I often comment that dashboards are limiting the potential of what businesses achieve with data and analytics.

The idea of a dashboard always sounds and looks appealing, and of course they capture managements attention, so we run headlong into building them without asking if there is a better way to achieve the business outcome.

Once deployed however, dashboards rarely have genuine impact on the business or lead to any real behaviour change. The dashboards we see in the wild are infrequently consumed and only by a small group of managers who are thinking strategically and not operationally. If they even still login, it will be very rarely that they make any changes off the back of them.

Rather than investing days into building yet-another-dashboard, data teams could spend their time on higher impact activities such as using data to automate processes, to optimise or personalise the user experience, or to inform employees of their next best action. These would all likely to more lead to increased revenue and customer satisfaction than yet another high level dashboard.

Rather than jumping straight into a dashboard as your output, consider the following:

  • How can we use our data to actually improve our customer and employee experience instead of giving another dashboard to executives?;
  • How can we automate the actioning of insights analytics so humans are removed from the chain of needing to review and react to data through dashboards and reports?;
  • Rather than high level dashboards, are we better to build operational business intelligence which can be used by team members on the ground to make the best decisions, before KPIs are even impacted?;
  • Is a dashboard the best way to disseminate the analytics, or should we disseminate insights to our users through e.g. push notifications, emails, alerts on the things which will specifically impact their business, rather than exposing dashboards and reports.

Self service dashboards of course have their place, but they appear to be something that the data and analytics world aspires to rather than being vanilla table-stakes and one piece of the overall puzzle. To build a truly responsive, real time and intelligent organisation we really need to move beyond this.

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