Dashboard designs always start as a little spark. But, there’s an inherent desire to play that little spark up to a grand scale – that’s when they become unwieldy.

Have you ever considered a car’s dashboard? Sounds a little silly, but bear with me.

When you’re driving there are some rather important things you instantly need to know. How fast you’re going and how much fuel you have left are both essential details every time you’re driving. Even still, down there on your dashboard you have gauges for coolant temperature and battery voltage to make sure that things are running normally. And, on top of all that, you have dashboard-based warnings that range from turn signals to seat belt reminders to brake system alerts.

On my drive home from work today I got to thinking, as you can tell, about dashboards. And I couldn’t get the notion of their accessibility out of my head.

In your car it takes just a quick glance to be informed; but, can you say the same for the dashboards you use to run your business?


Often overwhelming dashboards?

Dashboard designs always start as a lovely little spark. A user needs a bit of business intelligence data illuminated so they can make a quick, effortless, and well informed decision.

Unfortunately this little spark catches fire as there is an inherent desire to have that data played up to a grand scale: three-dimensional graphics, graphs, charts, histograms, percentages, best-fit lines, gauges, and dials.

Below is a lovely dashboard. Each window has a different way to define the data, the left side contains navigation for dictating what data should be displayed, it also allows you to see more or less data. Each colour signifies an idea and things are spaced nicely. But, despite how pretty this dashboard looks, it fails to meet our one demand – immediate information.

Sample Interactive Dashboard


There are a lot of ways to describe a project dashboard. My favorite being “an easy to read, often single page, real-time user interface, showing a graphical presentation of the current status and historical trends of an organization’s key performance indicators to enable instantaneous and informed decisions to be made at a glance.”

A mouthful to be sure, but what an exact explanation! Let’s break it down.

An easy to read, often single page, user interface.

Think how much easier that dashboard would be to read if it was just the bottom left window. Think of how simple it is to see the difference between the actual KPI value and the idealized value. If you need that detail don’t fret, each item provides the opportunity to drill deeper. You can click on the trend values to see how these values have changed over time – it’s all there if you need it.

 Simplified Dashboard


Visibility above all else

A graphical presentation of the current status and historical trends of key performance indicators to enable instantaneous and informed decisions.


The ideal dashboard enables you to make informed decisions at a glance. This concept is at the core of all digital dashboards. They are laid out to create coherent high-level views that can then be drilled down into low level data.

If you want to look at your Human Resources dashboard and instantly recognize KPIs related to resource retention or recruitment but can’t; if you want to visually understand the current number of open positions or cost of training but can’t without intense scrutiny, then there is something inherently wrong with your current dashboard.

Dashboards can be designed to meet the needs of a business, department, or user. And, in all instances, the success of a dashboard depends on how well the desired metrics are displayed.

Now, I’ll admit a bit of bias here as our day-to-day often includes taking that car dashboard analogy and translating it. One of our dashboard’s finest attributes is its flexibility. You decide what to track and how to display it.

With that said, our dashboards utilize Microsoft Project 2013 which, in unison with Project Server and SharePoint, can show up-to-the-second information that answers questions with a glance: Will a project be done on time? What are the current issues with a project? Is there enough budget available to complete the job? Are resources underutilized? Is a project ahead, behind, or on schedule?

That is the beauty of a well-designed dashboard – it can answer those questions as fast as you can drum them up. It has everything you need and the flexibility to provide the details when you need them

So, the next time you’re driving think of how effortlessly your car’s dashboard informs you on what you want to know and consider how well your computer should.



To learn more about the fine work we do visit ArbutusSolutions.com.