Why we report data

Print out of dashboard

Print out of dashboard

Over the years I have had many an opinion to data I have produced, both good and bad. Presenting data or research, especially to be understood and actionable, is a challenge. But unlike the written word, numbers can come across as definitive and final. 10% is 10% after all.

If you present data in dashboards or reports then having a final numbers should act as a baseline for stakeholders. Co-op Chief Digital Officer Mike Bracken says it perfectly in his membership dashboard blog post:

Part of the reason for publishing that data is to be clear on where we’re starting from

However more often than not, people see dashboard data as a target, a target to aim for or worse a target on your back and that’s not good.

So how do we over come this?


Widen the ownership of the dashboard

I have written about this before, and like many a digital analyst there is one key go to person Avinash Kaushik and his Measurement model. Using a model like this opens up the ownership of the dashboards by including senior management and middle management into its creation. You then end up with a dashboard they accept and buy into as it contains objectives/ goals senior management set and KPI’s and targets middle management can directly achieve. Putting it simply it is their dashboard/ measurement model not yours (although you drive it)


Focus the dashboard on what matters

Co-op membership screen

Co-op membership screen

You have to keep reporting simple and easy to understand period. Try just focus on the metrics that matter. Ideally per goal you should have one or two metrics and don’t over elaborate with time periods*

*Time is often a bad way to analyse data as its seasonal and variable. What happens on a Sunday will be different to a Monday, March has 31 days and February 28/ 29 so again different.

Similar to GDS and Co-op examples I often state a percentage (of goal completions) and then the actual number of completions for top level dashboards.

Another key tip is to strip the dashboard of analytical jargon.


Provide actionable insights

Finally add an insights table to your dashboards. The dashboard covers the top level stuff, but an additional table with insights is really what you want to draw peoples attention too.

I split mine into three columns, the insight, the recommendation (how to improve the insight) and the impact (what happens if we carry out the recommendation or even better what happens if we don’t carry out the recommendation)


The key to a used dashboard is to work with the business defining them, using them, understanding them. Soon enough people will be championing them for you.

Thanks to GDS and Co-op for excellent examples.

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Goals, Insights, Measurement Model

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