Analytics dashboards are one-stop shops for your key performance indicators (KPIs) – they bundle detailed and actionable insights into a format that’s highly accessible to project stakeholders as well as end users. In the era of big data, with huge datasets and numerous disparate sources being the rule rather than the exception, the one-two combo of carefully selected KPIs and streamlined dashboards gives you the benchmarks you need to accurately measure business performance even amid overwhelming amounts of information.
At least, it does if it’s the result of a coherent design process. There is no shortage of pitfalls on the path toward KPI success (which we’ll get into below), but they all lead to the same fate – lackluster results for your most important projects. Bad KPIs are comparable to driving into strange territory with no access to a map or functional instruments. Good KPIs are, collectively, the navigation system for your organization. So what’s the best way to ensure your KPIs don’t lead you astray and leave you wondering what happened?
Shining a light in the dark corners of KPI creation
A poorly designed set of KPIs can lead to some weird results. For example, a famous urban legend about Soviet-era nail production described how factories were evaluated on the KPI of the tonnage of nails they could produce, leading to the manufacture of a smaller number of heavier nails rather than the types of lighter nails more broadly useful in construction.
OK, that’s an extreme case, but one that illustrates how KPI creation can have unintended consequences. In other instances, similar oversights can lead to teams being evaluated on KPIs that they have no incentive to meet (think employees whose bonuses are unrelated to hitting the KPI in question) or performing time-wasting busywork.
The good news is that a structured creation process, focused on understanding stakeholder and end-user requirements and meeting them with the right technical implementations, provides a clear solution.
KPI creation done the right way
Effective KPI and dashboard creation starts with interviews. By interviewing stakeholders and end users, you get a sense of which KPIs would be most relevant to them and how these metrics can be best incorporated into dashboards. During this interview stage, you also identify the particular requirements of each group (stakeholders and end users) and work toward aligning them.
A KPI that means the world to one audience but nothing to another will not result in a useful dashboard, nor in an accurate assessment of business performance; the bonus example above is just one way in which such requirements can diverge. It’s worth the effort to find shared ground. This may entail persona creation to better understand the concerns and common use cases of each group.
Similarly, scenario mapping helps fill in more details and move you toward KPIs that address specific needs. Scenario maps are great ways to unpack complex activities, such as onboarding an employee or closing a sales deal with a faraway client and see what KPIs would help gauge and improve them.
KPI creation is always an iterative process, but one that will provide the best results if a strong technical foundation is in place from the start. You want to ensure reliable access to the data sources and systems that will fuel your dashboards and the KPIs that populate them. Along similar lines, wireframing tools give you a concrete sense of what the dashboard will look like and how it will deliver the expected answers to stakeholder and end-user questions.
A wireframing platform like the Logic20/20 Dashboard Wireframe Kit and Dashboard Design Process is the ideal tool for bringing your KPI vision across the finish line. To learn more, check out our eBook on this subject or contact our team directly.
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