We’re about to release a major update to TimeControl Dashboards in a couple of weeks as part of TimeControl, TimeControl Online, TimeControl Industrial and TimeControl Industrial Online version 8.4. Before you get concerned, all your existing dashboard definitions are fine. While you don’t have to make any new changes, a whole range of new dashboard functionality will become available to you including adding new dashboard types to the page and adding more dashboard items to the page than is currently allowed.
All of that being said, we thought it would be an opportune moment to talk about the pitfalls of dashboards. The dashboard concept is hardly new. Back when we got started in project software systems in the 1980s we were asked continuously for 1-page summary reports that would presumably show “everything” to management.
Everything is, of course, a tall order and it remains so with dashboards. We’ve had very senior staff ask us “Can we see all current project and TimeControl timesheet data in real time?” You can, of course. But… do you want to?
When we are designing dashboards for clients we ask a few questions:
First, how often are the management personnel who look at these dashboards expecting to make decisions? If the answer is every five to ten minutes, then real time dashboards might make sense but we’ve yet to meet that manager.
Second, when someone looks at data in a chart or a list on a dashboard view, do they have certain assumptions about the data? We’ve never met someone who didn’t. Managers think that when they’re looking at data synthesized on the screen that a) It is accurate and that the manager, project manager or supervisor is prepared to stand by that data. If this data has gone through no approval at all, that’s unlikely to be the case. So, our standard recommendation is to show dashboards on posted data. Data is posted in TimeControl nightly or weekly or even bi-weekly. If that’s the case, that’s the decision window. To what should be no one’s surprise, weekly decisions seems to be the most frequently that managers want to make decisions about such data. Monthly is the second most popular.
Third, is all the data there? Before I look at a chart of, say, actual-vs-budget, am I looking at 100% of the actuals? Have all timesheets been collected? Making a decision on a dashboard view only to find out that only half the supervisors have posted their data would be a problem.
Fourth, is the data timely? Am I looking at data that all belongs together? We’ve seen dashboards of project performance showing actuals where half the projects were updated this week and the other have only had updates until last week.
None of this says that dashboards are bad. We love dashboards and we think you’re going to love the new dashboard views in TimeControl 8.4. But, as you create your own dashboard views, take a moment to make sure that what others will see on the screen is both complete and useful.