Reporting dashboards are a great way to provide ongoing updates for your clients on the performance of their programming efforts. How familiar are you with the different ways you can incorporate dashboards as part of your reporting strategy? Below are some benefits and challenges of putting together dashboards for your clients.
Visual Appeal: Dashboards provide a visual representation of a variety of data for measuring programming efforts, including attendance figures, evaluation results, budget health, planned vs completed programs, or anything else you can measure. If you have the data, you can probably include it on a dashboard! This is extremely important because while you may understand how a program is doing, your client may not. Raw numbers don’t always get the point across as clearly as a well-designed graphic.
Highlight Areas for Improvement: Dashboards are also a great way to highlight the areas where your programs can improve and whether your clients are on course to meet their goals. By using a number of different tools, you can show the client where you are meeting (or exceeding) expectations and where improvements could be made. For example, maybe the evaluations are showing that one particular speaker isn’t performing well. The client would probably like to know that in real time, and maybe anecdotes just aren’t cutting it. By using dashboard visuals, such as a traffic light, you can show in a very clear way that this speaker is performing below (or exceeding) expectations. Other uses might be tracking attendance numbers to see if a field region is not recruiting as well, determining whether the budget may require a scope change, or simply affirming that everything is going well and on-plan.
Choosing Metrics: As great as it is to be able to measure all of these things, oftentimes you have to choose which metrics to actually show, due to a limited budget or to avoid having a dashboard that is too cluttered. In these situations, you have to determine what would be most useful to have prepared on a regular basis. In some cases, it might make sense to have one set of metrics for use on the regular dashboard and another set prepared at the very end of the series for the final report.
Timeline: Depending on the size of the dashboard and when the client wants to see it, there can be a short turnaround time. This can be an issue when the dashboard is large, the data are difficult to obtain, or when metrics are changing. For a large manual dashboard, it normally takes 2-3 business days just to pull all of the elements together. After performing all of the necessary QCs, it may take a full business week to complete the dashboard.
However, it is possible to dramatically shorten the timeline if reporting needs remain static. For example, you can utilize an nGauge™ dashboard, which would automatically update at regular intervals.
Overall, dashboards are a great tool for regularly sharing programming performance with your clients. By utilizing more visual elements, it makes understanding how programming is doing at a specific point in time extremely easy to understand.