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Why do you need a dashboard for digital companies and how to work with it

We tell you what a dashboard is, why you need it and how to build a dashboard in 2022.

What is a dashboard

Dashboard is an information panel; it displays the top metrics that the creator of the tool wants to track, or that its users need to track.

The word dashboard is borrowed from cars and perfectly describes the essence of the tool. On the dashboard of a car, we see its speed, mileage, remaining gasoline, breakdown sensors and other information that is important for driving and keeping the car running. Looking at the car’s dashboard, the driver understands when to slow down and when it’s time to go to a gas station or checkup.

Digital dashboards work the same way. The specialist composes the tool in such a way as to see the main indicators, thanks to which he can see changes at any time and act on them.

Why do you need a dashboard

An important goal of creating a dashboard is to make a large amount of information understandable to a person. As a rule, they visualize dynamic databases.

The amount of human memory is limited, and when looking through the table, few people will remember the figure from line 354 in order to quickly compare it with the value in line 768. But if you place the indicators on the chart, it becomes clear how the indicators have changed.

Thus, the one who watches the dashboard — a specialist, his manager, or a client, will easily understand the collected data.

How is a dashboard different from a graphic or a report

Visualization is an important task, but it is also successfully solved by infographics, charts and simply reports with tables that the recipient can visualize to their liking.

The main distinguishing feature of dashboards is their dynamism. This is not about embellishing a static table, but in general about automating reporting. The most interesting part “under the hood” is that information should automatically enter the databases, indicators that are displayed in the visual shell should be independently calculated there.

Let’s take as an example an interim report on the effectiveness of an advertising campaign that agencies regularly prepare for clients. Compiling it manually takes 2-3 business days, because a specialist must go to all advertising accounts, upload information from them, combine it in a certain way, and only in the remaining couple of hours think about how to improve the campaign. At the same time, during the preparation of the report, the campaign is unscrewed without changes, that is, not as efficiently as it could, the specialist immediately notices the points of growth.

At the same time, in newage., it takes us several hours to prepare a report, and all this time is devoted to analyzing the results and building new hypotheses. We succeeded by creating our own dashboard. It automatically collects information from the necessary sources, so that our specialists and client representatives can observe the campaign in real time.

Find out how we automated reporting in the article: “Automation in Digital. An advertiser who does not use automation will lose”.

Who uses dashboards and why

It is generally accepted that a dashboard is something big, bright with a huge number of charts, where you can’t figure it out without a specialist. But this is a stereotype. In any area of life there is information that would be nice to constantly monitor. Even the visualization of expense categories that the bank application draws is a dashboard, because it shows basic information about spending in a human-readable form, and constantly updates the visualization as new information appears. 

Let’s take a look at what dashboards are used for in digital companies and what information is collected by specialists from different departments.

  1. Marketing can analyze the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. From simple metrics, like the number of views, to the analysis of ROI, LTV and other unit economic indicators.
  2. The sales department monitors the implementation of the sales plan. Also, some CRMs can visualize the payments of individual customers, or sales for certain segments of goods, or, for example, the rating of sellers for a certain period.
  3. HR can track the process of onboarding new specialists, draw up a recruitment plan or monitor the attitude of employees towards the company, based on regular reports.

And managers can get a summary of key indicators in the dashboard and make decisions based on the data and its dynamics.

Types of dashboards

Dashboards are divided into small groups, depending on the number of databases used, visualization methods and, say, the number of people who have access. But these are all minor features. Globally, dashboards are divided into two types: tactical and strategic.

  1. Tactical dashboards are needed to manage specific processes. So, for example, on the main screen of Google Analytics, the number of visitors for the last week and at the time of viewing the dashboard is shown. There is also information about traffic sources, the most popular hours of viewing, cohorts – in general, here are the main indicators of the site that are needed for its development.
  2. Strategic dashboards are used for a global understanding of the situation in the company and in the market. In them, according to given formulas, indicators from various sources are compared, which gives the same helicopter view, when users not only see the current income, but also understand the financial health of the company.

Our display advertising dashboard, although it collects information from many sources, is tactical. Looking at it, both we and clients understand how the campaign is going, what results it gives, whether KPIs have been achieved. But this is not the dashboard that a client will show, for example, to an investor before a new round of financing — more thorough reports are prepared for such meetings.

How to make a dashboard for digital

To build a dashboard, you need database skills. The ability to integrate services via API can also be useful if you plan to use non-standard solutions.

Before you build a dashboard on your own or set technical specifications for the relevant specialist, you need to answer a number of questions for yourself.

  1. Who will operate the instrument? If you are building a dashboard for a client, subordinate, colleague or boss, ask all further questions immediately to this person.
  2. What decisions will the user make based on the dashboard?
  3. What is important for making these decisions, what parameters and indicators can influence?
  4. What databases contain the original data now?
  5. How often is this information needed? The answer depends on how often the databases should be updated, and whether it is worth making a dashboard at all, or limiting it to sending a report to the mail.
  6. Does the user need the ability to customize the appearance of the panel?

The answers to these questions will help in choosing a tool for creating a dashboard. It should have integration with current services and the declared functions.

Tools for creating dashboards

  1. Data Studio is a service from Google, which is part of the Google Marketing Platform ecosystem. To create a marketing department dashboard here, you don’t have to be an analyst or a programmer – the service easily integrates with Google products (Ads, Analytics, DV360, Search Ads 360 and others), as well as with databases like BigQuery, MySQL, or PostgreSQL.
  2. Tableau is product for data processing and visualization; often used to create business intelligence and visual reports.
  3. Klipfolio is online platform for creating and sharing business dashboards in real time.
  4. OWOX BI. This is a service that, thanks to the ontological model, makes it easy to combine completely different data in one report.

If you use another service and want to talk about it, write about it in the comments and we will update the post based on readers’ recommendations.

Errors when creating a dashboard

  1. Lots of detailed elements. If they are also animated, this confuses the user and makes it difficult to highlight the main thing.
  2. Incorrect names. The dashboard should not have “Untitled” or “123” metrics. A person should immediately understand what he is looking at, so pay special attention to texts and captions.
  3. Incorrect visualization. Consult with the designer on how best to visualize the data. For example, you should not show percentages as the height of the pyramid – with such an overlay, the lower part will always be overestimated.
  4. Fake automation. If a dashboard pulls sales information from Google Spreadsheets, into which salespeople transfer it manually from CRM, such a dashboard is worthless. Look for ways to collect all the data automatically so that manual labor is kept to a minimum, not multiplied.

Conclusions

  1. A dashboard is an information panel that regularly updates key metrics.
  2. Dashboards are needed to automate reporting so that important metrics are in front of your eyes, and you don’t need to manually bring together disparate information to get them. The second important function is visualization, that is, the transformation of automatically collected data into a form understandable to the human eye.
  3. There are two types of dashboards: strategic and tactical. Strategic ones are needed to track global information about the company, while tactical ones are responsible for certain aspects of work.
  4. To build a dashboard, you need to understand who, how and why should track the indicators, as well as find out what kind of data this person needs. After that, you can already study offers on the market, look for a service with the necessary integrations, and write a technical task for developing a tool.
  5. Avoid common dashboard development mistakes that lose the essence of the tool. If you have to manually copy any data for the panel, look for ways to automate this part of the work. Also make sure that all components are correctly named, and there is a minimum of distortion in the visualization.
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