Most organizations collect a lot of data. Organizations collect data about their clients or customers, employee satisfaction, activities and outputs, and a myriad of other data. But often that data ends up buried in a database, included in a lengthy report, or segmented in different parts of an organization. If data is meant to drive decision-making, improve efficiency, and give us a better understanding of an organization and the people it serves, it needs to be presented in a way that shows connections and highlights trends.
Dashboards can illuminate these connections and trends. Much like a car’s dashboard, a dashboard report provides you with all the information you need to answer critical questions about your organization. A car’s dashboard communicates information about how much gas is left in the tank (or how much charge is left in the battery). It communicates information about the speed, temperature, and revolutions per minute. And it communicates warnings when it when something is wrong – low tire pressure, high oil temperature, or any number of other issues. Now imagine this information wasn’t all in a centralized place on the car’s dashboard. Imagine you had to look in one spot to understand how soon you needed to stop for gas and another spot to determine how fast you’re going. You wouldn’t be able to make many of the split-second decisions you make each time you drive.
Organizational data can also be structured in a dashboard. This enables you and your staff to visually understand how things are progressing and what changes should be made. Unlike written reports, dashboards are a collection of graphs or visuals with limited text. They are intended to create a snapshot in time and seamlessly link together data from different sources to provide a bird’s eye view of a topic area. Dashboards can display data on an organization’s key performance indicators (KPIs), progress towards goals, information about service delivery levels, or community trends. In essence, dashboards come in many shapes and sizes.
Some dashboards are interactive in that users can change filters and settings to analyze trends and gain insights. When users can adjust trends and settings, it makes the dashboard more meaningful and specific to their work and facilitates a greater breadth of understanding across an organization. These dashboards may update daily, hourly, or even by the minute with new data inputs allowing user to see what is happening in the moment. Interactive dashboards allow users to manipulate them by filtering the data by a geographic region, service location, client demographics, or other categories. At Collective Results, we often create these interactive dashboards using Microsoft’s Power BI. You can explore a series of these dashboard on the Microsoft Power BI Data Stories Gallery to get a sense of how other organizations or individuals display and present data interactively.
Static dashboards contain all the information you need in graphs or visuals on a single page. They allow you to view all the data in one centralized location in a digestible and easy-to-understand format. Static dashboards may present data that can only be updated monthly, yearly or every few years and they may meet the user’s need without the interactive component. These dashboards can also be printed and shared without the need for special software or technology and are less resource-intensive to make and maintain. They are often presented as a PDF or Microsoft Excel file.
What Dashboard is Right for You?
Dashboards can transform lengthy reports into easy-to-understand, actionable data. Whether they are interactive or static, dashboards can provide you and your organization with better insights allowing for improved decision-making and a greater understanding of your organization’s progress. At Collective Results, we work with clients to understand how dashboards can help their organization, what big questions they need answered, what data they have, who will use the data to drive decisions, and what format meets their needs.
What are your organization’s needs? How are you using dashboards?