An executive dashboard is a customized computer interface that displays your company data in an organized and graphical way. In this guide, we’ll explain what an executive dashboard is and why this reporting tool is beneficial. We’ll also provide tips on how to get maximum value when building your own executive dashboard.
Organizations worldwide have used data for decades to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. When astronauts on Apollo 13 radioed into the Johnson Space Center and said, “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” NASA’s Mission Control quickly gathered their data and used it to create a rescue plan.
There are so many ways to see data in real time. When organizations can view data in one place, it’s easier for executives to do an analysis and make actionable decisions. In this guide, we’ll explain what an executive dashboard is and why this reporting tool is beneficial. We’ll also provide tips on how to get maximum value when building your own executive dashboard.
An executive dashboard is a customized interface that displays your company data in an organized and graphical way. You can use data to manage team goals, make improvements, identify trends, make predictions, and more. By presenting your company’s most critical data in real time, your executive dashboard facilitates strategic decision-making without the need for additional, unnecessary research.
Executive dashboards offer:
A graphical display that’s easy to navigate
Customizable metrics to meet your needs
Data pulled from multiple sources and departments
A structure that allows easy access to current data
Executive dashboards should deliver the most relevant information from your organization in the least amount of time. Relevant information for your organization may include your key performance indicators (KPIs) and any metrics that signify the health of your organization.
There are four main types of executive dashboards. These types differ based on what information you choose to display in your dashboard and what you plan to do with your data.
The four types of dashboards include:
Strategic: Strategic dashboards focus on long-term strategies and will likely include high-level metrics. As a manager, your strategic dashboard might include a year-over-year look at number of customers or company revenue.
Analytical: Analytical dashboards contain large amounts of information, and analysts use this type of dashboard to identify trends or make predictions. This dashboard may include years’ worth of financial data or customer satisfaction metrics.
Operational: Operational dashboards show shorter time frames and operational processes, such as project budgets, total budget spend within a quarterly period, and cost per acquisition.
Tactical: Tactical dashboards are used to track employee performance or project performance. Metrics in this dashboard may include clicks, impressions, cost per hire, and employee output.
Some executive dashboards have components that fall into more than one category. For example, your dashboard as a project manager may have both strategic and tactical components, while a CFO’s dashboard may include strategic and analytical components.
You can use these tips to build an executive dashboard that meets your team’s needs. Knowing what information to display and how to display it is key if you want to build a dashboard that makes you an effective leader.
You’ll use the key metrics in your executive dashboard to help a specific audience within your organization. For example, if you’re a project manager, your data sets may apply specifically to your projects and your team members. The first step when building your executive dashboard is to identify the audience you hope to serve with your data. This will help you make the most informed decisions and tailor your dashboard to that audience.
Ask these questions to pinpoint your core users:
What are my team goals?
How can I measure my team’s performance?
What data do I need to make team or company improvements?
What data will help me become a better leader?
Once you know your audience and can answer the questions above, you can move on to the next step, where you’ll define the success metrics for your executive dashboard.Read: How to effectively manage your team’s workload
Your KPIs are the performance metrics you’ll see in your executive dashboard. You may choose to view these in graph, table, or chart form, but the KPIs you choose should serve the audience you identified in tip number one.
For example, if you’re a project manager on the marketing team, one of your team goals may be to diversify content production across all marketing channels. To translate this goal into data, write it as a SMART goal. For example, the SMART version of that goal is to produce 10 pieces of content for each channel per month, with the channels being social media, email, and website.
In this example, your KPI dashboard would include the following metrics:
Completed projects sorted by channel
Incomplete projects sorted by channel and assigned team member
Unassigned projects sorted by channel and priority
Chart showing progress toward goal
Your executive dashboard can also include other KPIs that give you a high-level view of your team and strategic company goals. You may want to include metrics that measure team member performance or the company’s overall success in marketing.
Your data sets aren’t the only thing that matter when building your dashboard. It’s equally important to ensure you’re getting the visual representation right so your user experience is top-notch. How you process the information can affect your decision-making. Your dashboard design will look different based on the type of business activities you’re involved in. Consider the different types of dashboards mentioned above.
For example, a data analyst’s dashboard design will include large amounts of information, so they’ll need to determine the best way to visually display that information in order to digest it and identify trends.
The data in your dashboard should tell a cohesive story. Creating a dashboard of data isn’t helpful if you can’t get clear data visualization and draw conclusions from it.
Going back to our example, your goal was to create 10 pieces of content per month for social media, email, and website channels. In this example, your dashboard should answer:
How many projects have we completed and for what marketing channels?
How many projects are incomplete and for what marketing channels?
How are we prioritizing incomplete projects?
Who’s in charge of completing incomplete projects?
How close are we to our goal?
Regardless of who’s viewing your dashboard, they should be able to answer these questions with the data displayed.
Reporting software is the best way to automate your dashboard and display real time data analytics. Some reporting tools display specific types of information, like SEO and website traffic. Alternatively, universal reporting tools aggregate various types of data to create collective reports. With universal reporting software, you can create a management dashboard that keeps track of how work across your organization progresses.
There are many benefits to using an executive dashboard, no matter what management position you’re in. Because business dashboards are customizable, you can show a top-level view of any department, from the sales pipeline to customer relationship management.
The main benefit of using an executive dashboard is that it provides insight you may not have had otherwise. Data allows you to get granular with your assessments and back up your management decisions with facts. Without an executive dashboard, it’s difficult to put the puzzle pieces of your company data together and see the bigger picture.
Having all the information you need in one place can save you time when making important business decisions. In fact, the average knowledge worker spends 60% of their time on work about work, including searching for information and jumping between tools.
For example, if you need to measure employee performance or determine total budget spent without using your dashboard, you likely have to click between various screens in your reporting software. Reporting software reduces manual work and gives you the information you need at the click of a button. The dashboard keeps the most relevant information in one place, so you can analyze it quickly.
No project is complete without success metrics to evaluate performance—and that’s where an executive dashboard comes in. As mentioned above, your dashboard’s data should present a clear message or tell a story. If you customize your KPIs correctly, you can see a project’s background, current status, and potential future all in one place.
Your executive dashboard has the potential to improve team performance because data gives team members clear insight into how their work contributes to larger goals. If your team members can see how they're progressing towards their goals and what goals their work is supporting, they’ll likely work harder.
Your goal as a project manager should always be to improve team processes and become a more efficient leader. Your executive dashboard provides you with a bird’s-eye view of both team and project performance, which can help you make any necessary changes if problems arise.Read: 10 team management skills to start building today
You can use a universal reporting tool to connect all of your team’s workflows and analyze team member and project performance in real time. Once you’ve built your custom executive dashboard, you’ll have the high-level view you need to easily make data-driven decisions.