How To Construct The Executive Dashboard Your User Actually Needs

  • Richard Thelwell
  • May 12, 2014

When it comes to designing an Executive Dashboard, it is crucial that you take into the account the end user. Understanding and fulfilling their requirements can be the difference between success and failure.

After all, these are the people who will ultimately be using these tools on a day-to-day basis and any discontent on their part is sure to cause problems for the business as a whole.

The aim of an Executive Dashboard is to present users with a simplified snapshot of the data that really matters to them. However, failing to take into consideration user requirements could completely diminish the value that these tools offer.

This article looks at some of the most important factors that you should take into consideration in order to ensure the success of your Executive Dashboard.

The number of users

There may be a wide spectrum of different users, but it still makes sense to try to create a ‘persona’ of the typical characteristics that they may have, and how many of them there will be.

An Executive Dashboard is more effective when it can be customised to the user’s needs, but this becomes progressively more difficult as the number of users increases. Even if the data requirements are the same for all users, the way in which they use the Dashboard may be completely different.

With a single user, it would be simple to tailor every aspect of the Dashboard to their specific needs, allowing for optimum efficiency. However as the number of users grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to ensure certain sections are user-specific.

User skills/ experience

The level of experience of the people using your Dashboard will ultimately define how complex and detailed the information on it can and must be. This experience may refer to their position within the company, or their previous experience of using similar systems for handling data.

It is important to compensate for the differing capabilities of users by making your Dashboard more versatile.

The more experienced a user is, the more likely it is that they will wish to drill down further through the information, as they can handle a greater complexity of data.

On the other hand, a user who is a relative novice would only be able to handle limited complexity, and so the focus for them would be around how easy the Dashboard was to use, rather than how extensive was the data that it displays.

Not only is the appropriate volume of data related to experience, the type of data that a user will typically require is also affected. Users in different levels or sectors of the business will interact with different types of data on a day-to-day basis, and it is therefore important that there is a degree of flexibility that allows users to prioritise particular metrics.

Rather than including a large number of filters, which can increase complexity and waste valuable space, it would be more efficient to have some kind of intelligence built in to the Dashboard that allows more frequently-used performance indicators to be prioritised.

User platform

The platform on which an Executive Dashboard will be viewed can be influential in determining how it should be designed. Innovations in technology over recent years have completely changed the way in which information can be viewed, with technology such as smartphones and tablet devices making it easier than ever to access data anywhere in the world.

This can improve accessibility and be a great selling point for your Dashboard, but it can also be costly and time-consuming to make available across a large number of supported devices. You must also take into consideration the screen size and resolution of individual devices in order to optimise the Executive Dashboard display.

Regardless of this, the ability to support mobile devices remains a key requirement for users. The demand for this feature is highlighted by a recent Jaspersoft survey which found that 85% of respondents recognised the advantages that could be gained from accessing Business Intelligence tools on their mobiles device.

Additional User Requirements

As well as the more obvious user needs, it is also important to account for some of the more specific requirements that individual users may need.

A lot of these requirements may involve the visual qualities of the Executive Dashboard as some users may find it harder to interpret the information than others.

A good example of this is the case of colour-blind users who may struggle to view information that is presented in particular colours and colour schemes. It may not seem that important in the grand scheme of things but over 250 million people worldwide have some degree of colour-blindness, including around 8% of all males. With such a high prevalence worldwide, is this really something that you can afford to ignore when designing an Executive Dashboard?

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