Death by Dashboard

Do you have so much data that you’re completely overwhelmed to the point of being frozen with a big pile of stuff? This is what I call “death by dashboard.” This doesn’t mean to imply that dashboards are inherently dangerous, bad, or worthless. Quite the contrary.

Dashboards are a critical part of the continuum and repositories of the basic data needed for an analysis (for the purposes of this discussion, I lump scorecards, benchmarks and other such reporting tools in with dashboards). They offer a snapshot of the organization at any given point in time.

 They take their name from the dashboard of a car, which gives you a picture of your vehicle’s state—speed, RPMs, remaining fuel, temperature, etc. What a car dashboard fails to tell you (although they are getting more and more sophisticated all the time) is how all this information relates, and what is happening in the world around the car. The car’s fuel may be low, but only the driver can evaluate whether this is an emergency (stuck in traffic on a steaming hot day) or just a task that must be accomplished soon (cruising down the highway with several gas stations coming up in the next ten miles).

 Our corporate dashboards work in this way. They can show a variety of HR metrics in one convenient, easy-to-read place, but they don’t tell you how these metrics relate (if they are related at all) and whether you need to act on any of them. One of the dangers of looking at your HR data in this way is the temptation to make decisions based on correlations.

Suffice to say correlation does not imply causation.

 The problem with dashboards is that they present information in such a way as to make it seem like they are giving a complete picture and offering answers. Many of our analytics clients tell us that their business units are asking for these dashboards. They receive ongoing requests for ad-hoc reports and customized dashboards, resulting in many streams of information coming from one set of data. One client created over 50 dashboards in five years! When they began to investigate these reports and dashboards, they found they were used sporadically, if at all. In the end, it was a significant waste of time and resources to create and maintain them.

So, are your dashboards being used and help make better business decisions?

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