The purpose of dashboards and scorecards is to provide key stakeholders with a high-level overview of their organization’s performance based on various metrics or KPI’s; however, different users within some organizations request different types of data to be displayed, which eventually leads to the dashboard being difficult to read and filled with non-critical data. When this occurs, the dashboard becomes irrelevant to the end user. This post will explore best practices that should be followed to create useful and informative dashboards.

Know your Audience: It is important to consider who the dashboard is being designed for. The most successful dashboards target a particular type of user and displays data relevant only to that user. For instance, a regional sales manager might be interested in the performance of his/her particular region, while a CFO might be interested in monitoring financial performance. Both have separate requirements and would benefit from having their own unique dashboard.

Design your Dashboard Based on How you View your Data: There should be a logical process for displaying your data. For instance, if you were including financial data (total cost) with sales data (number of products sold), it may make sense to group all financial data in one area, and sales data in another.

Keep it Simple: Dashboards are meant to provide a high-level snap shot of information. Avoid showing large amounts of detailed information. Visual indicators are key in alerting viewers of critical information; however, it is important not to get carried away with visual representations of your data. A cluttered dashboard is ineffective as it deflects the viewer’s attention from relevant messages.

Allow Drill Through Capabilities: In light of keeping your dashboard simple, it should allow users to drill through to another report that provides more detailed information. For instance, a finance manager may want to know why his/her gross margin % is below a certain threshold and is showing a red alert instead of green. The finance manager should have the capability of drilling through to another report that shows granular level data that was used to calculate the gross margin %. While the dashboard maintains its purpose as a high-level overview of information, it should still be capable of drilling further into its visual gauges.