Whether you call it a management dashboard, business intelligence dashboard, KPI management tool, or any other name – chances are that you have seen a dashboard-like tool in your workplace recently. Management dashboards – the term I’ll use throughout for consistency’s sake – have been around since the 1970’s, but became increasingly popular with the rise of web-based tools in the 90’s. Today they continue to maintain popularity. Luckily, for users like you and me, there are numerous free and for-fee resources that can teach us how to create dashboards on our own using existing software. We don’t have to look too far if we plan on purchasing an off-the-shelf solution or even a robust, customized dashboard. Though navigating the field of available services may seem daunting, dashboards on their own are intended to be simple and direct.
The term dashboard is borrowed directly from the automotive term dashboard. Similar to the way that your vehicle’s dashboard is designed to provide you with a quick snapshot of the critical indicators for driving (speed, fuel, oil, temperature) a management dashboard should quickly and simply give you the status of the key performance indicators (KPIs) for your target. If you are tracking the overall status of your firm’s finances, your KPIs might include revenues, expenses, cash flow, actuals vs. budget, etc. On the other hand, if your dashboard is tailored to tracking grants, your KPIs might include the number of grants in progress, % of grants pending, number of individuals affected, available funding and relevant timelines. When created correctly, dashboards can be extremely useful tools for any number of industries and users. Some examples of publicly available dashboards include the following:
www.recovery.gov – a tracking dashboard that allows the user to track the United State’s Recovery Act spending on a national and local level.
http://dashboard.virginiadot.org/ – a reporting dashboard that allows citizens to track the real time effectiveness of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) in several critical areas. From the home page, citizens can drill down into more detailed information for each area.
http://dashboard.imamuseum.org/ - an information dashboard that displays key statistics from the Indianapolis Museum of Art, including number of visitors, energy consumption, number of works of art.
http://blogs.aljazeera.net/twitter-dashboard - a dynamic Twitter dashboard that illustrates what’s being tweeted about developments in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
http://foreignassistance.gov/ - a tracking tool similar to recovery.gov provides a view of U.S. Government foreign assistance funds and enables users to examine, research, and track aid investments.
While these examples are professionally designed and customized, you can achieve the same goal of many of these examples – to provide a snapshot of information and performance – using existing software that you likely already have, including Microsoft Excel and SharePoint. Check out the following sites for guidance, examples and tutorials: