Managers and employees need all sorts of data to do their job effectively. It’s the job of their business intelligence tool to collect all this data and find trends and relationships. However, it can be difficult for those using the tool to find these trends within the raw data and reports that a BI tool produces. For this reason, BI tools also go a step further; they turn the data they’ve collected into visualizations that can be easily understood at a glance.
These visualizations are a crucial tool for helping everyone within a business to understand the implications of the data that they’ve collected. They’re especially useful for those who don’t have any data experience, helping them to understand complex relationships between data in a simple way.
While one visualization by itself can be fairly useful, data visualizations are at their most useful when they’re grouped together into dashboards. With dashboards, managers and employees gain a few key advantages that can elevate their data analytics experience.
1. Dashboards allow employees to monitor an entire topic at once.
With just one data visualization, users only get one view of the situation. It might be a useful view of the situation, but it’s still limited. With a dashboard, users can view multiple visualizations at once and evaluate a topic from many different angles.
2. Dashboards make it much easier to compare data on the fly.
Dashboard builders can group together related data visualizations, and those that view the dashboard can quickly get a sense of how those visualizations are related in real time.
3. Dashboards allow you to make connections in the data.
If it’s hard for users to compare two different analytics at once, then they’ll depend on the same analytics and relationships. There won’t be much opportunity to uncover new comparisons. With a dashboard, users can compare data sets that they might otherwise never have connected.
Why use an analytics dashboard?
Some dashboards might monitor a wide range of data analytics on a given task or topic. These dashboards are usually intended to give everyone who has access to them a holistic, sky-level view of the topic as a whole. Other dashboards might pick out important analytics from a wide range of sources; analytics that, in a vacuum, might not have much to do with each other.
Many personal dashboards are that second type of dashboard. These dashboards help individuals track metrics that are important to them, but aren’t included on any one dashboard they have access to. This kind of dashboard is just as useful as the more holistic, topic-wide dashboards, since they help people to understand their own tasks better and accomplish their responsibilities more efficiently.
Who can use an analytics dashboard?
Any employee, team, or department that relies on data to make its decisions can benefit from the use of dashboards in their day-to-day operations. With a modern, self-service BI tool, even users without any technical experience can build dashboards on their own. This helps dashboards to be more of a personal, everyday tool across all levels of a business.
Some dashboards are designed to be viewed frequently or continually throughout the business day. These dashboards often contain important metrics that can change quickly; employees need to respond to these changes as swiftly as they can, and so need to track them as closely as possible.
Other dashboards might be designed for less frequent monitoring. These dashboards might monitor general project health or wider business trends, and the employees who need to monitor these dashboards might only check them once a day or a few times a week.
Dashboards can improve employee efficiency
The average employee should have access to more than one dashboard. At a business that’s infused every level of its operations with data, an employee might have access to their team’s or multiple team’s dashboards, where they can track progress on their team’s tasks; role-specific dashboards that relate department or company-wide data that relates to their specific role; department-wide dashboards that track the health of the department as a whole; project-specific dashboards for tasks and projects that need more active monitoring; and a whole bunch of other dashboards that contain data that the employee might need.
From there, employees can make their own personal dashboards that have KPIs and metrics from all the different dashboards they have access to. These dashboards usually feature the most important information from each of the employee’s other dashboards, acting as sort of a dashboard for the employee’s other dashboards.
Not every employee needs to make their own custom dashboards, though. At many businesses, many employees only need to view critical dashboards for guidance on their tasks; often, these employees are low-level or frontline workers. They still need some data, so that they can do their jobs effectively; but they don’t need to create or edit dashboards.
Many BI vendors offer their buyers view-only licenses for these employees. These accounts are usually far less feature-rich than full accounts, but still let employees view and interact with data.
What do analytics dashboards have on them?
A dashboard is only as useful as the data visualizations that they contain. So what sort of data visualizations do dashboards usually have on them? The content that dashboards have on them are as varied as the use cases for dashboards across an organization.
The types of visualization a dashboard builder uses are usually less important than the reasoning behind which metrics to include and which to ignore. For many dashboards, managers have to figure out how to condense the hundreds of different data streams they have access to into just 5 to 15 different visualizations. Dashboard builders have limited space and have to prioritize different statistics for different projects.
Focus on key performance indicators (KPIs)
One good place to start, especially for tasks and projects, is by focusing on KPIs. KPIs, or key performance indicators, are the metrics that managers will use to determine whether a project has been successful or not. In short, they’re the numbers that decide whether you’re doing a good job or not.
KPIs are going to look slightly different from project to project, but in general, the same kinds of projects will usually have the same kinds of KPIs. For instance, sales-focused projects will usually have revenue as a KPI, while a marketing-focused project will probably have conversions as a KPI.
Pretty much by definition, every metric that a dashboard tracks will be a KPI. If it isn’t a key indicator of performance, then it probably shouldn’t be on the dashboard. Users can visualize a KPI in many different ways, from a line chart which shows the KPI’s progress over time to a summary number which shows the total of some key figure.
KPIs are commonly paired or related sets of data. For instance, a marketing team might track their ad spend against their conversions. Their ad spend is a KPI, their conversions are a KPI, and the relationship between the two can also be expressed as a KPI. Together, these data streams make a network of data which all might need to be included on a marketing dashboard.
KPIs might be a lagging indicator, meaning that they’re tracking past success in real time, or they might be leading indicators, meaning they’re indicating how things might perform in the future. For example, customer returns might be a lagging indicator of quality control, while hours of sleep might be a leading indicator of productivity throughout the day.
In general, the most important KPIs are the ones that make it to the dashboard. Dashboard builders might collate KPIs together into one data stream in the data transformation stage, and they might combine others into unified charts and graphs.
Often, dashboards also include benchmarks, which are historical KPIs included on a dashboard to compare current KPIs to. For example, a dashboard might track the current quarter’s revenue against last quarter’s, to see how this quarter compares.
What are the benefits of analytics dashboards?
Dashboards help businesses make better use of the data they already collect. Employees without data experience can often struggle to properly contextualize data and use it to draw insight. Data visualizations can help to make data more accessible, but they can still only provide a limited view into a business’s operations. Dashboards go the rest of the way, providing a holistic view of a topic or project.
Businesses can use dashboards to help every aspect of their operations to become more data-driven. They’re a simple way to connect the data that a business collects with the employees and managers who can leverage that data to drive insight. They help the average user to analyze data faster, which helps your business compete at scale.
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