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Veronica Olazabal and Linda Raftree on 5 Non-technical Tips on Data Dashboards for Decision-Making

Veronica Olazabal (Rockefeller Foundation) and Linda Raftree (Kurante) here on considerations for data dashboards. Linda recently organized a Tech Salon on this at The Rockefeller Foundation. A session around dashboards had to include Stephanie Evergreen. We also wanted to hear from others, so we included Shawna Hoffman (MasterCard Foundation) and John DeRiggi (DAI).

Dashboards might seem simple. The private sector has it down – surely it’s not hard for nonprofits to follow suit. Surprisingly, our social sector tech/data savvy colleagues all shared similar challenges! Out of the session emerged 13 tips below are 5.

Olazabel

Hot Tips:

# 1: Ask whether you really need a dashboard or if one is even possible

It’s critical to have data dashboard discussions across the organization to understand real needs and expectations. People often say they need a dashboard because they want to make better decisions – but what kind of decisions? What information is needed to make them? Where will information come from? Who will get it?

#2: Define the audience and type of dashboard

A dashboard cannot fulfill everyone’s needs. Most organizations will need several for different levels of decision-making. It’s important to know who will own it, use it, maintain it, and collect the data. Will it be internally or externally facing? Discussing all of this early is a key part of the process.

#3: Work with users to develop your dashboard

Start by clearly identifying the audience and asking what they need. Don’t assume you know — however, don’t assume that they know either! Have a conversation where their and your expertise comes together. Perhaps take the ‘data’ out of the conversation altogether. Ask decision-makers what questions they are trying to answer, what problems they are trying to solve, and go from there.

#4: Don’t underestimate the time and resources a functional dashboard requires

You can’t make a dashboard without data to support it. Nor can you create and launch a dashboard and move it to autopilot. The dashboard will need constant change and iteration, and there will be ongoing work to maintain it. The questions being asked may change over time, and the dashboard may need to constantly adjust. You’ll need time to get buy-in for using dashboards.

#5: A dashboard shouldn’t be the only basis for decision.

Like a car dashboard – data dashboards signal that something is changing but you still need to look under the hood to see what’s going on. A dashboard should trigger questions and be a launch pad for discussion.

Rad Resources:

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 comment

  • Heather Grady · January 6, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Thanks very much for this – and what a great set of experts! Some of our partners and donors ask about dashboards, so I am glad you are helping the community of potential users to unpack the opportunities and potential pitfalls. We will build these learnings into our advice.

    Reply

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