Why Dashboards are Failing, and Why Data Storytelling is the Answer

Or how to spend less time explaining to your colleagues what's happening, over and over again. 

A dashboard denotes a data visualization solution used predominantly for data analysis. It helps curate inclusive data analysis, enables users to tailor the information they want to be displayed, and provides the ideal way of sharing the analysis outcomes with other team members. 

They come with interactive features, for instance, filters to combine charts, graphs, and reports that content creators can use to project overviews. However, they're subject to failures and shortcomings like any other business initiative.

 

Image by Author, Information Dashboard

It's no wonder they're increasingly becoming outdated, prompting businesses to turn to data storytelling. Here's why:

The Case against Dashboards

They're set up without a user in mind

Most often, their setup occurs without the user in mind. You find that they're either complex to set up, needing assistance from an IT expert, developer, or a reporting tool that features pre-loaded dashboards that don't gauge metrics that are pertinent for all users. 

Once setup occurs without a user in mind, this can be challenging from the onset because certain software is meant for experienced developers, making them complex to set up by anyone outside the IT field. 

Dashboards are developed on a set of assumptions and priorities regarding what's important. Oftentimes, a consultant or design expert defines those priorities without familiarizing with the company. At times, the priorities might be the default measurements offered by the dashboard software. 

In most cases, businesses end up with official-looking data that doesn't support business priorities. All features of a dashboard must be important and relevant. If the choice of information that needs inclusion in the dashboard occurs without the input of those in the business context, it's unlikely that the dashboard will be maximally beneficial.

Interfacing and Compatibility Issues

Data isn't universal, so compatibility and connectivity remain a challenge among dashboards. If a dashboard fails to connect with a crucial business system, the information it offers will be outdated, incorrect, or restricted in its efficiency. To bridge this gap, users must input data manually, which defeats the goal of the dashboard.

Cost and Scalability

Dashboards can be expensive based on the provider's prerequisites and the business's size. Some providers need a license for each person who will be accessing the dashboard while others charge annual or monthly subscription charges that scale per the business size. 

Although this challenge isn't inherent, researching the cost of each dashboard and establishing its ROI is a significant step in finding the appropriate software. 

Reporting Requires Meaningful Metrics

A dashboard should measure something important. Consequently, it needs an understanding of the appropriate metric choices to display. Bear in mind that broad metrics won't offer much insight. Instead, specific metrics that affect broader ones will. 

Chart Junk. Edward Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983, 2001),

Poor Presentation of Data

To serve their role and meet their potential, dashboards should display a dense range of information in a limited amount of space in a way that communicates immediately and clearly. 

This needs a design that leverages and taps into the power of visual perception and the brain to perceive and process numerous chunks of information fast. This can only occur when dashboards' visual design is central to the development procedure. 

Technology can't accomplish this. Rather, it needs somebody with design expertise. Although dashboards are distinct in numerous useful and thrilling ways, few present data effectively. 

The Case for Data Storytelling

Data storytelling takes data and combines it with a narrative to create data stories. This process converts information into stories anybody can read, comprehend, and share. The stories typically present a clear and concise message regarding what you should know about your business on a particular day. Here's why data storytelling offers a solution.

Metrics become Actionable Insights

Data storytelling empowers businesses to use significant metrics by converting them into actionable and beneficial insights while presenting them in the form of stories. It examines the key performance indicators or KPIs that align with their fundamental business objectives and converts quantitative information into result-driven narratives. 

Enhance Engagement and Communication

Oftentimes, companies face a difficult time trying to sustain an engaging conversation with their stakeholders and clients for an extended period. The key to excellent engagement and communication isn't just restricted to compiling all the data into a presentation. Rather, communication should be conveyed in an engaging manner that's easy to understand. 

Data storytelling allows companies to gather and examine data and present insight in the form of easy-to-understand and engaging visuals and narratives. This way, companies can demonstrate the worth of their services and forge a lasting relationship with their stakeholders and clients.

Image by Author: Graphite Note Notebook

Enhance Processes with Plotting

Data stories feature a definite plot with a well-constructed introduction, end, and middle. Data storytelling templates, tools, and platforms have pre-set formats and themes, which alter the visualization and story depending on the input data while ensuring the message is expressed most efficiently. 

Businesses can delineate the plot and develop a framework by considering the primary objective of the data-driven report or story and aligning it with their overall organizational goals and strategy. 

Populating the plot with relevant KPIs and visualizations can help businesses enhance the efficiency and productivity of their processes. 

Develop a Visual Appeal

Peoples' attention span is continuously reducing, making it more significant than ever to develop a visual appeal to measure their interest and be impactful. Data-driven storytelling adopts visuals, for instance, graphs and charts to communicate the insights to the end-user. 

The narratives and visuals permit clients to visualize the story behind their outcomes, which could help enhance client reporting. 

You spend less time explaining what's happening to others

You probably know your metrics and have your ways of obtaining that information. However, the minute you have to communicate what matters to others, things crumble. 

You find that they don't comprehend your dashboard or log into your CRM. Subsequently, you end up elucidating the information via email or in-person instead of spending that time on your work. With data storytelling, you don't have to worry about the explanation. Furthermore, you find that everybody is always on the same page. 

Conclusion

Dashboards can offer an effective solution to information overload, but only when designed properly. Most dashboards that businesses use today fail. They merely deliver a fraction of the needed insight to monitor a business at best. It's no wonder, they are gradually losing their significance and paving way for data storytelling. 

With Graphite Note we are putting efforts to combine traditional analytics, predictive analytics and data storytelling in easy to use SaaS environment.