Ultimate Dashboard Survival: Fending Off Zombies

Along with assigning an owner (or a gardener, as we described them) to the dashboard and writing up a basic guide, another important part of the monitoring phase is getting feedback and tracking usage. 

I love the term “zombie dashboard” as explained in The Big Book of Dashboards. It’s used to describe dashboards that were useful once but have become abandoned because they are either difficult to use or no longer answer the business’s current questions. If there is no process keeping dashboards relevant, they risk becoming a shadow of their former selves! 

Below are 3 responsibilities of the new dashboard owner to ensure the data stays up-to-date, useful and tailored to its users’ needs.

1. Regularly review the KPIs.

If your dashboards have goals that are being consistently met, then it needs a review. For example, if you’re measuring customer satisfaction and all of the attributes are hitting their targets but the overall measure is not, then you’ll need to ask different questions to find the real drivers of satisfaction.
2. Track Dashboard Usage.
If the dashboard is intended to be used daily or at least weekly, and isn’t then it’s important to first understand why. Maybe the business issue isn’t valid anymore or has been solved or maybe it’s not answering the right questions. Creating, for example, a scatter plot of the dashboards you manage with the number of users by the number of user logins can give you an overall assessment of dashboard usage as in the example below from Mark Jackson’s blog.
Drilling down to usage of specific managers (with their knowledge) for whom the dashboards were made in the first place is also critical. If this is slowing down over time, you know you need to address it.
3. Listen to Users via Feedback and UX Testing.

At the release stage, you’ll tell your users that no changes will be implemented for the following 90 days (except obvious bugs) so that firstly there is time to collect feedback and secondly that all proposed changes from everyone can be evaluated. When 3 months have passed, you can group the common issues into themes and test them by watching users navigate through the dashboard targeting these areas. Continue gathering feedback and UX testing on a regular basis.

Once you’ve reviewed your KPIs, tracked usage and listened to the feedback, you can (finally) begin releasing your dashboard and training its new users. Remember, these steps are all necessary if you intend to create a successful dashboard that benefits the users it was designed for.