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Establish the User Requirements
But it’s time to get into the dashboard state of mind. After all, would you rather spend your time
upfront gathering user requirements or at the end painstakingly redesigning the dashboard you’ll
surely come to hate?
Consider how many times you’ve been asked for an analysis, only to be told, “No. I meant this.” Or,
“Now that I see it, I realize I need this.” As frustrating as that can be for a single analysis, imagine
running into this during the creation of a complex dashboard with several data integration processes.
The process of gathering user requirements doesn’t have to be an overly complicated or formal one.
Here are some simple things you can do to ensure that you have a solid idea of the purpose of the
dashboard.
When collecting user requirements for your dashboard, focus on the types of data that you need, the
dimensions of data that you require, the data sources that you will use, and so on. This is a good
thing; without solid data processes, your dashboards won’t be effective or maintainable.
Define the message(s)
When receiving requirements for a new dashboard project, don’t be afraid to clarify who exactly is
making the initial request and talk to them about what they’re really asking for. Discuss the purpose
of the dashboard and the triggers that caused them to ask for a dashboard in the first place. You may
find, after discussing the matter, that a simple Excel report will meet their needs, foregoing the need
for a full-on dashboard.
Establish the audience
If a dashboard is warranted, talk about who the end users will be. Take some time to meet with some
of the end users and talk about how they plan to use the dashboard. For example, will the dashboard
be used as a performance tool for regional managers or perhaps to share data with external
customers? Talking through these fundamentals with the right people will help align your thoughts and
avoid missed requirements later.
Define the performance measures
Most dashboards are designed around a set of measures called Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) . A
KPI is an indicator of the level of performance of a task deemed to be essential to daily operations or
processes. The idea around a KPI is that it will reveal performance that is outside the norm, signaling
the need for attention and intervention. Although the measures you place into your dashboards may
not officially be called KPIs, they undoubtedly serve the same purpose — to draw attention to
problem areas.
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