Conversations need to replace dead-end dashboards

By Andy Cotgreave 20 Jan, 2015
Conversations are the backbone of human interactions. Without conversations we do not develop ideas, learn from others, or gain new insights. Conversations with data are just as important: pioneering businesses favour data-driven conversations over dead-end dashboards. One of our Top 10 Trends in Business Intelligence for this year is “Conversations with data replace static dashboards”. I’ve also written about it in more depth in my Huffington Post column, “Why a Chart Should Start, Not End, a Conversation”.

This post is about one of my own pieces of work and how new insights were found following a remix of it. Remixes are conversations.

Kris Erickson posted this on twitter:

You can read more about Kris' dashboard on LinkedIn Pulse.

My initial dashboard explored US Road Fatalities. It was part of an internal visualization competition we run at Tableau. I wrote extensively about the design process behind the dashboard on my blog, and on the Tableau Public blog.

I had been pleased with this dashboard but it had flaws. The main one was that it looked at raw numbers and didn’t account for the number of journeys changing over time. If fatalities were higher in 2012 than in 1982 was that caused only by change in the number of car journeys? I hadn’t explored that and yet it was an obvious, unanswered, question.

Kris also identified this problem and fixed it. His remix highlights the benefits of conversations over dead-end dashboards:
  • Discovering new stories: the most deadly month has moved from winter to fall
  • Confirmed previous conclusions: yes, even accounting for Vehicle Miles Travelled, fatalites are dropping
  • Creating new perspectives to create deeper understanding: adding new data allows us to ask and answer new questions with more accurate answers.
Conversations like this are happening right now in the public domain. Tableau Public and Twitter enable conversations and new discoveries in the public domain. I do not think these conversations take place enough in business. They should.

What’s the first step to helping your staff? It’s time to move away from dashboard proliferation and towards conversations. Don’t make dashboards a dead-end. Any view must be seen as an evolving entity that changes along with the questions. That’s a conversation.

Read more about how to enable this in your culture by checking out Drive, a new methodology for enterprise deployments.

(Blog thumbnail photo courtesy of Brian Coy on Flickr)

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