How can we design the best possible dashboards for business leaders? I addressed this question on the Data Strategy Show with Samir Sharma.
Samir Sharma is a data strategy and analytics leader, CEO and Founder of datazuum. He has a history of helping data executives and leaders craft and execute their data strategies. His passion for data strategy led him to launch the Data Accelerator Workshop and host the Data Strategy Show.
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Here are some of the topics we talked about.
Challenges Faced by Companies Trying to Visualize Their Data
Samir asked what are typical data visualization challenges that come up again and again. Ann said, “I think a big challenge I see with organizations is the people with data backgrounds, I think it’s so easy for us to forget that not everybody is a data person. I have to constantly remind myself, ‘Most people hate spreadsheets. They see it as a chore, and a burden, it’s just overly detailed and they can’t find what they need.”
While Samir serves as the bridge between business leaders and more data focused people, Ann noted that “if you’re trained in the weeds and details like I was, you’re never exposed to those business leaders. You have no training on how to work with those people necessarily.
Ann said she sees, “Organizations that will spend weeks or months creating the perfect dashboard or the perfect such and such tool. But they’ve never really tested it along the way. And they’ll get user feedback like, “I don’t like the colors.” Something really irrelevant but it just show the user is not really thinking deeply about the data because they weren’t engaged in the process.”
What We Should be Thinking About When Creating or Re-Designing Dashboards
“I see people assuming that developing a dashboard is going to take forever and cost a ton of money. That it’s going to be this months long process where they have to buy this new software program, they have to send their staff to training on this software program, they have to link all these data sources…”, Ann said. “They think it’s going to be this huge process so they think as long as this dashboard is taking forever, it better serve all of our needs. It better be this audience and this audience and this audience.”
Ann shared that during the planning process of each new project, she asks, “Who is this dashboard for?”
How to Learn More about Data Visualization
Samir asked what Ann’s advice would be for someone who wants was starting out in data visualization. Ann said, “I think a lot of us get wrapped up in tools, but there are so many tools available, more being invented. I think it’s really stressful, daunting, overwhelming for someone entering the field [to think], do I learn coding? Do I do the spreadsheet route? Do I do a drag-and-drop-dashboard route like Tableau or Power BI? There’s also the more graphic design route like do you specialize in Illustrator? Publisher? I think we feel like we have to master all of them and that’s just not possible. You’d spend your whole career just learning tools.
She advises to earn what’s out there and then specialize in just one tool. “I had this big crossroads maybe five years ago where I felt this pressure to go learn R. I just felt so much pressure and I just had to kind of let that go,” Ann said.
“The first step to getting started is letting go of this ridiculous, ambitious goal that we have that, ‘I’m going to learn every single tool, get certifications in it. I’m going to put all these skills in my resume.’ Just learn a tool and very, very comfortable and confident with that.”
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