7 Best Practices to Master an Executive Dashboard

  • Ed Thompson, CTO
  • November 14, 2013

7-best-practices-to-master-an-executive-dashboardWhen implementing a Self-Service Cloud BI solution it can be vital to get the buy in of the senior executives at all stages of the implementation. The best way to do that is with an executive dashboard.

Naturally it is likely that one of them will be paying for it but if the Cloud BI solution is to stay the course and ensure that all important business buy-in is kept for the months and years ahead it certainly doesn’t do any harm to keep the executives on side.

Of course, a senior business executive will often be a heavy user of Cloud BI. Even when they aren’t they are still going to want to see value from their BI investment. Now, we of course know that the value is being realised right across the business as more and more people have access to valuable decision-ready data but to ensure the executives are on-side we need to think about a small number of super high quality executive dashboards. Here are my tips for getting these right.

1) Make sure the numbers in the executive dashboard are correct… and expected

The worst thing you can so when delivering an executive dashboard to a senior exec is get the figures wrong. Most likely a Cloud BI solution will be showing the correct figures already but we need to go a stage further. A summary or total figure can be looked at many different ways. Ensure the executive is going to see the figure in the way they expect it. Assuming the executive in question already knows their business they will know most of the numbers before they see them so when they first gets eyes-on their new dashboard there shouldn’t be any hard to explain surprises.

2) Ensure the executive dashboard can get into the detail

Once an executive has come to love and trust their great new dashboard sooner or later they are going to see some business activity they don’t expect. It might be good news – ‘great new high margin deal came in yesterday’ or it might be bad news – ‘large customer cancelled order’. Either way they is going to want to know the detail there and then. Behind a good executive dashboard there is lots of easily accessible detail that can be drilled through.

3) Make sure the branding is spot on in your executive dashboard

Your exec probably lives and breathes the company brand, they might have even dreamed it up themselves along with the logo, the colours and all of the collateral. They will think of it as their own so you need to respect that. Ensure the executive dashboard has the right company colours, the right logo correctly positioned and conforms to all and any of the company policies on data presentation.

4) Does the executive dashboard look good on iShiny devices?

The executive dashboard probably looks great on your nice big desktop monitor but your executive is probably on a plane somewhere packing an array of shiny devices, phones and tablets so he can get his email. Make sure the executive dashboard not only works on these devices but that it is nice and easy to use. If an executive dashboard is normally made up of 6 panels it’s perfectly acceptable to split this down to 3 pages of 2 panels each for delivery to a tablet. Swiping from page to page to get all the pertinent management information without having to squint will be a pleasure for most.

5) Find out what decisions need to be made when using an executive dashboard

Why do we have Cloud BI in the first place? To aid decision making. It’s important we understand how our executive makes decisions before he makes them, then we will know what the need to see and how they need it to be presented.

6) Highlight important information in your executive dashboard

If we have number 5 right then we should be in a better place to highlight important information for our executive. If we have space to show 10 pieces of summary information do not show our executive the top 10 customers (yawn) show the “movers and shakers”. Show them the top 5, a total of the others, 2 big growers and 2 big shrinkers. Chances are the high growth customers or the quickest shrinking ones are the ones he cares about more than the 5 established ones.

7) An executive dashboard needs Context, Context and more Context

Data without context is no good to our executive, fortunately there are plenty of great tried and tested techniques to answer the age old “is this good or bad”. Spark-lines give historical context, burn up charts are a great way to create a race to the top against a budget, last month, month last year and of course colour variances give a great at-a glance indicator

These are just seven methods. If you want to know more ways how to master self service BI for your company register for our webinar below.