My friend Clint is conflicted …
In one of his first post, Clint admits to being conflicted over whether “dashboards” are good or evil. Clint, you should ask Jim Sterne whether dashboards are good or evil when we’re all in Santa Barbara next month. Of course, we both know the answer he’ll give:
If you’re a hardcore data geek like some people I know, dashboards take complex correlations and over-simplify them, almost to the point of being meaningless, just so they’re accessible to a wider audience. Clint wisely points out:
- “As web analysts or report designers, our job is to clearly and quickly reduce the overwhelming volume and complexity of data at our disposal to recognizable information that our customers can quickly understand and use to make impactful business decisions.”
Clint goes on to say:
- “Simplifying that blood sweat and tears of designing an effective display of information into the word ‘dashboard’ both trivializes that work and makes it easier to sell its value to others – so here I sit conflicted.”
Perhaps herein lies the essence of his confusion! “Dashboards” and key performance indicators are not supposed to be the end-product of our labor! These reports, regardless of how they’re presented, are designed to keep the reader connected with the business and drive inquiry; I always say that KPIs that don’t drive some type of action are not KPIs at all!
So fret not, my friend.
All you have to do to resolve your inner conflict is get your corporate masters to understand A) what their dashboards are telling them, B) how much change is acceptable and C) what actions they should take based on any dashboard element exceeding its specific change threshold.
Yeah, ok, not so easy. But important. Very important. I propose that no organization will ever be successful with the use of dashboards unless they’re actually prepared to take action based on the information those dashboards represent. Don’t measure your conversion rate unless you aleady have a clear plan, including set expectations, for how you’re going to improve your conversion rate slowly and incrementally.
This is why the tachometer is perhaps an apt visualization for many of our web sites: As Clint points out, when I think “dashboard” I picture the dash of my favorite sports car. When the tachometer in said sports car redlines, I immediately do something–I take action. Failure to do so will cause miserable consequences (likely driving my wife to force me to sell said favorite sports car, rather than have it towed to the shop again …)
Put another way, when people respond to this massive simplification of your blood and sweat and tears with intelligent questions, your conflicted feelings will likely vanish because, well, you’ll have more hard work to do.
Again, welcome to the blogosphere.