Portfolio dashboards are a fantastic way to track metrics and progress across the organization. They provide insight in to project status, financials, and roadmaps, to name a few. Ultimately, the goal of dashboards is to give a big picture of how the work done day to day aligns with the company’s strategic goals and objectives. Without this knowledge, it’s impossible to make sure the company is moving forward in the direction it needs to go. Dashboards should tell the story of projects and portfolios, communicate a consistent message to a broad audience, and provide visibility to those who may not otherwise have it.
Mistake #1: The information is not useful.
While creating a dashboard is not difficult, creating a useful and significant one can be. Dashboards are meant to support and guide the right conversations. When presenting a dashboard to an audience, the collaborative discussion that comes from the information is the benefit of the dashboard. Therefore, each report in the dashboard is essential to providing data for every business decision that is discussed and made. The business intelligence piece is meant to provide someone without day in and day out knowledge of the information enough data to have a conversation and arrive at a conclusion. Too often we put in metrics and KPIs that seem like they would be helpful, but that don’t do anything to further the discussion. The data should be used to drive debate, and ultimately make key decisions.
Mistake #2: Your dashboard is stale.
The one constant in life is change, so why keep using the same dashboard year after year? As the world changes around us, so should the conversations. What was relevant last year may not be this year. To ensure that the dialogue continues to drive business decisions, the dashboards must be modified as well. If the goals of an organization have changed, the dashboards should be updated to show the data that tracks those goals. Because every report should answer a question, make sure those questions are still ones that need an answer. If they are no longer needed, take them out.
Other areas that may need fine tuning are the audience and the frequency of the dashboards. Have people moved on to other positions or departments in the company? If yes, they no longer need to be a part of the conversation and should be removed. If the discussions that come from dashboards tend to be long and involved, consider moving to more frequently released dashboards and dialogues. This will shorten the duration of meetings and provide updated information sooner.
Mistake #3: You have too much or not enough detail.
Starting small in terms of data collection is a great approach to ensure that teams get used to collecting and reporting on it. However, this is also an area that should be reconsidered regularly. Is more detail needed to have a proper discussion? What once was a good start could now be hindering decision making. If more detail is needed, let the team know in advance so they can work up to consistently having it available and ready.
Think about what data you need to answer the questions, and don’t go any further. Remember that the goal of a dashboard is to facilitate conversation and share data with others. If the audience tends to keep the conversation high level, then the data should also be high level to support this. Adding too much detail or extraneous components may lead the conversation astray. At the very least, it will not contribute to any decisions that need to be made and could confuse the topic at hand.
Mistake #4: You’re creating dashboards manually, every time.
Wise up! This is the age of the app. And guess what? There’s an app for that! Many Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solutions have mobile apps in addition to a web UI that make it even easier to create, maintain, manage, and distribute your dashboards.
While it’s common to start out manually creating dashboards, it’s not scalable or convenient. As the PMO grows in maturity, size, and expectations, the dashboards need to adapt accordingly. The best way to make this easier is to use a PPM solution with strong reporting capabilities. There are many options available, but there are a few key features to look for. A good user interface will make this seemingly arduous task simpler. Look for solutions that have a wizard to help, or at least one that is intuitive to guide you. When guidance is needed, a robust help engine built in to the solution is critical in the event that contacting the vendor is too expensive or not available. Make sure there are no limitations to what can be reported on.
All conversations are centered on the data presented by the dashboard. Whether preparing project dashboards as a project manager or portfolio dashboards as a PMO Manager, it is essential to give thought into what is being presented. Starting with the questions that will come up in conversation is the best way to begin organizing the dashboard. Keep it relevant by adjusting it often so that it grows with the team or committee and continues to depict the whole picture. Ultimately, the key to a successful dashboard is making it easy to access and showing meaningful data. Once these criteria are met, you are well on your way to a conversation that will only lead to informed, data-driven decisions.