When using media for connecting and sharing information in short, efficient increments, families and friends turn to Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, career professionals use LinkedIn, and others turn to Twitter.
When monitoring a business, think of dashboards as social media for IT: a platform to socialize information, provide context, move people to action and build ties through data with people who share common interests and goals.
Just as with other social media, there are good practices, rules, and considerations for getting value from IT dashboards—and costly pitfalls of “bad dashboarding.”
The dashboard creator needs to consider:
- Who is my audience?
- What information needs to be presented?
- What is the frequency for refreshing data? What is the frequency for viewers to consume data?
- How can data be organized to provide helpful context and avoid misinterpretation, or worse, misuse?
- What actions might we expect viewers to take based on the information?
At a minimum, your dashboard strategy for CA Performance Management (CA PM) should address two key dimensions: the intended audience and the desired benefits of viewing the information.
Just as it is good practice that tweets are segregated from professional LinkedIn group postings, Snapchat conversations, Facebook pages and Tweets, it is good practice to segregate dashboards by audience and desired benefits. The key point is to tailor dashboards to specific audiences: A dashboard should not morph into a forum for all relevant data for disparate audiences. Potential benefits of dashboards include:
- Driving continuous improvement of applications, networks or business services
- Increasing data transparency across IT teams and business stakeholders
- Improving alignment throughout the business and promoting better business decisions using valid data
The benefits of a strong dashboard strategy are slightly different. These include:
- Frequent (or timely) use of dashboard data
- Confidence in shared data
- A healthy ratio between time spent consuming data and time needed to derive insights from the data and develop a plan of action
- More efficient cross-team communication
Let’s look at each type of dashboard.
These dashboards monitor services that change frequently and track performance of key metrics and KPIs. Data updates very frequently, normally every five minutes. Viewed throughout the day, they often monitor progress toward a known goal or against a specific benchmark. Many enterprises prominently display operational dashboards for all to consume—looking for insights to change behavior and drive incremental, continuous improvements.
Dashboard creators should have a solid understanding of the data’s context. For CA PM, the design may be applicable to multiple sets of CA Performance Center groups for quick, easy changes to the data group represented geographically or by business unit, data center, or other relevant data segmentation required by technical data consumers.
Some metrics that CA PM customers include in operational dashboards are:
- Amount of traffic through key network links
- Resource usage (CPU, memory, etc.)
- Website activity
These dashboards monitor KPI status. Data is updated less frequently than on operational dashboards. Most strategic dashboards are viewed a few times per day by executives. The key is understanding how the current state of KPIs impacts the business.
The dashboard creator needs to understand what the business day looks like: Does it follow the sun or do we need to establish business-hour reporting using site groups in CA Performance Center?
Some metrics that CA PM customers include in strategic dashboards are:
- End-user experience
- Application usage rates
- Availability of key resources
These dashboards analyze large volumes of data to investigate trends and discover business insights to ensure that the trends fit business goals. In CA PM, analysts use scorecards and metric projections to predict outcomes. These dashboards can be updated less frequently as long as the data is accurate and current when viewed.
Some metrics that CA PM customers include in analytical dashboards are:
- Top-viewed web pages
- Percentage of visitors on mobile devices
- Average time spent at the website
Parting Words of Advice
Dashboard formatting and graphic design are important, but dashboard design starts with knowledge of the audience and the type of dashboard the audience requires to align IT goals with larger business goals. From there, you can make intelligent decisions about important data, where that data resides, and how to best represent the data.
Well-designed, frequently viewed dashboards can be an effective business tool. By monitoring your current state, you can make incremental changes to your business that over time, deliver substantial results and ongoing learning.
So don’t fall into the “set it and forget it” trap with dashboards. Take a more agile approach to using dashboards that can meet new challenges as the business evolves:
- Plan to adapt each dashboard over time: Start small and build on successes.
- Monitor usage by group or individual and by dashboard element, and map actions taken to insights derived from specific data.
- Focus on top-most priorities; question the value of secondary priorities until teams are confident that the highest priorities are being successfully attained.
Comments or questions? Please post them below—I value your feedback.