Is your data dashboard resonating with key stakeholders? Many companies and dashboard architects struggle with aligning their dashboard to the goals of the users and stakeholders. Creating a highly functional data dashboard, with clearly defined next steps for the end user (the action part of “actionable insights), is a critical part of your company’s data visualization success.



Engage with the end user early in the dashboard design process

Dashboard architects are tasked with a diverse list of asks, from reducing data quality issues and building reports to trying to tune in on user needs and the overall success of the report. Finding the end user’s goals do not align with the end product after going through the dashboard development process can be overwhelming and frustrating, not to mention costly. To avoid this, companies need to take a different approach to the design process.


A main reason the dashboard creation process is ineffective is because there is a disconnect between the dashboard architect and the end-users. Many times, this can be avoided by engaging end-users before the dashboard is built. Engaging with users and stakeholders as early as possible will help deter costly, reactive change requests mid-build. It will also help you avoid risks such as changing goals and objectives, enabling a more cohesive and effective end result.


Include a cross section of any and all dashboard users and stakeholders early on in the process of creating the dashboard. While not all user input will be integrated into a final data dashboard, there is value in the discussion and in forming a relationship between the architect and the end-user.



Know the risks before you start developing your dashboard (then avoid them)

Not engaging users early and often will add huge risks to your dashboard and ROI for data visualizations. The following risks are the most common:


  1. User needs are not met

A dashboard or reporting asset should align with the questions that the end user needs to answer and should be immediately (and clearly) useful. If the end user is questioning the dashboards functionality, this will be a huge frustration for both the developer and the end user. It can also cause  costly delays in your process as you go back and forth answering questions. Understanding users needs from the outset can help the developer deliver an asset that aligns well with the requirements.


  1. Users feel disconnected from the process, resulting in low adoption

User disconnect can be looked at through a customer service or experience lens. The end user has a set of expectations about how the final dashboard should look and function and if those needs were not met, they can feel disconnected from from process and the end result. This may result in a poor review of the work that has been done and low rates of adoption (and a low ROI). Communication with users throughout the process is the key to having a well-built dashboard that not only functions but makes the user feel connected.


  1. Lost trust is hard to earn back

Trust is the basis of any relationship, including business relationships. The user is entrusting the dashboard architect to help them meet their goals and grow their business. If this trust is lost, it’s nearly impossible to rebuild. Having an open line of communication and honest, level-setting conversations can help maintain trust and avoid risk.



Improve and Iterate

Dashboards fail to resonate with users and stakeholders because their questions and needs are not being met. Engaging with all parties early on is critical to knowing what those needs are and avoiding the risk of an unused dashboard.


Improve and iterate on your dashboard design process by mapping the user’s questions to your dashboards and continuously refining visuals to match the company’s objectives. The end-users and stakeholders will find more value in the finished dashboard if they spend  time in the beginning to ask clarifying questions, rather than having a dashboard that they cannot action on.


I’d like to talk to someone about a training session for the dashboard design process:


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