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As dashboards become increasingly commoditized, it’s easy to lose track of what makes them mission-critical business tools. The number of dashboard tools available is growing, and many are marketed to highlight their long lists of features and functions. Those features might be helpful individually, but they can be difficult to use if not organized well. Instead of providing an insightful and efficient shorthand, a poorly designed dashboard does just the opposite.
Therefore, the choice of a reporting dashboard tool should not be made lightly. The wrong choice isn’t just an ongoing annoyance — it’s a lost opportunity for any company invested in growth, improvement, and innovation.
Dashboards Add Value Company-wide
A dashboard is designed to condense a lot of information under one umbrella. But that doesn’t mean dashboards have a single purpose or limited value. In fact, just the opposite is true. The utility of dashboards extends across teams, departments, ranks, and workflows.
For instance, individuals can begin using personal dashboards to track their performance and plan their workdays. These prove to be a huge professional asset because they can offer quick bites of information relevant to the next task, meeting, project, etc. In the best cases, they help professionals maintain productivity and efficiency.
Department dashboards are similarly helpful. Keeping teams on the same page is one of the toughest challenges managers face. Allowing all stakeholders to access the same department-wide dashboard ensures that everyone has the same information and focuses on the same priorities. Because dashboards coordinate information so capably, they end up coordinating teams just as well.
Dashboards can also be used to boost morale or enhance marketing. Lobby dashboards are designed to go in public places, whether that’s on a company’s official website or on a screen in a staff meeting room. These dashboards highlight impressive metrics, recent accomplishments, and verifiable successes. In the process, they can enhance the perception of a company and the pride of its employees. And because the dashboard is designed to present information easily and emphatically, it makes a particularly strong statement.
Maximizing the Impact of Reporting Dashboards
Implementing dashboards is important, but making the right selection is what really matters. One size does not fit all; you need the display, security, and data to accommodate different users and use cases. Pretty is nice, but the most powerful dashboards are dynamic. You’ll want to find the dashboard with the right flexibility and capabilities that make the most sense for your company.
As you begin exploring ways to implement and utilize dashboards effectively, look for these four features in any option you select:
- Responsiveness: A responsive dashboard is fundamentally designed to meet the needs of the user. That means it displays important information in intuitive ways no matter where, when, or how it’s accessed. A dashboard should look just as good and be just as legible on a smartphone as it is on a TV monitor.
- Parameterized Access: Dashboards are great because they extend employees access to company data, but for that same reason they can also raise security concerns. A low-level administrator may not have the same clearance as an executive, for example. Although it’s convenient to have all data on the same platform and even on the same dashboard, it’s risky unless the data filters according to individuals’ login credentials. Parameterized access allows administrators to control what information dashboards display on the basis of who is accessing it.
- Advanced Filtering: Dashboards must limit how much information they show users while still being informative and insightful. Basic filtering, for example, filters the whole dashboard once as it’s run. Once the dashboard is displayed live, you can’t tweak it at all. But advanced filtering allows you to target specific elements of the dashboard (particular charts or tables, as opposed to the whole dashboard) and dictate whether the filter will refresh the data or simply display a subset of the data. (Imagine you’re buying a shirt on Amazon: Basic versus advanced filtering is the difference between running a new search and simply selecting the shirt color you want in the lefthand preferences bar.) When users have more control over how they find, organize, and focus on information, they don’t have to go searching for relevant facts or figures. The dashboard makes them available on demand.
- Limitless Linking and Drilling: Dashboards are meant to be an entry point. They provide an overview of information that guides users toward the in-depth material they really need. Dashboards should facilitate this process as much as possible by making it easy for users to link between metrics and their underlying data — and then link to the data behind that, and the data behind that.
A dashboard is only as good as its design. Though they are often marketed as high-tech tools, their function is simple. Dashboards are really about presenting information clearly, comprehensively, and cohesively. And when they do that well, they can upgrade every aspect of an organization. If you’re eager to leverage all that dashboards have to offer, don’t lose sight of what really makes them valuable.