Management dashboards are undoubtedly useful. They really can help to ensure that your business is kept bang on trend and that it is monitored 24/7. But it is important to ensure that management dashboards are seen within context. They are not the answer to every business ill and having a management dashboard will not automatically ensure that your business is somehow invincible. The 5 most common problems with regard to management dashboards are:
1. It is easy to become over reliant on the management dashboard. The dashboard is a really useful management tool, but that is all that it is. It cannot manage per se; it is simply a way of presenting information in a manner that is easy to understand. In some ways it is worth thinking about the dashboard in terms of it being an overview. It tells you the overall picture, but it is still important to think about the detail. The details provide the information about the nuts and bolts of a business. The dashboard gives the overview, so do not regard the information presented in the dashboard as being all that you need to know.
2. The metrics used for the dashboard may not be the ones that are actually the best for the business. If this is the case, then the information presented really will not be of good quality. So it is worth trying the metrics for a week or so and then reviewing if the information is actually useful and relevant.
3. Developing dashboards that are too complex. Sometimes it can be really tempting to develop dashboards that are extremely complex. They have different information displayed, complex graphs and really multi-layered graphs. But the problem is that there is too much information displayed and the end result is that the dashboard cannot be read easily. Instead, the dashboard is simply bursting with information overload and there is so much information that it is meaningless. Consequently the dashboard is actually of no real worth.
4. There can be a tendency to stop ‘drilling down’ when you receive information from the dashboard. Given that the dashboard is an overview and that there is a whole host of data that is hidden from the end result in the dashboard, it is sensible to keep checking on other data. If managers don’t keep looking at data throughout the organization then the results can be disastrous, so managers have to keep drilling down to ascertain what is happening throughout the company.
5. Sharing the dashboard inappropriately. Sometimes managers are so proud of their dashboard that they share it with everyone from top down. But this means that people who really do not need to see it can become involved in how things are doing and they can end up processing information that quite simply they do not need to know. Conversely if the information presented in the dashboard is shared with too few people, then it can be too elitist and is almost exclusive in the sense that it excludes some people from gaining access to information that they actually need.
These problems can hinder the usefulness of performance dashboards, but they should not be used as an excuse for not developing one. Once it is recognized that there are potential problems, then action can be taken to ensure that these are avoided. Dashboards are useful and can really help managers to keep their eye on exactly what is going on at any given time. But it needs to be seen as a tool that will help present information. It shouldn’t be relied upon to run the business – that is the role of management!