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Report Burnout? 3 Steps to Actionable Dashboards People Can’t Wait to Open

Posted by Tony Capobianco on Aug 31, 2016 9:30:00 AM

 This is part one in a two-part series, focusing on creating actionable KPIs and goals for compelling dashboards. If you’re interested in reading the second part of the series, check out “You Don’t Have to Be a Rocket Scientist to Be a Data Scientist.”

It’s no secret that business analytics and reporting are milestones in the road to success. Analytics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) have become strategic assets to businesses and critical to decision-making. And the trend is only growing. Gartner forecasts that the worldwide business intelligence (BI) and analytics market will reach $16.9 Billion in 2016 (Gartner, 2016).

With the growing demand, it’s time to evaluate your organization’s current BI system. Does your company use traditional BI systems that deliver analysis by way of reports? If so, you may have a problem. The problem is what started with such enthusiasm (“Dozens of reports are sent weekly!”) has turned into a lament (“Dozens of reports are sent weekly.”). They are the same words but different sentiment. If you find that you belong to the latter group, you need to ask yourself, “Are these reports just historical trends and yesterday’s data?” If yes, you may be in trouble.


Enthusiasm for reports and dashboards deflates quickly if the data provided does not include context or meaningful insight. It’s time to deliver actionable, informative dashboards that people want to view and can’t live without. Reports should clarify and direct daily business functions. You can tweak your KPIs to get you there, and it’s easier than you think. Start by following these simple steps:

  • Define KPIs: Determine the audience for the dashboard and the key performance indicators (KPIs) to display. Now, be careful. Don’t confuse KPIs with metrics. While all KPIs are metrics, not all metrics are KPIs. So, what’s the difference? Essentially, KPIs are the drivers of business performance. If you want to get a bit more technical, look no further than David Parmenter’s, the self-proclaimed king of KPIs, definition.

“KPIs are nonfinancial measures, measured frequently, and acted on by the management team. They indicate when action is required by staff, tie responsibility to a team, have significant impact, and encourage appropriate action.” (Parmenter, 2016)

If you keep this advice in mind when creating dashboards, you’ll be a champion among the business team. If you don’t and you fall into the trap of trying to incorporate every metric (instead of just the KPIs), your efforts will have been for naught. The result will be a report that is too busy and difficult to digest, and it will likely remain largely unopened.

  • Convert Existing KPIs into Actionable Goals:

First, you need to make sure that you correctly defined the KPIs in the first step. If you did, then you can move on to the next step and derive actionable goals from your KPIs. An actionable, organizational goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

In fact, I’ll bet you already have actionable goals and may not even know it. Has your CEO or President ever said something along the lines of “This year’s goal is to increase customer satisfaction 10% and decrease inventory by 20%?” You got it! These are both actionable goals.

When trying to measure performance during reporting, be careful. If your reports only show historical or current data, while interesting, it in no way helps report recipients see if they are on track.

Real life example:

Consider this: How often do you login to view your 401K portfolio? If you’re like most, you may never log in to check the balance. Or if you have, are you able to tell if you will reach your retirement goal?

The companies who manage your 401k have not yet discovered how to turn your dashboard page into one of action or one of a meaning.

What if your 401K provider sent you an email that showed how well you were doing in reaching your retirement goal?

Note: Assumes current balance of $100,000 / Retirement goal of $2 Million dollars, 8% yearly return, and $1,000 contributed monthly. 14 years to retirement.

The above is actionable. You can change your goal, revise contributions, or change your retirement age. See how easy it is to derive an actionable goal from your KPI?

Bottom line

Here’s an easy formula to write actionable goal. (Mico Yuk, BI Brainz)


+ [KPI name]

+[How Much]

+[by When]

=Actionable KPI


Foot traffic

By 10%

By 3rd quarter



  • Get help from friends and coworkers: Identifying what values to look for and which reports to pay attention to is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to effectively utilizing a BI solution. When done right, organizations can obtain real insight from analytics and avoid report burnout. I recommend visiting the KPI Mega Library for ideas on KPIs. Remember, you will need to make them actionable based on your business needs and goals.


Wrap up

According to Gartner, the BI and analytics market is evolving toward a business-led, self-service analytics paradigm. Partly this means that there is a refined focus on analytics programs that stress accessibility, agility, and deeper analytical insight. You can join this reinvention and generate greater analytical insight from your BI program by adding proper context to your reports and data sets and fine tuning your KPIs. Your report users will thank you.

Check back for the second part in this series, “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a data scientist.”


If you would like to talk about your BI solution or for ideas on how to optimize your KPIs, email us at info@datasourceconsulting.com, we’d love to chat!


By: Tony Capobianco

Topics: Business Intelligence, Blog

Written by Tony Capobianco