Dashboards are increasingly becoming an important part of business operations. More and more, individuals rely on them for precise information on KPIs, metrics, and other vital data points. This information is used to assess the company’s progress with regards to its objectives. With dashboards offering so much information in an easy-to-read interactive way, it is no secret why their use has grown in popularity. When done right, dashboards help business to quickly assess their needs. They also help employees to improve their productivity. However, there are still many ways that business dashboards fall short of perfection. Here are a few of them.

6 Common Mistakes with Business Dashboards

Dashboards are too complicated – There is the tendency sometimes to fit it as many bells and whistles into a business dashboard as possible. Many times there are improperly used graphs and charts that don’t help users to understand the data any better. The end result is a product that is too complicated and too distracting to be of any real use to anyone. Ultimately this causes users to lose their efficacy. While it is good for dashboards to be somewhat attractive, the main reason behind them is their usability. They are meant to be analytical tools, not just pretty graphs, and charts. Unfortunately, cluttered dashboards tend to be disorienting and tend to lose their appeal over time. Board creators should instead strive for simplicity. Data visualization should allow employees to consume information as quickly as possible. A well-designed dashboard should not require users to scroll. Understandably screen real estate is limited, especially considering the wealth of data that needs representation. It is up to dashboard creators, therefore, to implement measures that keep screens decluttered and scroll-free. Creators should look into adding tabs and drill down menus whereby users can access more detailed information.

Unnecessary metrics – In the rush to offer meaningful stats to employees, there is sometimes the tendency to provide stats that are in essence useless. Many times, the information shared does not offer a real understanding of the company’s performance. For example, dashboards are often used to compare data that is fundamentally unrelated such as metrics from different categories and values with different units. Board creators must remember that data must be meaningful to employees. If a metric does not help the user understand company performance, it will reduce the efficacy of the board since employees will waste time pouring over data that in essence does nothing for them. In addition to this, a board that has been diluted will suggest to users a culture of unprofessionalism.

Data Misinterpretation – Raw data poorly displayed can be dangerous. Data itself can tell us little until it is interpreted. However, data can mean different things to different people. One of the worst ways in which your dashboard can offend is to leave data open to be misinterpreted. Examples of common misinterpretations occur when the data is old, when different units are used to represent data and when data definitions are muddled, for example, differences between gross margin and net margin. The dashboard should also take the opportunity to explain acronyms that are unclear.

Poor Customization – When it comes to dashboards, one size does not fit all. What may interest one individual may fail to grab the attention of another. Understandably, one of the biggest mistakes made when creating a business dashboard is not allowing role-based views. While it would be great if every employee could use the same dashboard, in reality not all employees want access to the same metrics. The Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Marketing Officer have different responsibilities and therefore different interests when it comes to metrics. In addition to this, as roles change, and as metrics increase and decrease in importance, so should the dashboards.

Not Selecting the Best Chart – A problem that pops up far too often when it comes to business dashboards is the lack of discipline when selecting a chart to represent data. Data representation does not lend itself easily to every type of chart. It helps that there are lots of different data charts to choose from, but there is no reason why a chart should be misapplied. Line charts, for example, are more suited to timelines, while others (like pie charts) are best suited to illustrating parts of a whole. Dashboard creators should take special notice of which charts represent data points more effectively. Always remember that charts are meant for instant readability. If the user has to sit for long to decipher the data points represented in the chart, the chart has failed in its purpose. Well-chosen graphs means not forcing the users to do math to get the data they need since forcing users to compute data only has the effect of slowing them down.

Poor Layout – After you’ve chosen the metrics that you believe to be most relevant, the next step is deciding where on the page to place them. The placement and juxtaposition of relevant data points have a bearing on how quickly users can absorb the data. Unfortunate juxtaposition can be frustrating, forcing users to glance back and forth at the screen as they look at different metrics. Dashboard creators should place the most used metric in the upper left-hand corner since this is the starting point for people who read from left to right. In addition to this, related metrics and metrics that should be compared to each other should be placed adjacently. This can help to prevent time wasting as users seek to interpret data and understand its context.

Dashboards can do a world of good when done right. Never before has so much information been available at just the click of a mouse. Instant data can change how we run our businesses and the speed with which we respond to challenges. However, while business dashboards are a mighty tool, they can also fall short if constructed improperly. A poorly created board may not offer very many advantages over no board at all. Therefore, it is important that creators seek to weed out the mistakes that can threaten such a valuable tool.

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