Departmental Dashboards: Great Tips to Make Yours More Effective

Last Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 by Johnathan Briggs

As I have often mentioned (perhaps a little too often, but it’s important!), the Key Performance Indicators of a business must be decided with great consideration of the company’s overall goals. Similarly, these goals must be reflected down through the company’s individual business functions; their activities must always be made in pursuit of these goals, to some degree.

However, that does not mean that the KPIs of these individual departments are the same as a company’s overall KPIs. In fact, departmental KPIs can even appear disconnected from a company’s overall goals, unless you understand the company thoroughly!

In the exact same fashion, KPI dashboards made for individual departments should take into account the needs of departmental managers, and make spotting important trends in their KPIs quick and easy. However, to do this doesn’t require specialist dashboard software for each department. This article will give tips on constructing meaningful dashboards for three departmental scenarios: Marketing, Sales and Human Resources.

1. Sales

The way I see it, sales is a strong contender for the business function most unmistakably similar to a business’ overall goals. As someone at a seminar once told me, “Sales is where the real business is done”. After all, the sales department is where revenue is directly generated, and sales targets are often a direct indication of company growth.

A sales manager will often be equally concerned with both the trend of the data, as well as the exact figures generated (perhaps for commission and motivation). A sales dashboard geared towards a sales manager must not sacrifice accuracy for the bigger picture. Therefore, some chart options are better suited for this situation.

Tip 1: Use column charts alongside line charts

As sales managers need to accurately see the values in their KPIs, as well as have the ability to easily spot trends that dashboards were designed for, layered column and line charts can give the viewer of the sales dashboard both aspects.

In this example, the sales figures per month are illustrated with columns (including values) as well as a line chart. This makes the sales data understandable at a glance, with contrasting shades of the same colour used to emphasise the fact that the column and line depict the same data.

Tip 2: Use filters to separate different sales information

While filters can be applied to many different situations, I feel that they deserve a special mention for sales data. This is because sales data often has to be divided into different categories, such as different products, or salespeople. Utilising a filter can therefore let the user see different aspects of the data from one data table.

However, to truly give sales managers information at their fingertips, consider placing a filter that will allow the manager to choose different categories on the dashboard itself. With this, comparisons can quickly be drawn, and the appropriate actions taken.

2. Human Resources

HR managers will need to measure KPIs such as employee compliance with regulations, sick days taken and employee satisfaction, which can indicate explanations for KPI progress in other departments. Many of these KPIs focus on the HR manager’s ability to spot inconsistencies in data, unlike sales data which is a constant measure of progress. Therefore, even deviations from targets set for HR KPIs will be crucial to monitor.

A HR dashboard must therefore make data trends clearer, and make it easier relate back the company’s overall goals. As someone who’s worked closely with HR professionals in the past, I recommend these simple tips to help spot trends in HR data.

Tip 3: Use a Detailed Gauge to display variance and trend info

While the traditional dashboard speedometer gauge can’t really show trends in their entirety (instead opting to show KPIs at a specific point in time), they can be a great tool for HR managers to uncover patterns if modified slightly. The specific gauge type I would use for this situation is a Digital Gauge, which shows additional information apart from the usual good/bad judgement.

This gauge is very useful for showing multiple pieces of information at once. It not only provides a percentage change in value from the previous month, but also shows how far below/above target the measure is, but also gives a column chart which is colour coded according to missed/met targets, allowing meaningful action to be taken early.

Tip 4: Utilise Area Charts placed over Line Charts

This is perhaps the simplest tip in this article, but very worthy of inclusion. Using an area chart in your HR dashboard adds emphasis to KPIs which require a constant ideal value, such as regulation compliance.

Using an area chart allows HR managers to quickly see when their data has deviated from the target, as the filled colours clearly tell the user where the boundaries of the KPI are.

You can find more tips on visualising data for your HR KPI dashboard in our Best Practice Guide.

3. Marketing

As we all know, it can difficult for marketing managers to measure the performance of their activities, as sales and profits generated as a result of marketing are usually due to a combination of activities. Also assumptions will often be made to gauge when activities are most effective, which might also need justification via the analysis of data.

However, dashboard software can make it easier to see the relationship between certain marketing KPIs, and therefore allow marketing managers to get a handle on what is and isn’t effective.

Tip 5: Combine Marketing data with Other data

The difficulty in assessing which marketing activities are actually worthwhile to a company is widely accepted amongst professionals. Therefore, a possible solution to this is to group marketing data alongside financial data.

In this example, marketing data on lead generation is shown alongside monthly profits. The finance data adds credibility to the marketing data, showing its worth as a marketing KPI. Using multiple trend lines on the same chart (or dashboard) as above can allow easy comparison between two sets of data, but this may involve setting up your data tables so that both sets of data are present on one table.

Tip 6: Tier your dashboard charts according to level

Like other functions, measuring the progress of each individual marketing activity is vital to measure success. However, there is difficulty when linking marketing activity to the progress of overall company goals. Therefore, if you tier your dashboard data to reflect different levels of importance, it can be easier to see how marketing fits into the bigger picture.

For me, it is worth tiering your marketing data like this:

a. Company level

b. Department Level

c. Activity Level

By doing this, users can see how company KPI progress is linked to marketing performance, and how those are linked to individual activity performance (e.g. email campaigns). Through this system, users can more easily see the link between marketing and overall company progress.

Different business departments require different ways of dealing with their KPI data.

While I’ve outlined just a fraction of tips for Sales, HR and Marketing functions to show their KPI data, there are many ways which the same set of charts and tools can be used to emphasise different parts of KPi data.

Remember, just having the right KPIs isn’t enough. Making them easy to understand for users is also key. As I’ve emphasised before, experimenting with your data is the key to finding the dashboard that is best for your KPIs. For more ideas on building the most effective and meaningful dashboards, have a look at our Dashboard Best Practice Guide.