Every so often, an employer asks me to help make a dashboard.
Usually, this causes technologists to roll their eyes. They have a vision of a CEO grandly staring at a giant projection screen, watching the pretty graphs go up and down, and making real-time decisions about Serious Business. Ugh! What a waste of time!
The thing is - that's not what a dashboard is for. And that's generally not why a CEO wants it.
A dashboard shows that you have access to your data. And that is a huge deal.
If you are able to successfully build a dashboard, that means you have demonstrated that you have the ability to get:
- Live data
- Historic data
- Comparative metrics
- Access to multiple databases
- External data sources
- ...and a dozen more things.
Most data are locked away. Either in Excel sheets, or behind a dozen different logins for a dozen different systems - none of which can talk to each other. The data (if they are even kept at all) are each in a different format and mildly incompatible with each other.
A dashboard isn't there to be used. It is there to prove that the data are easily accessible, comparable, and trackable. Only once that is done can they be actionable.
Trapped data is useless data.
It's the same reason that some people launch Twitter-bots at hackathons (myself included!). Is there any great skill in making a data feed push a snippet of text to an API? Of course not - it's trivial! But it is a reasonably powerful statement that a novice can gain access to several different data-sources in an afternoon and do something - anything - with them.
Yes, I'm sure there are some Board Members who wake up every day and track whether the EBITDA correlates with the humidity in the call centre. And, no doubt, there's a CFO somewhere whose pulse races when they see a figure dip bellow two standard-deviations of some metric. But try to think of a dashboard not as an interface, but as tangible proof that data can be created, stored, retrieved, and compared.