It may well be the case that “analysing performance data” is not part of your job description, but you do have a large stake in the insights that your app’s data can bring you. However, getting into all the nitty-gritty details of performance data is a job on it’s own. So how can you go to sleep at night, knowing that you have played your cards right and are capitalising on the right opportunities? In our previous post (The Data Game: Do You See Numbers or Opportunities?) we discussed the importance of framing the right questions in order to identify opportunities. But when you know which questions to ask, you also need to ensure that these questions are answered. But how can you capitalise on opportunities that will grow your product, without the need to deep-dive into the data yourself?
This is where purpose-filled dashboards enter the picture. Even though dashboards will never replace data discovery (the user-driven process of searching for patterns or specific items in a data set), a purpose-filled dashboard allows you to identify patterns and anomalies that can be used to set deep-dive data discovery in motion. The following 3 fundamentals will provide you with the necessary guidance to create a purpose-filled dashboard. These fundamentals will also help you to identify whether the dashboard you currently may have, is indeed setting the stage for actionable decision making.
- The objectives of your audience
Different stakeholders have different questions for the same set of data, that they need answered in order to reach their goals. The idea of having a “singular dashboard” for an organisation to represent the current status of the product often does not work, because the data representation becomes too high-level to allow different stakeholder groups to derive actionable insights. Therefore, it is important to have separate dashboards for different stakeholders within your organisation, that are tailored to their needs. But what type of needs do different stakeholder groups have? When looking at the mobile app industry, there are a few main purposes a dashboard could serve:
- Providing management with an overview of the app’s “health” and allowing them to monitor the application from a high level.
- Setting goals for specific people or teams to improve the app.
- Solving your app’s issues in a timely manner (e.g. crashes, errors and performance issues).
- Providing a central point of business intelligence for your app and aligning different teams in the company about important KPIs.
Having clearly identified the objectives of your audience, is the first step in creating a purpose-filled dashboard. The objectives of your audience may change, depending on the development stage your app is currently in. When building a dashboard, asking the right business questions based on the app’s development stage, will bring the necessary context to your dashboard to provide actionable insights.
- The level of granularity required
After you have determined your audience’s objectives, these objectives need to be met and visualised in a dashboard. There are different ways of meeting these objectives, but not every way is suitable for your audience. Different audiences require different levels of granularity in a dashboard, depending on their role in the organisation and the amount of time they spend looking at the data.
“The higher-level in the organisation, the higher the level of the insights” is a good rule of thumb for determining the level of granularity needed in a dashboard for a specific audience. Executive management often require a high-level overview of the application’s status and progression over time. This allows them to identify opportunities and anomalies, that they can use to steer the responsible teams in the right direction. On the other hand, an operations team requires more granular dashboards, that allows them to identify anomalies and conduct root-cause analysis based on the identified issues in order to resolve them.
As many of the stakeholders interacting with your dashboard are likely not data analysts, the level of granularity is a major factor that needs to be addressed correctly.
- The scope of the dashboard
Depending on the app’s current stage of development, the scope of your dashboard will vary. This sounds like stating the obvious, but there are a few key dimensions you need to keep in mind when designing your dashboard. A dashboard is only useful when it is easy to incorporate into your current workflow, otherwise you will not extract the value that it can provide. Adjust the dimensions of the dashboard accordingly, and you will be surprised with the improvement of the decision-making in the company. Think about the following 2 metrics which are key when defining the scope of your dashboard:
- Time span – Your dashboard can be retrospective, display real-time events, or predict the future.
- Retrospective: When your app is it’s earlier development stages, often a retrospective dashboard will suffice and can often provide you with enough insights for future releases. Don’t get distracted by the buzz of fancy predictive algorithms at this stage: ensure you understand what actually happened and why, before trying to predict what will happen next.
- Real-time: When your app is live, it is important to have a real-time dashboard in order for you to iterate quickly. Especially when it comes to error and performance monitoring this is important (you don’t want your users to suffer from down-time), but real-time dashboards are also useful to assess how your marketing campaigns are affecting your app usage.
- Predictive: In later stages of app development, predictive dashboards could be a useful asset to forecast how certain decisions will affect your app’s performance.
- Point of view – Your dashboard can tell you exactly what the current data means and what steps to take. Another perspective would be to give you the relevant data and let you interpret it however you want.
- Prescriptive: The dashboard tells the user what the data means and gives context. This context is often provided through comments on graphs (e.g. assumptions, hypotheses) by business-savvy data analysts. Prescriptive dashboards are interesting and provide people in managerial roles with the necessary information, without forcing them to deep-dive in the data themselves.
- Exploratory: The user has the liberty to explore the data and to interpret the results as they see fit. Exploratory dashboards are often used by data analysts to identify lower level patterns and anomalies, that can then be extracted and provided to the correct audience.
Now that you have the basic fundamentals for creating purpose filled dashboards, it is time to build one and start taking control in this complex app industry. Don’t forget that understanding context facilitates the opportunity to enhance your decision making. Do you currently have a dashboard that displays your app’s data? Is that a dashboard that represents data in such a way that it provides actionable insights? If this is not the case, think about how you could use these fundamentals to set the stage and facilitate a dashboard for enhanced decision making.
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