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Blog When we say ‘No more Dashboards’: What do we mean?

The short answer is we mean literally “no more dashboards’. 

There is a good chance no one is looking at your dashboards, so they won’t be missed. 

But, there is much more to it than that. 

Dashboards are hindering your ability to build a data-driven culture. 

Chances are you have one or more of the following strategic initiatives underway:

  • Re-imagining how you engage with prospects and customers in the digital world.
  • Investments to move your data to the cloud for economic and performance reasons.
  • Commitment to data science to uncover deeper insights into your business.
  • Empowering your front-line workers with the insights to make better business decisions.

Each initiative takes commitment in terms of resources and cultural change. Expectations are high and the future of your business is impacted by the success or failure of these initiatives.

The problem is that the return on all this investment is predicated on your employees making better decisions and decisively taking action. And, the way you hope they do this is by using tools that have largely gone unchanged over the last 25 years – dashboards.

Millions of dollars spent on transformation; on modernizing your data and analytics infrastructure. To bring in automation and intelligence to process and analyze a growing volume of data. All of this work, to put the end result into a dashboard. That doesn’t get used. That drives no action. That results in no change.

So, that’s why we say enough is enough: No More Dashboards.

Why Don’t Dashboards Work? 

Not convinced? I get it. We have been relying on this dashboard paradigm for 25 years. It’s hard to wrap your head around why it doesn’t work anymore. It’s hard to admit it may be time to change.

We have all seen the stats that show only 30% of users log into dashboards, and this number is usually based on once-a-month activity. Hardly a frequency that constitutes being data-driven.

Furthermore, this login rate only looks at those users who have access to dashboards. What about the many others in your company who don’t have access?  

If you are skeptical of what I’m saying or believe your company is an exception – Gartner’s Prediction #2 in 2020 was the “Decline of the Dashboard.” Arguably, there is no better authority out there in the Data & Analytics market. 

The reason dashboards don’t work is profoundly simple. Humans learn and understand through stories. Dashboards, by themselves, don’t tell us a story. 

Stories are the way we communicate in all facets of our lives. From the time humans could communicate, we have told each other stories. If you want to learn more about storytelling and how to get better at it – we wrote a book on the subject.

This is why Gartner and other analytics leaders coined the term Data Storytelling. Because that is what we do as humans when we look at data – we develop a story.

As stated by Gartner:

By 2025, data stories will be the most widespread way of consuming analytics, and 75% of stories will be automatically generated using augmented analytics techniques.

Now, when it comes to telling stories about data – there is actually a formula for telling an effective data story and here it is:

Data Stories = Visual + Narrative + Context

Gartner has written about this formula extensively and there is a fabulous book by Brent Dykes called “Effective Data Storytelling” which breaks it down in detail.

When it’s explained this clearly, it’s obvious when this works with dashboards and that is when an analyst presents you with a dashboard (visual), tells you what is important for you to know (context) in the form of narrative (either verbal or written down in an email or report). 

When the analyst isn’t present, a dashboard alone isn’t effective because it lacks both a narrative and context. 

In fact, this is why the BI market was born 25+ years ago. To provide tools where a small number of analysts could effectively explain with data what is happening in the business to a small number of senior leaders. 

However, the world and the way we work today are dramatically different from 25 years ago.

Decision-making isn’t in the hands of a few senior leaders. It’s distributed across a company. Not only do we empower- we expect- our employees who are closest to the action to be making decisions that impact our business on a daily basis. 

One could say we have evolved our philosophy on management for the better. 

Instead, of believing a company’s success is based on a few senior leaders far away from the action, we have realized success is based on letting people who are on the front lines make the decisions that day-in-day-out will drive our business. Those employees who are closest to the market, to customers, to suppliers, and partners. Employees who literally have their hands on the controls of our business.

While this is a big shift culturally, most companies have either made this shift or are in the process of embracing a more distributed and empowered model of working. However, the challenge we now have is that the dashboard is still the tool we depend on for providing insights to all those we have empowered to drive decision making and it doesn’t scale.

It doesn’t scale, because it’s not realistic to hire an army of analysts to communicate narrative and context to a large number of people. 

It doesn’t scale, because we cannot expect an entire company to figure out the narrative and context for each analysis. 

It doesn’t scale, because we don’t have enough analysts to analyze data for an entire company. It doesn’t scale, because the volume of data available to us grows year over year. 

It doesn’t scale, because the frequency of data consumption has gone from monthly, to weekly, to now daily.

What does scale is using technology to tell data stories and that is what we do. We have built technology that combines visuals, narrative, and context automatically and personalized for every user.

Your team on the front lines deserves better. 

Your analysts deserve a better way to scale what they do to support your entire company. 

You as a leader deserve better as you created a culture of empowerment and are spending millions of dollars in data and analytics to be data-driven.

It’s time to give your employees a solution for the 2020s that wasn’t built in the 1990s.

This is why we say “No More Dashboards.”