Monday, July 29, 2013

Tutorial on Effective Dashboards: Takeaways and References

This blog post is about my tutorial ‘How to Build an Effective Dashboard for CXOs, Senior Management, and Business Leaders’ at the Annual Conference of Software Process Improvement Network, Bangalore Chapter (BSPIN Annual Conference 2013) on 26th July.   It was a memorable experience delivering this tutorial to more than seventy five or eighty attendees clustered around twelve round tables in a big conference room.  Considering the number of participants, I think we had very good exchange of ideas, questions and discussions.  And we spent the last 15 minutes in group discussions summarizing the takeaways. That was a fulfilling experience. Wasn't it?

Many of you wanted to know additional examples on visual representation. In this blog post I have summarized the takeaways and shared a list of references. These references include several examples on visualization techniques and good practices.  Enjoy!

  1. Dashboard is a communication tool – not an analysis tool.
  2. Make it customer or consumer specific.  A dashboard that suits one category of audience need not suit another category.
  3. Dashboard design and delivery does not happen in one shot.   Customer or consumer feedback is very important for dashboard improvement.  Without this dashboards will become stale.
  4. Identifying the right data (metrics and measures) is important. Goal-Question-Measure (GQM) technique helps in identifying the right data.   Metrics are context-specific, multidimensional, and seasonal.
  5. Ask questions. For example, ‘What are the top n questions (say 3 questions) do you want your dashboard to answer?’ can help you in doing the right thing.
  6. Removing the unwanted is equally important.  Ask, ‘What can be removed from this dashboard?’ in addition to asking, ‘What is missing in this dashboard?’.
  7. Consider a good balance of enablers and drivers.   Check if you have the right set of leading and lagging indicators. 
  8. Use the right representation. For example, why do we use Red-Amber-Green to represent project status? Why not follow something better – for example, weather reports?    
  9. Choose the right visual elements such as colors, charts etc.   When you use bar graphs make sure that they show data values in specific order (ascending or descending).  
  10. Data correctness, accessibility and usability are equally important.
  11. Understand and apply ‘Balanced Score Card’ principles when you design dashboards. Also, feel free to unbalance the score card when necessary.
  12. Make sure that your library has copies of the book Information Dashboard Design, The Effective Visual Communication of Data by Stephen Few (O’Reilly, 2006).

  1. Effectively Communicating Numbers by Stephen Few 
  2. Common Pitfalls in Dashboard Design by Stephen Few  
  3. Uses and Misuses of Colors by Stephen Few 
  4. Practical Rules for Using Color in Charts by Stephen Few
  5. Choosing Colors for Data Visualization by Stephen Few
  6. Pervasive Hurdles to Effective Dashboard Design by Stephen Few
  7. Telling Compelling Stories with Numbers by Stephen Few 
  8. Show Me the Numbers – Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten by Stephen Few 
  9. Information Dashboard Design by Stephen Few 
  10. Effective Dashboard Design by Andrea Janes, Alberto Sillitti, and Giancarlo Succi 
  11. Guide to Dashboard Design  - Juice Analytics 
  12. 10 CIO Dashboard Tips  -
  13. 5 Characteristics of a CIO dashboard  -
  14. 6 Innovative Dashboards worth Learning From  - Juice Analytics

Do you want to add more to these lists? Please share.


Badari Prasad said...

Hello Raj,

Thanks for a very informative tutorial.

First 2 links refer to the same file ! Could you pl correct it.

Raja Bavani said...

Thanks Badari! I have updated the links.