Do you have a dashboard for your business yet? If you do have one, is it working to its fullest potential? If your answer to either of those questions was no, then this is the article for you.
A dashboard brings together all of your most critical business data in an easily digestible format. You should update it on a regular basis, and when you see the numbers change from month-to-month, you’ll begin to identify patterns, spot warning signs of a strategic problem, or pinpoint areas that provide opportunities for growth.
Creating an effective dashboard isn’t difficult, but there are some common pitfalls along the way. By following these five steps below, you can build a dashboard that empowers you and your team to do your best work and get the greatest results for your organization.
Know What You Need to Measure
The first step to constructing a successful dashboard is knowing what key performance indicators (KPIs) you need to track. Odds are, you have a lot of data coming in each day about your business and customers. It might be tempting to cram every last bit of information into your dashboard. The more you can see, the more you can learn, right?
That’s not exactly true. When you create a cluttered dashboard filled with every KPI under the sun, you lose track of the figures that matter most.
The most effective dashboards are pretty lean; we recommend including no more than five to nine data points. Any more than that gets you lost in the weeds, missing the big picture.
It can feel almost impossible to distill your entire business to only a handful of numbers. If you’re having trouble eliminating KPIs, reframe the way you’re approaching your dashboard. It’s not often we suggest a “glass half empty” approach to anything, but thinking about the numbers that could sink your business if they went wrong is often a way to gain clarity quickly around the KPIs that matter most.
Know Where Your Data Is Coming From
Once you’ve settled upon the most important data points to measure, you must establish a process around collecting that data on a regular basis. Start by identifying the sources.
You likely have many systems kicking out data that will go into measuring your KPIs. These sources might include your website analytics, email service provider, CRM tool, or social media analytics. Create a list of each of your dashboard KPIs, and indicate where you’ll be pulling the data from for each stat.
Next, clarify how you’ll assemble the data. Do you have a CDP tool that will pull everything together, or will you be relying on a team member to do it manually?
Remember, you’ll be creating and sharing these dashboards on a regular basis, so you don’t want to turn the data collection and assembly process into a herculean task. Try to build your KPIs around numbers that are easy to pull directly from your existing sources of data.
We’ve written before about the downside of the quest for perfect data. When you start asking your team to create customized data points every week or month, you’re taking time away from other tasks they could be doing (like actually implementing learnings from the dashboard!).
Make It Easy to Share and Read
Reading through the dashboard for your organization should not feel like preparations for the quantitative reasoning portion of the GREs. The ideal dashboard is one page with clear, simple charts. Let the data speak for itself. There’s no need for multiple slides with lengthy analysis.
It is, however, a good idea to make it easy to compare this dashboard’s figures with previous months’ numbers. A great dashboard is all about being able to compare and contrast with the past so that you can easily identify anomalies. In the example above, we included data from three consecutive months for each KPI. That makes it easy to track progress and spot changes.
Don’t Keep It to Yourself
The whole point of pulling this data regularly and presenting it in an easy-to-read format is to share it with your team! When you keep your dashboards siloed, you miss the opportunity to get valuable feedback from your colleagues who are doing the work every day. They may be able to see something in the numbers that leadership missed.
Plus, keeping your team in the loop about the health of your organization means they’re always focused on constant improvement. And when your dashboard numbers are tied in with your broader strategy and initiatives, seeing those numbers shift over time feeds into employee engagement. Watching their hard work actually move the needle in the right direction for your company is a rewarding and motivating feeling.
Get on a Regular Schedule
The real value in a dashboard is tracking your progress and results. You need to keep pulling the data on a regular basis, be it daily, weekly, or monthly. The schedule will vary from business to business; considering the length of your sales cycle can help you identify the appropriate cadence for your organization.
It’s easy for life and work to get in the way and for your dashboard to fall to the wayside, but it’s important that you don’t let that happen. Make reading through your dashboard a part of your daily or weekly routine. Put a recurring meeting on the calendar for your team to discuss your dashboard, to hold yourself accountable and make sure you don’t let it slide.
A dashboard empowers you and your colleagues to make the best, most informed decisions for your organization. By tracking the data that matters most over time, you can capitalize on positive changes or course-correct before negative ones eat away at your revenue. Following the steps outlined here ensures you’ve built a dashboard that’s easy to read, analyze, and maintain over time.
About the Sterling Woods Group, LLC
The Sterling Woods Group’s mission is to help clients make sense of their data to predictably grow sales. We apply data science to help you optimize your sales funnel, improve your marketing ROI, launch new products successfully, and enter new markets profitably.
We use a hypothesis-driven, data-supported methodology to discover insights that no one else is paying attention to. Then, we help you assemble the right sales strategies, marketing plans, technologies, and resources to seize this opportunity.
About the Author
Rob Ristagno, founder and CEO of the Sterling Woods Group, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. Starting his career at McKinsey, his focus has always been on embracing digital technology and data science to spur strategic growth.
Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Digiday.
He holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.
Rob lives outside Boston, MA with his wife, Kate; daughter, Leni; and black lab, Royce.