Should you ditch your dashboards?

If data is the new oil then dashboards are the new divining rods. Pitched as a tool for improving marketing performance they take on a cult like status in our industry. All hail the dashboard!

However, dashboards are increasingly being placed above analysis in terms of priority. Dashboards are ending up as vanity projects with no real purpose or value.

So should you ditch your dashboards?

Before answering this question, it is important to think about the problem that needs to be solved, and the other options for solving it.

Don’t forget about your analysts, they can help

Avinash Kaushik (Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google) has been talking about companies spending more money (and time) on their analysts than their analytics tools since web analytics was born. But this remains a problem. Brands are buying expensive dashboard solutions over hiring great analysts.

Getting an analyst to work closely with your data will enable them to dive deep into what the data means within the context of the situation. Dashboards cannot add this context easily.

Analysts can also see trends that dashboards struggle to pick up on. A dashboard by default might be looking at a year on year comparison whereas wider trend might be more pertinent. Having this wider perspective can really help deliver accurate insight.

All too often, dashboard users try and analyse the data without having the background, training or experience necessary to provide reliable insight. This can cause poor decision making and a lack of clarity. Analysts use their experience to provide true insights.

Is a dashboard worth it?

Working out the cost of the dashboard platform, production and on-going analysis can help determine whether it’s worth the outlay.

Here’s our calculation for measuring the ROI (return of investment) of a dashboard:

ROI = Revenue or efficiency from dashboard insights (cost of investment) – cost of investment / cost of investment

Even if you don’t know how much improvement will be delivered as a result of the dashboard, at least knowing the cost will frame the sorts of savings/profits you’d need to generate from the dashboard to deliver ROI.

If a dashboard solution seems expensive, there may be other visualisations or ways of working that could be more cost effective and drive stronger insights. Forrester has created a useful diagram for some of the key methods and reasons for using them:

“Improve Your Storytelling With Data Visualization Best Practices”, Forrester Research, Inc., December 28, 2017″

There are likely to be many other use cases which aren’t represented above, but mapping them out and thinking about which visualisation types are appropriate will help ensure your project will create meaningful insights that can provide ROI.

Conclusion

Dashboards are a mainstay of the marketing industry and will continue to dominate data led brands the world over. However, before embarking on a dashboard project ensure you weigh up the costs against the potential returns. These costs should include on-going analysis from specialists who can provide context, perspective, analysis and insights. This is where you can find the real value in your data – not on a dynamic chart – but in the minds of your analysts. Treat them well!

Do you have dashboards that are not creating any value? Do you need an analysts help?

Get in touch to talk to us about your data needs.