one business dashboard that’s used by everyone in your business?

·        Is your data in one place?

·        Do you use your data to inform business decisions?


Many businesses have data scattered across many different internal and external data sources.  This can prevent businesses from using their data to make informed business decisions.

But there is a solution…  Despite high numbers of data sources, businesses can pull their data together in one place to provide them with one source of insight.  You don’t need to implement a complex, expensive and time-consuming IT architecture project…you can tap into all of your existing data sources to create one new dashboard that sits over the top.  

Want to build a dashboard for your business?  Here are our top ten tips that should keep you on the right track.

Tip 1 - Start with your business requirements…

Put down the data.  Walk away from the data.  Don’t touch the data!  That’s better. 

 Now then…always start with the business requirements:

-    what are your business objectives?  Think about what you want to know.  What questions you want answered.  What questions you might be asked by your investors or business partners.

-    what are you trying to achieve?  You’ll know if your primary goal is to find new clients, grow existing clients or retain current clients.  Focus on this area first.

-    what are your measures of success?  Consider your business priorities and your key performance indicators.  These could be revenue, sales, cost or customer-based.

 Business requirements are always the starting point.  Data, technology, tools, databases…that all comes later.


Tip 2 - Identify your business users…

Who will use your dashboard?  You need to design a dashboard that works for them.


Think about how they will use it…

-    what questions will they want answered?

-    what will they want to know?

-    will they want to explore the data or just see the end results?

-    will they access it every day or just now and again?

-    how often will they want to see updates?

-    how far back will they want to see historical trends?


The answers to these questions will impact the design of the dashboard so it’s important to understand the requirements of your dashboard users.


Tip 3 - Develop use cases and hypotheses…

For each of the identified business users in Tip 2, consider:

-    what trends will they expect to see?

-    what trends will they want to see?

-    what trends will they not want to see?


Develop hypotheses or stories that you can test with the dashboard. 

 For instance, will they want to see how many sales you’ve made in the last day?  Or over the last 10 years?  Or will they only be interested in whether you’ll hit your sales target in 12 months time?

This is crucial to understand, again, so that you design a dashboard that it useful and valuable for your business users.


Tip 4 - Test your use cases and hypotheses with your business users…

Don’t work in a silo.   Go out and talk to your business users.   Check your assumptions with them:

-    what have you got right?

-    what have you got wrong?

-    what have you missed?


This is a crucial step to ensure that you don’t waste any effort and minimizes the chance of you developing a data solution that doesn’t work for your business users.


Tip 5 - Define the data you need to extract…

Don’t extract every field from every database from every business area…or you’ll drown in data.


Only extract:

-    the fields you require

-    the frequency of data you need


You need the Goldilocks amount of data – not too little otherwise you won’t be able to answer the business questions but not too much as your dashboard will be slow and cumbersome.  You need ‘just the right’ amount of data.  You can achieve this by only extracting the data you need to answer the specific business use cases from Tip 4.


Tip 6 - Extract the data…

This can be complex. You could be extracting data from numerous internal and external data sources of all different types, sizes and complexity.  You could have different levels of data quality in terms of completeness of data or consistency of data formats.


The key is extracting the data is, again, to focus only on fulfilling the business requirements.  You can also use a repeatable process to cleanse, enrich and combine data sources.  This is where you could need some expert help.


Tip 7 - Analyse the data…

Refer back to your business use cases and analyse the data in the way that is required to fulfil them.


You can consider different type of analytics for your dashboard including:

-    descriptive analytics – how is my business performing based on one variable?

-    multi-variate analytics – how is my business performing based on multiple variables at the same time?

-    comparative analytics – how do I compare to others or how do my distributors/customers/suppliers compare to others?

-    advanced trend analytics – how could external factors, like inflation rate, affect our business?

-    predictive analytics – how will my business perform in future?

-    scenario planning analytics – how will my business perform if I change something (eg ‘what if’ scenarios)


You can use all of these or just start with the simpler descriptive analytics – whatever answers your business questions.


Tip 8 - Visualise the data…

The process to create the actual dashboard needs to be based on your business user requirements, careful planning, engaging storyboarding and smart visual design.  And this always takes more time, and more iterations, than you anticipate.


There are many data visualisation tools on the market.  We’re fans of PowerBI and Tableau, but we’re technology and tool agnostic – whatever works best for the project in hand.


And most importantly…test & learn, test & learn, test & learn.  An iterative process with user testing is key.


Tip 9 - Test your version 1 with your busines users

Remember Tip 4 - don’t work in a silo. Go back and talk to your business users again.  Demonstrate your version 1 tool to them.   Ask them to provide feedback:

-    does it answer their business questions?

-    does it satisfy their business needs?

-    what’s missing?

-    what have we got wrong?


This is a critical step to ensure that you don’t launch a tool that isn’t successful and/or won’t be valued or used.  At this stage, you might need to go back a few steps to make improvements or to add things you’ve missed.  Better to do this now though!


Tip 10 - Launch…and go back to Tip 1

And then you’re ready to launch your new dashboard.  BUT…the final tool is just the start…

-    your business users will find gaps when they start using it

-    they’ll get excited and they’ll come up with new use cases and ideas

-    you’ll be asked to create version 2, at the very least - you know that!


So plan for version 2:

-    how will you collate feedback and when?

-    how will you act on feedback?

-    when will you develop version 2?

That’s right - back to Tip 1!


If you need any help with your dashboard, chat to us at Data3.

 Data3   Transforming data into revenue generators 

Helen Tanner
Founder & CEO
Member role
Here are our Top 10 Tips for Dashboard Success
Helen Tanner
Founder & CEO
Member role
Here are our top 10 tips...

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