Designing dashboards successfully


During Analytics Camp 2010 this past weekend, I facilitated a discussion with a great group of attendees looking to create or improve their own dashboards. The question asked was:

"What should all dashboards have to make them useful & successful?"

During this discussion I added *** within my notes around these points ~
1. The big IDEA of the discussion was to marry dashboards with the community via social media tools. Allowing users to vote on indicators they found important to the business and then have that drive the main display would allow the community to collaborate on the resulting data. Adding comments would provide a mechanism for the group to quickly discuss what the issue is or what is currently being done to address the indicator's response to the data. Both of these ensure that conversations are not lost and the tool is an active part of managing by data.

2. Keeping everything green might not be the best mode of business. (You know I'm not talking environment here, but indicator traffic colors. ) There should be individuals looking and reviewing even the good items occasionally to determine if the organization can make even more improvements & therefore save even more money $!</p>
<p>3. Allowing dashboards to be created and modified in an iterative fashion is probably the most effective mechanism in implementing these tools. Many businesses will not know the most useful displays, indicators, etc until they try some. Debating the requirements could take much longer than anyone would desire. Of course, having incorrect data could drive incorrect business decisions, so I'm not advocating that direction. I would recommend using measures that are already used in more detailed reports in a pilot dashboard program.</p>
<p>Included below are all my notes from our brainstorming session. I have grouped our freeflow list into categories. If you feel that we missed something, please include your comments & join in this discussion!</p>
<p><a name=

  1. Levels
    • High level vantage point or aggregation so users can determine where if anywhere they should drill through to more detail
    • Multiple levels per different levels of organization
    • Security to ensure correct access at difference levels
  2. Visualization
    • Accessible / ADA Compliant Coloring Schemes
    • Printable/Exportable
    • Mobile Viewing
  3. Measures
    • Utilize " />$ within the display to ensure action
    • Include forecasting of what is expected to happen in the near future based on trends
    • Offer what-if analysis to determine an impact of potential change, assisting management with creating the proper action
    • Have the ability to view prior trends
    • Access archival results
    • Measures must be actionable! If noone can do anything about it, why display it?
    • A measure's implementation is completely dependent on relevant data availability
  4. Usefulness
    • Multi-user comments
    • Marry with SOCIAL MEDIA!
    • Voting on items in indicator or text descriptions ~ which then drive priority for dashboard displays to others
    • Idea: Provide tag clouds on common terms w/in comments
  5.  Generate email alerts for specific events ~ driving traffic to dashboard
    • Assists with culture change of utilizing dashboard
  6. Deployments
    • Customizable, easy to modify
    • Exceptions to rule, exception reporting
    • Agile deployment, allow for quick iterative development

About Author

Angela Hall

Senior Technical Architect

Angela offers tips on using the SAS Business Intelligence solutions. She manages a team of SAS Fraud Framework implementers within the SAS Solutions On-Demand organization. Angela also has co-written two books, 'Building BI using SAS, Content Development Examples' & 'The 50 Keys to Learning SAS Stored Processes'.


  1. Hi Angela,Thanks for graciously hosting this session at the Analytics Camp. I learned a lot from the discussions we had during your session. I believe we had discussed some sort of benchmarking report to see where you stand vs. your competitor's. is a good place to start figuring out how well you fair against your competitors. Also, your blog post puts my notes I took to shame!

  2. Great list, Angela! Thanks for taking the time to capture all this info. I will be bookmarking it (Evernote-style) for future BI and dashboard reference. An additional comment — or perhaps an expansion on a current one — is the ability to include dashboard user comments/thoughts throughout an organization's dashboard. I know we touched on this several times during our discussion, but I believe the point is worth driving home yet again.The ability to post comments within a dashboard is a critical component to the short- and long-term success of a dashboard. Not only does commenting allow efficient real-time organizational dialogue on particular items, but commenting also provides an aggregate opportunity to evolve the dashboard itself by trending usage, capturing on-the-fly dashboard improvement comments, etc. Knowledge management — and really, the cultivation of that knowledge — is arguably one of the most important assets for every organization; the dashboard concept could be a critical success factor toward that effort.

Leave A Reply

Back to Top