When feeling not productive enough, it is often hard to find the exact cause in order to fight it. There is no doubt it is easier to blame being messy or badly organized, forgetting things or postponing meetings one after another, when none of these things is the actual cause. What may be the real trouble is having too much on your mind and putting too much pressure on yourself, especially in the fast world and mad times we live in. Luckily, there is a cure - information dashboards.
Yes, it may sound odd that a business tool can actually boost your productivity and thus save your business, but behind implementing information dashboards usage there is a vast amount of benefits, with keeping things in order being just one of them. Want to learn more? Keep on reading!
Before I discuss the features of information dashboards any further, it is essential for you to get familiar with big data. Although the term is relatively new, what it refers to - gathering and analysing large amounts of information - is ages old. It is defined by four Vs: it comes in large amounts (volume), is a mixture of structured and unstructured information (variety), arrives at unprecedented speeds (velocity) and can be of uncertain provenance (veracity). Big data provides you with a large amount of data that has been stored for years and waits impatiently to be used. With information dashboards on board, it does not have to wait any longer and neither do you -- because the more data you collect and analyse, the more successful you become.
There is no better definition than the one introduced by the leading expert on information dashboards, Stephen Few, who describes the tool as "a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives; consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance." Now if it still seems unclear, let me focus on the most important characteristics:
- not all data has to be visualized or displayed as a chart, but the less text information you see, the better you understand the dashboard,
- it should show the most important performance measures that you want to monitor and nothing more in order to avoid mess and keep things simple,
- all of the visualizations fit on a single computer screen so that you can see them as a whole,
- the displayed data should be updated automatically at least on a daily basis, that way you make sure all of your employees and co-workers are on the same page as you are -- quite literally.
Different dashboards are meant for different audiences, especially nowadays when more and more features are being introduced. The most popular three types that we can differentiate are:
- strategic dashboards - these are recommended for managers and executives of the organization. Their main objective is to see how the company is tracking against its strategic goals and the general health of the business so that they can easily identify potential opportunities for improvement or, on the contrary, any alarming changes. The dashboard should be kept simple to provide the executives with general information about the organization.
- analytical dashboards - which are probably the most advanced ones. Addressed to answer the needs of business analysts to examine the data thoroughly in order to spot trends, predict future performance and compare various factors. Since understanding is the main goal, analytical dashboards are rather complex and offer more features than any other type of information dashboards for the analysts to get as much value from the data as possible.
- operational dashboards - these are used by particular departments to keep all of the team members aware of the goals and informed of any changes. Operational dashboards are the ones that require being updated as often as possible, as they monitor real time operations and alert their users of any deviations from the norm. Focusing on completing day-to-day tasks, they contain only a few features.
As I have stated at the very beginning, information dashboards offer a vast amount of benefits. Learning about your business should sound profitable enough, but if you do need to get into details, let me discuss the main aids you can get when using the tool:
- Control - when you keep everything in one place (on a single computer screen, in this case), it is infinitely easier to manage all the issues you need to face and all the goals you want to achieve. There is a reason why big data is big and the truth is that only a small percentage of the information you collect is actually valuable for your business, using information dashboards enables you to control what you analyse and thus save time.
- Clarity - again, when you keep everything in one place, it enables you to change your perspective and see things as a whole, notice things you haven't seen before and thus be able to take some necessary action. The readability is one of the things that make information dashboards so effective as there is no doubt that visualized information is easier to process than a plain text.
- Order - well, when you keep everything in one place, it definitely is easier to prioritize. As Head of The New York Times Graphic Department Amanda Cox once stated, "Data isn't like your kids. You don't have to pretend to love them equally." Not only does prioritization of information help you keep the dashboard more readable and thus more useful, it also enables you to prioritize your tasks and goals at the same time.
Whether you find your company left behind or yourself failing at managing things effectively, introducing information dashboards to your company may be extremely beneficial. What do you think it could change in your organization?
Beata Green is Director of HeadChannel Ltd. She is responsible for overall strategic direction and overseeing the company’s continuing growth, building closer client relationships and maintaining best working practices. She enjoys brisk country walks with her red fox labrador and then relaxing in front of a TV crime drama with a glass of red wine.