Part 1 Brainstorming
To construct dashboard used for visualizing business information, you will want to use some specific best practices to ensure you can successfully execute your ideas into an effective application that your end users and stakeholders are satisfied with. In using Xcelsius to construct a robust visual interface for consuming and digesting your business information, you will want to utilize the following best practices to ensure you build a quality dashboard that scales. This three part series will address three primary steps in your new dashboard development process: Brainstorming and Planning, Digitalize your Information, Finalize and Connect
Remove yourself from the data
When beginning a new dashboard project, it is best to start from the prospective of the business user or consumer of the dashboard information. Once the business problem is identified, you will want to start mapping out the business process and information needed within the dashboard to drive action. The most effective way for capturing this information is through flow diagrams, mind maps, or lists. From these lists and diagrams, you will need to identify the metrics or key performance indicators for which you will measure performance (actual vs target) and any trends you will need to have a holistic view of your business.
Though it is important to analyze the source data structure, query response time, and how the data will connect to your dashboard, you will first need to focus your efforts on the business problem at hand. Starting with raw data could limit you during a critical phase in the design process; This step will be addressed in a later part of this series.
Start with Pen and Paper
With an understanding of the metrics, trends, or processes needed to measure your performance, you will need to transform your diagrams and lists into a visual dashboard sketches. This translation process will take some time in order to refine how your dashboard will most effectively present your quantitative information. It is best to sketch by hand on paper or in a collaborative setting on a whiteboard. In addition to sketching and labeling the graphical information, you will want to dictate how end user will navigate, drill, or filter through their information. Depending on what your role is, and who your dashboard target users are, you may want to enlist the opinion(s) of the users to ensure that you are working toward a solution that the end users are comfortable with. At this point you should not be concerned with the technology and stay completely focused on how the user can best assimilate to their information so they can make quick decisions. The luxury of using Crystal Xcelsius is the complete freedom and flexibility to create a visual dashboard interface that will match what ever you sketch out during your brainstorming sessions.
You do not want to start off by creating graphs in excel or working with any data because it can be a cumbersome to make changes and more importantly, you limit your options based on what Excel is capable of.
In the next part we will look at taking our ideas and transferring them to dashboards.