You Don't Need Developers to Build a Tailored Dashboard for Your Business

    May 16, 2016

    By Rich Razon

    It takes true mastery to create an effective dashboard from scratch. Fortunately, with the platforms and services available today, you don’t have to.

    The development process is never easy, especially when it comes to dashboards. As an organization’s common focal point for IT insights, dashboards have to please a variety of different audiences, each with their own distinct data requirements. Each of those data sets needs to be easy to read (without being distracting), intuitive to navigate, and highly customizable.

    While these should describe standard practices, it’s actually more of a best-case scenario. As a recent TechTarget article explains, dashboard development is always “more difficult than it appears,” an endless process of redesigning and incorporating feedback. Ideal dashboards may be easy to picture in your mind’s eye, but actually building one is a challenge — in a way, it’s like constructing a virtual museum of actionable business information.

    This gap between ambition and practical results is no doubt unsettling, but the truth is that a good dashboard is far from an impossibility — it’s just that most developers don’t focus on the right priorities when it comes time to build them. As we’ll see, most dashboards fail to deliver on their promise (as well as their investment) because they fail to provide the flexibility and emphasis on metrics that’s needed to reliably surface valuable IT insights.

    An At-a-Glance Museum for Business

    Dashboard development is so challenging due to the wide variety of factors that must be seamlessly tied together. For example, dashboards should give executives an understanding of the big picture through a quick, informative, and aesthetically pleasing tour. IT workers, on the other hand, must be able to linger productively on each individual display for hours, drilling down to the rich, highly granular details. These two very different functions must coexist on a single, easy-to-use platform.

    Moreover, like a good museum, dashboards should draw your focus to the most important details (or in this case, problems), leaving no wasted space; employees don’t have have time to look at everything, or even most things for that matter. But unlike museum displays, dashboards can’t house antiquated information. Readouts should come in real-time, or as close to real-time as is practical or useful.

    And while descriptions of graphs or data must be clear and informative, the interface should be sufficiently intuitive that employees need not spend a great deal of time reading them closely.

    As InformationWeek observes, executives want dashboards that tell a clear business narrative — “Where are we deficient, and how should we invest to see better IT returns?” Unfortunately, IT data is generally ugly and dense, and readymade stories can be hard to come by. As the author notes, these kinds of problems can begin to make dashboard development feel almost “Kafkaesque.”

    Is Dashboard Development Worth It?

    These facts aren’t especially dramatic or hyperbolic, and many dashboards, in practice, fail to live up to their value. That’s because, by and large, good design features aren’t necessarily the most important part of a dashboard. Rather, comprehensive and validated IT data — the “plumbing” of the application — is what delivers true value to the business. In other words, dashboard insights need to be actionable as they pertain to a specific organization’s IT infrastructure and business goals.

    With such vagaries of dashboard development, some organizations may find that this process simply isn’t worth their time. However, IT software providers now offer customizable dashboard products that can produce insights as valuable as if they came from the most talented in-house developer, but at a much lower cost. Importantly, they also sport the range of features that organizations seek: an ability to target separate audiences, drill down into increasingly granular information, and offer real-time data displays.

    A tailored dashboard is an undeniably valuable business asset, but one that is often hard (and expensive) to come by. However, by keeping your most important priorities in mind and identifying the metrics that impact your IT infrastructure most, you’ll be doing more than what the average tailored business value dashboard does — at a fraction of the cost.

    To learn more, don’t miss our live webinar, “Dashboards Don’t Work,” Tuesday, May 17th.


    (Main image credit: Ciara McDonnell/flickr)

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