Dashboards are used on the Salesforce platform to provide insight. Whether you are using Sales Cloud, Service Cloud or some other custom Force.com solution dashboards create a visual representation of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) so that users get a real time view of the metrics that matter to them or their organisation. Dashboards are an essential component of a solution that adds value but they are an extremely flexible tool and if you don’t give your dashboards some thought and consideration when designing and creating them you could end up with a bunch of dashboards that are confusing or just difficult to understand. So what should you consider when designing and creating your dashboards?
1. Know your KPIs
Technically speaking dashboards can be based on any data that we choose to store in our Salesforce orgs. There will be lots of data that may be important but it doesn’t necessarily provide any real insight to the performance of some aspect of the organisation. For example historical account records. It is really useful to keep historical accounts for all kinds of reasons but that doesn’t mean a dashboard showing us how many historical accounts we have or the month-on-month trend of historical accounts is in anyway useful to assess how well some critical aspect of the business is currently performing. Make sure you understand what the KPIs are for your business and make sure they are all accounted for in your dashboards. Get consensus and agree with all of your stakeholders what the KPIs are and how they should be measured.
Dashboards are great for giving an overview that can be consumed and digested quickly. That is the beauty of dashboards – they allow lots of key information to be quickly read and understood. Don’t be tempted to over complicate your dashboards with too much granular detail that makes the information difficult to consume. Make sure your users have the option to drill down to the underlying reports so they can get at the detail if they wish but keep the dashboard concise and simple.
3. Don’t leave anybody out
It is usually always the case that the first dashboard that gets considered and created is the executive dashboard that provides the overall view of the business. There is no argument that this dashboard is important and it gives your executives another reason to frequently login to Salesforce. But executives are only one sub-set of your user population and they generally represent a very small proportion of your users. If Salesforce is to be adopted as an effective operational tool for any business function then there needs to be dashboards to support middle management (e.g. managers and team leaders) as well as dashboards that individuals can refer to when planning their day-to-day activity such as activity related metrics or other individual performance KPIs. Typically dashboards will be split by user role so make sure there is something for each demographic in your user community and get their input in the design process.
4. Look forwards and backwards
Dashboards can be used to help predict what is coming in the future as well as providing insight into what has already happened. Retrospective reports show you what has happened so the business can learn lessons and draw conclusions. Reports that look forward, such as sales pipeline, provide insight into what is coming so the business can take any corrective action whilst there is still a chance to do something about it. A sensible approach can be to have one dashboard column that represents historical performance, one column that represents the current state and one column that looks forward.
5. Looks count
Even once you have distilled the information on a dashboard to the bare essentials there can still be a lot to take in so it is important to try and make your dashboards visually stimulating. Dull dashboards will soon lose their appeal and whilst it sounds superficial it does make a difference. Use a variety of chart types if you can and avoid lengthy titles that span multiple lines. Make the charts as visually engaging as possible by using conditional highlighting and chatter photos.
Over time your business will change. Long term strategies will change and you will have short term tactics where the monthly and quarterly focus shifts depending on what is important at that time. If your dashboards are to remain relevant and meaningful then they need to reflect what is important to the business. Make sure you keep your dashboards aligned to the business goals.
So remember… keep your dashboards concise, focused, relevant and make sure there is something that each of your users can relate to.
Salesforce have published some useful examples that can serve well as a starting point for either sales or service related dashboards. Checkout the Sample Salesforce Dashboards PDF.