Avoiding the Four Data Display Pitfalls in Dashboard Design

Presenting data and results is one of the fundamental stages of every business intelligence (BI) or business performance (BPM) deployment. Data is also important when adopting a new solution, and for the overall success of a BI project—even when the project stage does not represent any major technical challenge.

A dashboard is the main screen by which end users, executives, managers, and information workers can see data generated by the BI system. Then, based on this data, decision makers will have the necessary information to make many types of decisions—from a simple Internet provider change to a major corporate merging.

Dashboard design is the process of creating visual control panels. Even though there are a number of tools for its development and creation, humans are the ones that carry out the responsibility of designing the dashboards to show information in a neat, clear, coherent, and credible way.

In my BI development experience, I have seen that there are some pitfalls that are repeated constantly during the dashboard design phase. Here are the top four pitfalls and how to avoid them:

•    Pitfall 1: Visual overload.
Modern businesses require great volumes of information. Dashboards filled with too many graphs, tabs, lists, etc. creates the impression of data overloading. Dashboards are meant to show key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics to let managers and executives know how things are going in the business.
Solution: Create a list of the top four to six KPIs. Remember, there is always alternate space for additional information if necessary.

•    Pitfall 2: I don’t have time to see it.
Some managers argue that they don’t have the time check the corporate dashboard in the corporate Web portal.
Solution: Show them bait. Use alternate methods to ensure information is not only delivered, but seen. Modern tools like software gadgets and multimedia files or mobile messages will give managers and executives the opportunity to receive the information in advance.

•    Pitfall 3: That’s the way it is.
Part of the problem in adopting a new BI solution is generated by the rigid structure used to design the dashboards. Some are designed to show only a set of fixed dashboards without the possibility of customizing it.
Solution:  Many modern BI solutions have the ability to deploy customized dashboards depending on a user group or even a single user. Give users the information they need. This will encourage them to customize their dashboards individually.

•    Pitfall 4: Don’t ask for details.
Managers want important information fast. Many times managers will need detailed information (e.g., delays in deliveries; the current state of the organization; etc.).
Solution: Enable users to explore detailed data that supports the tables and graphs within the dashboards. Provide an analysis service (data cube) that enables the user to make their own queries. Give users a good set of static reports. This will enable managers to generate or program these reports to be sent to their e-mail accounts on a regular basis. Lastly, empower your users with information.

Avoiding these four common pitfalls will help you during the BI dashboard deployment process. I welcome your thoughts and questions. Leave a comment below and I’ll respond as soon as I can.
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