10 Steps to Ensure Dashboarding Success (1-5)

By: Eric Parker

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Eric Parker lives in Seattle and has been teaching Tableau and Alteryx for 5 years. He's helped thousands of students solve their most pressing problems. If you have a question, feel free to reach out to him directly via email.

When you embark on a Tableau dashboarding project, you are creating a new product. When Apple releases the newest iPhone, they aren’t putting out a rough draft. They’ve done extensive user and product testing to make sure its the best product possible. You can (and should) use the same design sprint methodology on your own projects to ensure success.

Here are the 10 steps successful companies like Google, Apple and Tesla take to ensure their products are as successful as possible.


1. Understand the Problem

Understanding what you are designing, who you are designing for, and what you hope to accomplish with your new product form the foundation of any successful product launch. Here are some questions to ask yourself or your stakeholders as you get underway with a new project.

●        Who will use this product?

●        What are they currently struggling with?

●        How will his product make their life better?

●        What other solutions have been tried?

●        What ideas can we borrow from similar projects?

●        How will we measure if this is a success?

●        What roadblocks do we anticipate running into?

●        Are there any problems we foresee that will be insurmountable?


2. Involve Relevant Stakeholders

One of the biggest reasons that major projects don’t succeed is that they don’t have the proper backing. Imagine if Amazon tried to launch a new arm of their business to build self-driving cars for their delivery service. Do you think that would go well if Jeff Bezos wasn’t consulted on the matter? Probably not.

Ownership bias or the endowment effect has proven that people place more value on things they own, simply because they own them. I have yet to see a friend post on social media about their new baby with the caption “Shoot, I was really hoping this baby wouldn’t be so ugly.” No way! Everyone thinks their baby is the cutest, smartest and best baby to ever grace the earth. The same is true with projects.

Determine whose voice and backing you need for your project to succeed. Maybe it is the voice of your customers and new features they’ve been clamoring for. Maybe it’s the CFO who pulls the strings and can determine if your project lives or dies. Involve those people from the beginning and give them input. Your project will be more successful for it.


3. Brainstorm and Prioritize

Spend time discussing different approaches with relevant stakeholders. This is a chance to dream. I recently heard a story about a Major League Baseball team that gave every one of their talent scouts a blank roster and told them to “fill it in with whatever players they wanted”. The exercise was designed so that the General Manager could make player acquisition decisions based on the desires of his entire group.

Do the same thing with your dashboard. Write down what you can include today and what you would like to include in your dream scenario. These conversations may end up influencing what data is collected going forward.

After generating an extensive list of ideas, prioritize which are most important and accessible right now. These will form the foundation of your dashboarding effort.


4. Whiteboard


Humans are much better at communicating visually than aurally. It’s estimated that 80% of all the impressions we perceive come from our sense of sight. That’s why it’s so important to whiteboard.

You might come away from a conversation with someone feeling like you are on the same page and knowing what you want to build. Fast forward to a few weeks later and you’ve put in a considerable amount of work accessing and shaping data, building your visuals and getting feedback. Then you find out you didn’t build what your stakeholder wanted. What happened?

Most of the time, it’s a misunderstanding. Someone might say they want a “chart showing volume by state”. They might have been asking for a bar chart but you built a map. See how easily that can happen?

Whiteboarding allows for extremely fast feedback and iterations. Don’t skip this step, it can save you a lot of time down the road.


5. Prototype


Once you’ve converged on an idea from the brainstorming phase, it’s time to build a prototype. While this could be done in a mockup tool, it’s a good idea to perform this step in Tableau. Many people wrongly assume your data needs to be completely prepared prior to this step. That’s not necessary.

If you know what you want your data to look like but also know that it’s going to take considerable time to get the data in that format, don’t put the whole project on hold. You can generate mock data and build a prototype of the dashboard on that mock data. (Consider a tool like Mockaroo if you don’t have another way of generating mock data). This speeds up the whole design sprint process because you can circulate the dashboard and get feedback while concurrently preparing the data.


Want to learn about steps 6-10? Join us for our free webinar next week; 10 Steps to Ensure Dashboarding Success: Leverage the Methods of Google, Apple and Tesla.

Want to become a dashboarding expert? Join us for our upcoming workshop; Tableau Dashboarding: From Mystery to Mastery!