As a strategic communications consultant, I believe that using a “dashboard” is important, but equally as important is making sure the dashboard has a purpose.
Often dashboards highlight different parameters associate with a project, but with little interpretation or actions for those parameters. Like processes, the dashboard ultimately becomes something to manage as opposed to the dashboard being the means to analyze and manage.
So, the question becomes, why are you using a dashboard? As a good portion of my work is in issues management, I often suggest using them. When constructed properly, a dashboard helps identify potential issues so you can act on them before they become an issue. They can offer the same value for a new product launch – once you have identified the key parameters that will tell you if you’re off- or on-track, measuring them allows course correction.
So, how do you go about constructing a valuable dashboard?
- Identify key markers that can impact the outcome of the project BEFORE developing the dashboard. These should be things that will allow you to course correct. For example, in manufacturing, it could be availability of a key component used in production that is periodically in short supply; in commercialization, it could be the number of sales calls per region; in communications, it could be the tone and tenor of media coverage
- Ensure the people or function responsible for that marker can measure it, and offer how best they can measure it. Not helpful if it can’t be measured
- Make sure the markers are measured on a regular basis – daily, weekly, monthly. Whatever is reasonable and makes sense to ensure you can act on it. That means not so often that it becomes a key job just to measure it, but not so infrequent that it means it’s too late to fix. This takes a little bit of fine-tuning but it should be able to fit within a traditional job without causing too much stress either on the organization or the person
- Evaluate changes in the markers – notice trends and determine if that means anything. Share with your team. Not all changes mean anything and if that’s the case, you may want to consider not following that marker. This is where you begin to notice if any change or attention is required. This is where you may begin to act on variation
- Meet with your team and put the markers together to see if there’s any link or cause-effect. Here you need to be careful to not misinterpret any potential links but if you watch trends then after a while you may see something you can change
- Report and share what you find. Don’t let the information and knowledge you’ve gained go to waste – share with your leadership so that it can be applied (what works and what doesn’t) to other functions within the organization
So, in a nutshell, creating a dashboard is important and offers value, but only if you keep a few things in mind:
a) Don’t measure everything – only key markers
b) Measuring and evaluating should not be overly time-consuming – don’t create another “job”
c) Make sure you leave enough time and resources to act upon any marker that can make a difference to the outcome