Best Practices for Dashboard Reporting
Creating company dashboard reports is usually a convenient way to present data for internal use. Dashboard reporting often helps companies evaluate their performance and present information to stakeholders. Learning how to create and optimize these reports may help you manage your company’s data more effectively. In this article, we discuss what dashboard reporting is, explore 10 best practices for dashboard reporting, list reasons for using it and provide examples of KPIs on dashboards.
What is dashboard reporting?
Dashboard reporting is the process of using visualization tools so you can present and analyze data in the form of charts, graphs and interactive content. These charts and other visual aids typically represent key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics a business uses to track its success and operational performance. Dashboard reporting often helps employees understand and monitor information quickly without looking at spreadsheets. Some dashboard reporting tools also automatically update and generate new reports to maintain communication with stakeholders, clients and upper management.
10 best practices for dashboard reporting
As with most reports, an important part of dashboard reporting is what information the reports include and how they visualize and arrange data on the dashboard. The presentation of data often determines how easily users understand and interpret information. In that case, consider arranging the most important information as the largest reports on the screen and using other visual aids to guide users. Embracing logistical practices also usually enhances users’ experience on dashboards.
Some of the best dashboard reporting practices enhance a company’s technical capabilities, provide accurate information and improve user accessibility. Here’s a list of technical and logistical dashboard reporting practices you may consider when creating a dashboard for a business or application:
1. Identify the requirements for your dashboard reports
Before creating dashboard reports, identify the company’s requirements by considering what type of users could access the reports and the purpose of the dashboard. You may also consider the issue you want to solve and what devices people may use to access this information. It’s important to create reports while considering potential users because people, such as stakeholders and executives, require dashboards that match their technical skills and expectations. Here’s a list of questions to consider when initially creating dashboard reports:
- Why does the business require this dashboard?
- What data do users require to make important decisions?
- Which KPIs are the most important for the business?
- What reports does the business already have?
- What type of devices could people use to access this dashboard?
2. Determine which type of dashboard meets company requirements
There are four general types of dashboards that present different logistics and uses for specific users. These dashboards include strategic, analytical, tactical and operational. Here are definitions of each dashboard, what they do and who typically uses them:
Strategic dashboards help executives analyze health-related KPIs. This type of dashboard depicts the general well-being of the organization and includes a broad view of data collections. This information may assist executives in making decisions regarding future business enterprises.
Analytical dashboards provide extremely detailed reports on data trends and their relation to time. These complex reports measure multiple data variables and compare them to business goals, such as performance. For example, a dashboard at a manufacturing company may combine data from the sales and production departments to determine trends and optimization opportunities.
Tactical dashboards often analyze a company’s operational strategies and provide insight on essential KPIs and trends within the organization. This type of dashboard often assists mid-level management with optimizing communication between departments. It may also help management develop tactics for improving the overall performance across all departments.
Operational dashboards focus mainly on KPIs and how they affect the company in real-time. Instead of analyzing the company’s overall health, these dashboards monitor the operations within the organization. This includes the general functions of KPIs within the company. Operational dashboards typically vary between industries.
3. Identify common interfaces
Identify common interfaces that employees and management use to evaluate how dashboard users may share and exchange information. This includes common software programs like organization-specific programs, emails and external databases. Identifying common interfaces sometimes helps developers automate reports and data collections because they can design the dashboard to accommodate different programs and devices. This may also help users interact with the dashboard with ease and comfort.
4. Automate your data collection to accurately represent information
Automating the data collection within a dashboard means ensuring that visualizations like graphs accurately display new or updated information. Displaying accurate information is one of the most important parts of a dashboard because management and employees often use this data to make important operational, financial and administrative decisions. Developers often connect data sources to the dashboard through integration techniques.
5. Use interactive capabilities
Interactive elements on a dashboard often engage users and encourage them to explore the dashboard for themselves. They may engage with the dashboard by isolating specific details and controlling which information they want to see. Some common interactive features include time interval capabilities, zooming in on charts and graphs and hiding or showing specific graphics. Other features may include data filters, drop-down menus and pop-up windows that provide additional information about a data set.
6. Include self-service capabilities
Self-service capabilities provide users with even more opportunities to interact with dashboard reports, such as adding their own information to the dashboard. This may include research, data analysis and collaborative work, such as project information. New, detailed data often helps businesses maintain accurate information and may even inspire future business decisions. Users may add or send this information through the dashboard itself, emails, discussion threads and comments within reports.
7. Consider web-based access
Dashboards with web-based data sharing and analysis capabilities sometimes allow both internal and external users to collaborate on work. Web-based access typically allows the business to share and evaluate data using additional tools, such as televisions, mobile devices, web browsers and projectors. This often allows businesses to gain more convenience and flexibility in the work environment. Employees may also enjoy more mobility.
8. Designate a dashboard professional for each department
Designating a professional who oversees the dashboard report activities often helps companies diffuse responsibilities and minimize the IT department’s workflow. This usually means that the dashboard professional manages all dashboard requests and policies within their department. They may also help generate reports and maintain data accuracy.
9. Update dashboard capabilities and processes as the business advances
Dashboard reports and general platform intelligence require updates as the business grows and evolves. This means improving and enhancing features so they match the business’ current capabilities. As technology evolves, it’s also important to match the current digital trends because they often optimize dashboard performance or introduce new capabilities. Updates for dashboard capabilities and processes continue as long as technology advances, so periodically review dashboard reports to ensure they meet current technological standards.
10. Highlight the most important information by using the inverted pyramid method
Placing the most important data at the top of the dashboard often saves users time because the position allows for easy access. This inverted pyramid method also places information about that data in the middle of the dashboard, while widgets and background information remain at the bottom. Using the inverted pyramid method may make data more understandable, especially when paired with visualization aids such as specific color palettes.
Reasons for using dashboard reporting
Here’s a list of reasons many companies use dashboard reporting:
- Sharing company or project progress with employees and stakeholders
- Presenting a report of the company’s current operational and financial standing
- Identifying areas where the company can improve
- Determining market trends
- Gathering customer satisfaction data
- Identifying IT statistics such as the number of open tickets
- Presenting data in a single accessible view
- Guiding a company’s success through real-time data reports
- Comparing data from different sources
- Accessing data 24/7 from different devices
- Saving time and effort on traditional reporting
Tips for using dashboard reporting
Here are a few tips to consider when building dashboard reports:
- Group related metrics together. Positioning related metrics together often makes it easier for users to find the information for which they’re looking. For example, consider grouping employee churn rates with employee satisfaction rates.
- Use clear labels on content. Using clear labels can help users of all experience levels understand what they’re looking at, such as the subject of a graph. Using abbreviations may also reduce the amount of space a label occupies on the dashboard.
- Use SMART guidelines to make dashboard reports. Using SMART guidelines when designing dashboard reports may help you meet company requirements. These guidelines often provide a framework for identifying specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-sensitive goals.
- Use dashboard filters. Dashboard filters may help some users save time by isolating and interacting with specific data. For example, a supervisor can use a dashboard report filter to send progress updates to only the members of their team instead of the whole company.
- Research common dashboard platforms for each industry. Different industries often use different types of dashboard reporting, so perform some research so you may determine a suitable platform for the business.