Tips for building engaging performance dashboards

10th Oct 2019
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Data is a powerful tool. With the right information, we can make smart, strategic decisions based on solid facts. When it’s used effectively, data fuels business growth and improves performance.

For data reporting to be truly useful, it needs to do more than simply present the facts. Human beings don’t generally think in terms of data points and trend lines – we need a story.

That same innate human need is true for business owners. We need something that can take the data and build a compelling story – presenting information in a way that is easy to read, understand and interpret.

That’s where performance dashboards come in.

What are performance dashboards?

Performance dashboards are visual information management tools that display business data such as metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor business health and support the decision-making process.

Engaging performance dashboards will capture an audience, communicate the story within the numbers, and provide meaningful insights and recommendations.

Performance dashboards also offer a central location to monitor and analyse business performance. And they track multiple data sources - showing trends, patterns and problems at a glance. They are the storytellers of your business journey.

Why use a performance dashboard?

According to research by neuroscientists at MIT, the human brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds. The research shows that the meaning of an image can be obtained even when an image is mixed up in a sequence of six to twelve images displayed for 13 milliseconds each — a rate of about 75 frames a second.

Performance dashboards take advantage of this preference for visual information, by turning raw data into visual insights. Good performance dashboards do more than just paint a pretty picture.

We all know how painstaking and frustrating it can be to create charts and visualisations that actually look good and are easy to read using spreadsheets. Good performance dashboards make the process as quick and easy as possible. They also connect with existing files, services, and APIs to automatically create dynamic reports, allowing you to customise them to display what’s most important.

Good performance dashboards show up-to-date information –you’ll spend less time analysing and reporting data and more time making decisions and taking action. 

And because your performance dashboard will be automated, there’s less room for human error and misrepresentation of the numbers.

How to create a winning performance dashboard

If you want to create a performance dashboard that will actually provide useful insights, you may need to dedicate a little time to planning.

Dashboard planning in three steps

Step one: know your audience

Before you start creating your visual story, it helps to understand a little bit about who’ll be engaging with that story. Who is your audience – is it other stakeholders in your company, or is it your clients who rely on you for their business insights? 

Ask yourself:

  • How do they like to view charts and visuals? 
  • Are they detail focused or do they need the bigger picture? 
  • What data will be most important to them

Keeping the user at the centre of your dashboard planning will help you create a visual story that speaks to their needs and desires.

Step two: understand the data and metrics you want to display

Knowing exactly what data needs to go into your performance dashboard before you start creating it will save you a bunch of time in the long run. 

Think about:

  • Selecting the right metrics and KPIs for your business.
  • Comparing against budget, target, prior period, same period last year.
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