Why Should I Use a Dashboard in Project Management Software?
A project management dashboard displays key performance indicators (KPIs) that directly relate to your project’s success. These KPIs are project metrics that allow stakeholders to quickly understand your project’s status. They can be used to highlight performance and progress as well as problems that may require attention.
What’s included on a dashboard
The specific key performance indicators you choose to monitor often depend on your project, the data you have available, and the needs of your stakeholders. Therefore, which KPIs are included on your dashboard may vary across projects, teams, and project managers throughout your organization.
Here are some common KPIs to include on a project management dashboard:
- Task progress according to your project management software
- Conflicting tasks and dependencies
- Incoming requests and creative briefs
- Number of tasks overdue or behind schedule
- Volume of pending changes or tasks in review
- Number of severe or high-priority risks
- Number of tasks missing assigned resources
- Major milestones or deliverables approaching
- Overall project status (green, yellow, or red)
In addition to what you track, you can also choose how it’s illustrated on your dashboard. Some common data presentations include:
- Graphs and charts
- Text-based values or lists
- Timelines (such as a Gantt chart)
You may even choose to have multiple dashboards for your project, including a high-level one for executives and stakeholders, one for your own management and overview of the project, and more detailed ones for team members to monitor their portions of the project.
One benefit of creating multiple dashboards is that you can standardize the one for your executives and then modify your own however you prefer.
Features to look for in a project management dashboard
It’s important to have project management software that enables you to create and customize project dashboards. After all, if your dashboards only show data that’s unimportant to you, no value is added. You’ll be forced to either live without the information or go about finding it in another way, such as by running reports.
Here are five features to look for when shopping for project management software that will help ensure your project dashboards suit your needs:
- Use of real-time data
What’s the use of dashboards if you can’t share them with the people who need to see them? This means that you need to be able to share dashboards with executives and external stakeholders who may not use your project management software. Look for a solution that enables you to send a link to stakeholders so they can still access your dashboards and see real-time updates without you having to give them full rights to your system.
Your project dashboards should also be capable of being displayed on multiple devices, including mobile, in case executives are trying to check them on the go. It’s important that you can access your own dashboard no matter where you are, including at home, while traveling, or in the middle of a client meeting.
As discussed, it’s important that you can select the KPIs that are relevant to your project. You should also be able to customize how these KPIs show up on the dashboard. This can include where on the dashboard you want each metric displayed, and whether you want data shown as a bar graph, pie chart, or text.
Dashboards are meant to provide a very quick, high-level overview of a project. If your dashboard contains too much data or is too difficult to read and interpret, it loses its value. Several factors that impact scannability are:
- Amount of “white space” on the dashboard
- Size of visuals and text
- Colors used for font, visuals, and background
- Amount of information included
- Overall layout of the dashboard
Being able to send your customers a link to your project dashboard is only worthwhile if they can actually understand what they’re looking at. If it requires training and in-depth explanations on how to read your dashboards, they don’t provide much value.
Not only do the dashboards themselves need to be user-friendly, but the platform for customizing them needs to be as well. After all, without an intuitive interface, it becomes more difficult, frustrating, and time-consuming for you and your employees to create and format dashboards.
Use of real-time data
When your dashboards are within your project management software, they should be constantly pulling real-time data from your project. You’ll want to confirm that the dashboards automatically pull data, without requiring users to do a “refresh” or “reload.” You should also ensure the data is all being pulled from a single source of truth.
For instance, if you’re tracking time spent on your project, every dashboard created should pull this information from the exact same place within the software. This will help ensure that your dashboards are always consistent and communicate the same information, no matter how many of them you create.
Benefits of a project management dashboard
There are two main benefits of using project management dashboards:
- Dashboards enable you to gather, aggregate, and organize key project data in one location.
- They help relay important project information without unnecessary details that may be confusing or irrelevant to stakeholders.
Project dashboards make project management easier and more efficient because they present continuous data at a glance. When team members, managers, and stakeholders all have access to their project’s progress, health, and projections, they experience significant benefits, including:
- Greater convenience
- Increased efficiency
- Improved accuracy
- Better communication
- Persuasive evidence
When all stakeholders have access to centralized dashboards, everyone can stay on top of developments at a granular level and stays on the same page. Plus, at-a-glance dashboards mean less time wasted slogging through disparate data sets and compiling reports.
Displaying all of your project key data in one place helps you give more compelling presentations and enables you to show clear evidence and make persuasive arguments for project requests, changes, and other crucial decisions.
Dashboards provide executives with a quick visual big picture of projects so they can feel comfortable that they know the general state of a project within only a few minutes.
Using dashboards, they can easily confirm which projects are on track and pinpoint which projects may need more of their attention or support. This saves them time, helps them avoid micromanaging, and allows them to be efficient by only delving deep into projects that warrant it.
Dashboards can also benefit team members by enabling them to easily see tasks they’re working on, deadlines approaching, and work coming down the pike. They can understand what to prioritize, ensure they don’t forget anything, and better plan out their workload with just a glance.