Best Practices for Building Custom Executive Digital Dashboards
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by Dundas Software
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Why use a dashboard?

The goal of a digital dashboard is to provide actionable information based on past data which predicts future performance, allowing for effective decision-making. There are certainly other avenues of data analysis aside from dashboards which have the same goal, but the advantage of a dashboard is that it is easy to use, provides timely data and, most importantly, gives an idea as to how to go about implementing potential improvements and solutions.

Figure 3: Dashboard represented in Excel


In Figure 3 above, a typical dashboard created in Microsoft Excel is displayed. While this dashboard has most of the desired information displayed, it is not in a useful form. Figure 4 below is the same data represented in a .NET digital dashboard.

Figure 4: Dashboard represented in a .NET application


The dashboard in Figure 4 is more useful than the dashboard in Figure 3 because it displays information in an easier to absorb format. Furthermore, all information relating to sales and revenue is also readily available within the same application.

Consider the following scenario: Over the past several months a company has been engaged in strong marketing campaigns, and as such, revenue has increased. The supplied chart of this situation looks akin to Figure 5 below:

Figure 5: Simple chart of Revenue vs. Marketing


While this chart quickly identifies that the sales are doing well with increased marketing expenditures, it does not identify why. Where is the marketing money going, and what specifically has been increasing sales? The answer to these questions is not clear from this one chart, so more information is needed. Of course, there are means of finding this information and deciding what the best way to display it is, but a dashboard provides this data in an easy to read form with all relative information consolidated in one place. The decision of what is important has already been thought of, so you just need to look at the visualizations.

Figure 6: Example dashboard of Marketing Campaign


In Figure 6, after only a few moments of observation, it is obvious that web banners have obtained the highest marketing funding, and that nearly 30% of all visits to the companies’ webpage come from banner advisements. Furthermore, while ABC Coders has the highest hit rate, The Code House has the highest click-through rate. This information has been presented in multiple forms which best represent the data. These assortments of visualizations provide the advantage of clarity, something not easily achievable with other avenues of data analysis. Figure 6 both answers the questions raised by Figure 5 and provides a clear picture of the marketing campaign.

The ability of a dashboard to display different data in multiple forms is one of the main benefits of using a digital dashboard. The components used when creating a digital dashboard include charts, gauges, maps, diagrams, tables and scorecards. While the question of which tool to use for what type of data should be considered when developing a dashboard, digital dashboards provide the advantage of being able to dynamically change the data visualization on request so that data can be viewed from multiple perspectives.

A digital dashboard also has the advantage of having all different types of related data consolidated into one place. For example, in Figure 6 it would be very simple to add drill-down functionality to allow the user to click on a point within a chart and find out more information about the selected item. This kind of in-depth data analysis greatly assists the user in finding causes of performance anomalies. Adding this functionality to a dashboard is both easy to implement by the developer, and easy to use for the end user.

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