Written by: Bhavin Lachani
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Champions and critics

Digital dashboards are increasingly used to monitor key performance indicators (KPI) and visualise data essential to business success. Good dashboards encourage active thinking about the data, not just passive reaction to alerts, helping people to maintain awareness of the current position and providing a common picture for the whole team. As someone who has developed and implemented dashboards several times in my career, I've learned first-hand some of the requirements for success.

For years MS Excel was the go-to tool for creating dashboards, because people were familiar with it. Today, new user-friendly dashboard tools are available which do not require special programming skills (unlike Excel) and look great. But as with all things digital – success is not just about the software, it's primarily about process and people. Here are my tips.

Create a community of champions and critics. Implementing new technology can be difficult, especially if it means changing people's daily jobs and processes. Identify the people who share your vision and those who don't – and then personally ask for their help. Involve them in the design, testing and implementation phases.

Map the current process and identify KPIs to be measured. Start with a blank sheet and draw up existing processes on large paper (typical LEAN/CI exercise), involving key stakeholders, champions and critics. The aim is to establish a common understanding of the existing processes, identify quick wins to improve the process and importantly, identify the KPIs to be measured for different decision makers. It's important to keep asking 'why' we are measuring what we are measuring, as well as 'when'.

Draw it up, the old school way. Dashboards should handle calculations and repetitive procedural tasks, not displace human intelligence. Sketch what your stakeholders want to see and what it means for them. Keep it simple with a pen and paper or with whiteboards, laying out your KPIs in a single screen page, adding pages depending on the size and complexity of the dashboards.

Be agile and incremental. Break the dashboard into components and start creating it in small but incremental steps. For each visual or KPI, test it to make sure it makes sense and is what the stakeholder was looking for. Set up regular forums dedicated to sharing incremental progress. These should be short and to the point. Keep involving champions and critics to test the development before it goes to the stakeholder.

A dashboard for the dashboard! A usage monitoring tool will help you to measure adoption of the business dashboard.It will show the level of engagement (eg. through local forums or dashboard roadshows), measure the impact of new features and help you understand patterns (eg. departmentally) where action is needed to boost uptake.

It can't be emphasised enough that for any successful technology transformation you need to share the vision, invest in training for everyone, and empower your champions and critics to be the first port of call for users. This will make the transformation journey a lot easier - not only effective but also sustainable.

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