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Dashboards: Data Dump or Source of Insight?

| Posted in Analytics

In our last post, we left off talking about the need to understand why you’re seeing the results in your KPIs. It’s not enough to just measure the result – there’s always something driving that change. Understanding that driver will allow you make better decisions, backed by data. So how does this impact the design of your dashboard?

Leave the data dump behind

We’re all for data visualization. It helps you quickly understand loads of complex data, and allows you to identify patterns and trends that you might not see in columns of numbers. That being said, the visual aspects of your dashboard—the bar charts, line graphs, gauges and so on—don’t necessarily illustrate the “why”.

With so much data to capture, many businesses have a tendency to compile a dashboard that is really just a data dump. It might offer some insight into trends, but it’s really just a visual representation of a TON of data. And not necessarily the most important data either. Here’s an example of what a data dump “dashboard” might look like.

Dashboard - data dump

Sure, it illustrates trends, but where’s the insight? Why is there an increase in pageviews on the website? What happened to cause that big spike in September 2016? The same goes for social media engagement. There are significant dips and spikes over time, but what happened in those months to cause it? If this was your company, you would definitely want to know what was done differently to result in such large peaks in engagement – that’s what you want to replicate moving forward. But, this type of dashboard doesn’t really give you the ability to dig into the data and find out why you’re seeing such dramatic changes.

Move toward actionable insights

So, how do you move from a data dump to a valuable dashboard that gives you real insight in your business? It might sound old school, but incorporate some text! You can’t discount the value of the visual—most of us are visual people—but plain old text has its place in a dashboard too.

Think of this – you’re compiling a dashboard to share with your team. The visuals help them identify the patterns and call out the data that is most important. But, how are they to know what it all means for your organization? You need to explain the impact and how it affects your plans moving forward.

Here’s an example of a dashboard that offers a few visuals to highlight the most important trends. It calls out some key KPIs. And, most importantly, it includes a section for insights. This is where you can tell your team what you learned from the data and how it will influence your future decisions.

Dashboard example - with insights

A little more helpful, isn’t it? And that’s what a dashboard should be!

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