Dashboards are not about reporting, they are about performance management – identifying what to measure, connection to current strategic objectives, and knowing how the business drives value to achieve those objectives. Once we know what to measure, we need to understand the users of the dashboards – the decision makers. Where in the process do they make key decisions; what questions are asked, and what information is needed to take positive action? As you can already sense, a dashboard is designed for actionable outcomes, rather than just online graphical reports.

With performance dashboards a hot business item at the moment, much focus is around how to develop the dashboard rather than on how to design a dashboard. This series of articles aims to provide practical [and important] design tips that transform your dashboard from a simple graphical display to a highly functional performance management tool.The original source Why Dashboards Are A Critical Yet Often Missing Component Of Success.

Defining a Dashboard
Before one gets bogged down into the detail of design, it pays to agree a definition and/or framework of exactly what a dashboard is, and what it isn’t. Dashboard definitions vary, however they all typically include reference to dashboards as advanced visualization tools that helps users know how well their business is performing, by being able to quickly recognize trends and patterns in large amounts of data. Rather than get bogged down in the semantics of the plethora of definitions pervading the Internet, let’s assume a dashboards is as a means to provide ‘at a glance’ visibility into key performance using simple visual elements displayed within a single digital screen.

Dashboard Attributes
To achieve this, a dashboard must display certain attributes:

High level summary data – as a starting point to drill down detail
Concise, clear and intuitive display mechanisms – most appropriate for the message
Customized design – to the requirements of a specific person, group or function
A dashboard is not the same as an Intranet portal. Whilst there are common elements between portals and dashboards, they each have unique characteristics that underlie their individual purpose and contribution.

Single versus Multiple
Dashboards can be used individually or as part of a group. A single dashboard displays what is happening at the moment – whereas a series of linked dashboards may be used to tell a story in a logical sequence, and can be used for analytical purposes. The deciding element as to whether data should be viewed together on one screen or multiple screens is the user need to make connections or comparisons. Any data that requires reference of another piece of data to provide meaningful context must be provided in a single screen, least we fall prey to our fallible human memory.