How to Customize and Launch your First Analytics Dashboard

  May 22, 2019 16:18:00  |    Joseph C V   business intelligence, Power BI, analytics, Analytics Dashboard


Ana is elated to have completed the planning phase of her analytics project. As the analytics head, she has the responsibility to design a dashboard that can generate sales insights.

The dashboard should encompass sales displaying store-level performance, regional sales, and consumer behavior—all these numbers at a summarized level for the last month. This dashboard is intended for the CEO, sales head, and strategy head.

Ana decides to scan her requirement by answering the basic questions involved in problem-solving. Here are the pointers she is examining how to customize and launch the first analytics dashboard:


Who Will Make the Core Team?

Ana wants to burst the myth that the IT and business teams cannot go hand in hand.

While designing a dashboard, it demands exact KPI definitions from the business team. Their inputs about the raw data are vital to driving the right results. Validation of the numbers and other parameters accepted deviation from the facts, placeholders for missing data, and relationships between the entities should be done regularly from the business side. Hence, Ana has on-boarded a business representative from the business team to get viable inputs. He will approve the test results too.

A Business Analyst (BA) bridges the gaps between the management group and the IT team by collecting inputs from the business representative. He also translates inputs into the business requirements and documents them in detail.

Ana has finalized a BI Manager who will lead the project and will report to Ana. He is aware of the retail business, is well informed about data and their terminologies, and understands the BI technology.

Unlike the BA and the Business Representative, a BI Manager is needed for full time and should stay throughout the project while others can stay for a short term when necessary.


Who is the Audience?

Without knowing the audience, the dashboard might not serve its users well. Zooming in at the audience is necessary to make the dashboard effective.

Moreover, a dashboard has its utility only if it serves users from similar strata of the company. There is no point revealing the revenue figures crucial to the C-league executives to a salesperson. Likewise, the CEO would not be interested in the staff statistics for an outlet meant for the store managers. Hence, one dashboard doesn’t fit all.

So, narrow down the focus in the dashboard instead of accommodating the figures for too many users in one visualization.


What is Not a Dashboard?

Definitely Not the Legacy Excel

Often, a businessperson asks the IT team to convert the charts and graphs from their excel sheets into visualizations. But dashboards are not meant to be a replica of the legacy reports. Modern tools should be used for better decision making by not just retrieving the past performance but also measuring the future probabilities. So, do not move the line/bar/pie charts from excel but use the storytelling features, which can show the real-time changes.

Power BI can answer many of your questions interactively. So, bring that feature into the dashboard for understanding why something happened in the past.

And Not a Scorecard

Scorecards are purposed to answer the success or the failure of the goals. But your dashboard is not a report card to show the grades you have achieved. They are intended to synthesize the reasons behind such scores and plan to improve the scores.

A dashboard has a longer life span than a scorecard. When a scorecard goes out of purpose, a dashboard starts its crucial deliveries. So, design a robust dashboard, which can sustain longer and provides complete context beyond what and why.


What Should be the Depth of the Dashboard?

A poorly designed dashboard is packed with objects in various formats making it look cluttered. And the result? Complex to read and reduced performance. So, avoid clutter and place only objects displaying meaningful data according to your audience.

Don’t get carried away with glamorous visualizations. Use them if they serve the purpose. For instance, instead of a table, use a map to highlight the low-performing regions for the C-league users.

You can include a user-configurable ‘drag & drop reporting option’ if that can help users to deduce their insights.

Similarly, avail the right filters to widen the attention from the surface to a deeper level. Dashboards are not canned reports to serve static data. The users should be able to derive the hidden patterns from the illustrations. The insights should shift from one aspect to another easily. For instance, a financial dashboard should show the region-wise investment and with a flip of the filters, the numbers should spot the financially low-performing regions.


What Should be the Nature of Dashboards?

Dashboards are Iterative

Don’t expect a perfect dashboard in the first round. Dashboards are evolutionary in nature and refine with time. Once the business starts using a dashboard effectively, their feedback can be accommodated regularly to customize the insights. With iterations, collaborative ideas improve the results.

An iterative dashboard also helps to remove the redundancy and worthless figures (from an audience perspective). But with multiple iterations, make sure to get detailed testing done for the correctness of data, acceptance by the user and security for the distribution.


Dashboards are Secured

Security is another aspect of a dashboard. It should not expose sensitive data to the technical and functional teams. As financial figures are important to the CEO and the CFO, such insights should be distributed to a limited audience. Cross-regional insights are not required for every staff member.

Modern BI tools such as Power BI have the capability to restrict data according to the user groups. And Ana is taking the vital steps to secure her sales dashboard.


Further reading: Here’s Why We Recommend Power BI as a business intelligence tool.

These are some important aspects that Ana has analyzed for designing her first dashboard. Stay tuned to get more updates through the second part of this series.