Traditional dashboards vs DecisionBoards

Neil Pursey

Business is moving faster than ever. Marketers are constantly asked to do a little bit more, a little bit faster and with access to more tools.

This obsession with pace has not allowed marketers to focus on data as its evolved and really understand how to approach it.

Internet and mobile communications have reconditioned people to prefer consuming information in small chunks.

Short punchy video ads get the most attention. You can barely fit a couple of sentences in a tweet. And text messages usually only take up a line or two. 

But for some reason, we haven’t solved our marketing reporting and insights process.

Today, if marketing performance is not boiled down to the “so what” it’s a time-waster. Long, detailed, multi-page reports of metrics that don’t matter take too long to read between emails and meetings. So, we ignore them until our schedules allow a long block of time for consuming dense information— if that time ever comes.

Automation is the new norm

As a result, real-time reporting has become the go-to method for getting everybody access and on the same page quickly. The challenge though is that the more data we have, the more we add to our reporting. 

Since I entered into the digital industry in 2006, I’ve watched this trend toward data automation visually intensify. In my early years, there were limited tools. We took screenshots of Google Analytics and other platforms and pasted them onto powerpoint presentations to present performance. 

There were less tools so we were able to spend more time on insights.

The best way to grab the attention of a user is to show data that matters to them. 

I often saw data visualisations that created the most conversations and always when insights were found. Great reports spread and inspire action.

These short, tight, atomic bites of data have become the default way of visually communicating performance.

Marketers need a better way

We’ve all seen the dashboard below. 

Worse yet, we’ve all had this dashboard presented to us at one time.

These complex, projected misdeeds are probably one of the most hated digital artefacts in business today. They’re hated because they fail to accomplish their purpose, which is to communicate performance clearly and effectively. The “so what”.

But there’s a reason behind why people make these dashboards. First, the default templates in Google Data Studio encourage their creation.

Second, data visualisation software is the easiest way to combine charts and tables, so it has become the default visual reporting platform. 

Third, people need their performance to be understood on their own without the help of a presenter.

Platforms like Data Studio and Power BI were created to make dashboards, so users feel they need to project what they create. A lot of data should not be projected, but left on platform instead.

Lovely sparse dashboards are perfect as a visual aid when presenting. However, in many cases, your audience would be best served by creating a report— but not just any report.

A DecisionBoard : A new lens

It’s time for a new medium— a medium that retains dashboard software’s ability to seamlessly integrate charts and tables—and quickly travel throughout organisations.

A DecisionBoard is a dashboard created using data visualisation software, where visuals and KPIs unite to illustrate performance effectively. 

The result is a medium that can be read and digested more quickly than either a report or dashboard.

DecisionBoards are meant to be downloaded or shared and read on screen without the accompaniment of a presenter. 

My work so far has advised businesses on how to automate and visualise marketing performance. My best work has been when I’ve aligned metrics that matter to the individual's needs and KPIs. This gets us closer to answering the “so what”. 

Relativ DecisionBoard example

DecisionBoards work because:

Built off a measurement framework across all channels, agency partners and buying funnel that encourages clear, succinct articulation and visualisation of performance on one page.

Driven by targets and conditional formatting; it gives clarity on performance, driving actionability within the team and good decision making.

Aligns all stakeholders, creates transparency which becomes a collaborative process and can evolve over time.

Overarching view allows you to see the whole performance, instead of only broken silos across teams and agency partners.