How to Prepare for Your First Dashboard Implementation

This article will discuss the process of preparing for a successful dashboard implementation plan.

Photo taken from Shutterstock.

Photo taken from Shutterstock.

There is power in storytelling. As humans, we find purpose in moving people to do great things. We use stories to make sense of things whether it’s giving your friend advice or explaining a business concept to your coworker. Well-designed dashboards tell a meaningful story with data in the form of charts, graphs, and scorecards that exhibit trends, opportunities and challenges with key performance indicators (KPIs) for your organization. Many software implementations can be difficult, and only a few companies today achieve “perfect” software implementations on their first try. If you are reading this article because your company recently purchased a dashboard tool or if you are wanting to invest in one, don’t feel discouraged. I’m here to help. In this article, we will discuss preparing for your first dashboard implementation.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Dashboards are often seen as a top priority especially to your organization’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and other executives. Why? Dashboards provide an overview of your key information at a glance with easily digestible analytics.

Here are six tips while preparing for your first dashboard implementation plan:

1)     Start with the end. Ask yourself, “What type of data do you want your end users to see in their dashboard?” and “What type of data do they need?” This will help you come up with short-term goals for your big picture.
2)     Access to data sources. Be sure that your dashboard tool has access to the data. Ease of use of the underlying integration tool is also an important aspect to consider.
3)     Get help. Find a Business Intelligence (BI) expert. If that means hiring someone to be a part of your team, then do the work of creating a plan for that.
4)     Create a project plan. Plan out your project and address it from every context possible. Strategically planning your project will help your company focus on your company goals and ensure your dashboards are efficient and effective.
5)     Are you excited? Pick a dashboard solution that will get you as well as your executives and end user excited!
6)     Start with a simple dashboard layout. Build your prototype dashboard in Microsoft Excel or start small, and continue to build and add to your dashboard. Simple dashboard layouts are the best way to start with because designers are able to present the exact information they want and deliver a clear message to their end users. Read more about why simple dashboard layouts are usually the best dashboard layouts.

At the heart of a story is a message, but it can also be interpreted in many ways. Similarly, a dashboard can be interpreted in many ways. There is no need for complex training for end users. Dashboards are designed to be intuitive to any person using the solution. Hence, graphics should provide an easy navigation throughout the data. More organizations are implementing commercial dashboard solutions, but they are facing some issues, such as information overload and lack of experience. If there are too many visuals or too much information, your dashboard will not be easily readable. Just as a good story leaves the audience with a point even if there are many interpretations, a dashboard should leave the end user or executive member with a point or purpose. If it’s unreadable, it defeats the purpose of dashboards. Additionally, a goal that most businesses should aim for is having multiple, easy-to-read dashboards, as opposed to having one dashboard and cramming too much information and visuals on it. This will allow your end users to know exactly the information they find on each dashboard, and hence, make smarter business decisions based off of their analyses. Examples would be a Sales dashboard, a profitability dashboard, an Aging Receivables dashboard, etc. You don’t want to have a complex dashboard for a few months and not go back to using it.

Surprisingly, many people confuse dashboards with report writers. This is good to keep in mind when implementing your first dashboard solution. From someone who researches BI extensively, you want the best of both worlds. Report writers are useful for highly formatted reports with various numbers, and dashboards are great for interactive visual analysis (IVA), which is a set of skills with the cognitive and perceptive human capabilities to withdraw knowledge from complex data sets. If you have not purchased a dashboard solution yet, I suggest you make sure that an independent software vendor (ISV) offers a web portal that can combine both reports from your report writer and dashboards from your dashboard tool. Leading Corporate Performance Management (CPM) systems such as Adaptive Insights, Host Analytics, and BI360 offer a comprehensive BI suite for your dashboard and reporting needs, and also for budgeting and forecasting. These dashboards offer total visibility into your business.

In conclusion, people learn from stories. Stories are not only a powerful way of learning from others, but it can also help shape your business. In the same way, dashboards give your executives and end users the space to discover the implicit meaning of the data visualization that is shown. The right dashboard will revolutionize both your success and enjoyment in running an organization by identifying and consolidating relevant information from multiple sources, eliminating any inaccurate and redundant data, predicting results early on and enhancing decision-making for your organization.

Solver enables world-class decisions with BI360, a leading web-based CPM suite made up of budgeting, reporting, dashboards, and data warehousing, delivered through a web portal. Solver is reinventing CPM with its next generation solution. BI360 empowers business users with modern features including innovative use of Excel in the model design process. If you’re interested in learning more, our team is excited to hear about your organizational needs and goals.