Ideas with Action

To quote a Japanese proverb, vision without action is a daydream.

I was working on dashboards within a logfile collection last week, when I was challenged how to determine the right components for the dashboard, and had several insights.

  • There is not one "dashboard" - there are dashboards for each stakeholder. The data of interest to each stakeholder depends on his or her entry perspective.
  • Dashboards are meant to provide a synopsis, not the whole story.  A user needs to be able to identify issues at a glance, with as little involvement as possible.  Pie charts, bar charts, and averages all provide a high level indicator that can be drilled down if something looks amiss.
  • The level of information isn't the same across stakeholders. Trends over time may be significant to an executive, but an engineer may need specific details at the transaction level. A system wide response time number is relevant to a user who knows tolerances and expected values, but a global number may mask small components within the average. Drill-downs, trends and thresholds are all contextual to the user viewing the dashboard.
  • It isn't enough for the data represented to be interesting. Seeing where in the world our users are connecting from may be interesting, but have no impact on me or my plans. I have to be able to act on the information, or I am just presenting trivia.

This leads me to my overarching recommendation on dashboards:

"Identify the highest level of visualization for each stakeholder that provides meaningful information, leading to action."