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Jan 6, 2016

Should Management Build Their Own Dashboards? Or Should You Leave It to the Pros?

We explore the debate between a standardized set of dashboards created by IT versus allowing your end users to change or even create what they see. 

A few weeks ago I was talking to a long time IT manager from the University of Southern California. We were talking about the needs of universities pertaining to data visualization and he told me that there was a finance manager who had been asking for a particular dashboard for almost 10 years!

IT simply hadn't been able to get around to it or they perhaps didn't consider it a priority. The story ends well because she finally got the dashboard as a gift for her 10 year anniversary at the university.

This is a revealing story about the possible problems with leaving dashboard creation to IT. No offense IT :)

How Can This Be Prevented At Your Company?

There are two trains of thought here:

  1. IT should create dashboards because they can do it more quickly than the end user.
  2. The end user should do it because they are the only ones that truly know what they need. 
As with anything, the answer will differ from company to company, however, as data visualization becomes easier and as the needs of decision makers become ever more time sensitive, the case is improving for empowering your end user.
Unsurprisingly, it comes down to what is cheaper! Here are the basic elements of the costs:

  • IT’s time
  • Decision Maker’s time
  • Barriers to entry for Decision Maker’s data visualization skill
  • Average Required Completion Time

Making the Call for Your Company

Determine which is greater for your company:
[Decision Maker’s time + Average Required Completion Time + Barriers to Entry] or [IT’s Time]
Note, this is all in terms of opportunity costs. It’s not just how much you pay your IT vs your managers. It's the net value of the IT’s next best activity vs the net value of the decision makers next best activity.

Breaking this down further, as the value of the Decision Maker's next best activity, the average required completion time, and the barriers to entry increase the more likely you should have IT create the dashboards.

As these elements go down, however, if they need the dashboards faster, if data visualization is easy to learn, and if management has some time, the more likely it is you should give them the power. If your IT is understaffed and swamped, that makes the case for empowering your decision makers as well.

Insanely Low Barriers to Entry

What if your managers don't know a thing about visualization?
Luckily, this is hardly an issue now! Pure data visualization is so easy in today’s world that managers are almost expected to have basic knowledge in the area. Tools like Slemma, allow non-technical users to build the dashboards without writing a single lick of code. The simplicity of modern tools for basic to intermediate dashboard creation makes the barriers to entry extremely low.

Need for Speed

The last piece of the formula is how long can the decision maker wait? Assuming the manager is relatively practiced in data visualization, eliminating the transaction costs will result in a much faster turnaround time for dashboard creation.
There are huge transaction costs incurred when asking IT to create the dashboard.
To avoid these costs, the manager can create it right then and there. No need to communicate its importance, no need to describe what they need, they can build it on the spot.
Therefore, if you decision makers are finding that they can’t wait for IT, then empower them with customization!

No Matter What, Make Them Interactive!

Modern data visualization tools allow you to make dashboards interactive. If you decide to keep your dashboard creation solely in the hands of IT, this is a great compromise.
Today's tools allow you to share interactive dashboards with your decision makers instead of static PDFs. Viewers can filter the data by the dimensions in the dataset without editing the charts. Although your managers don't have the ability to create completely new charts, they will be able to slice and dice the data the way they need.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to share if you found this train of thought helpful for your business and enter your email at the top to be alerted for our next post! As always, we would love to hear from you so send us an email at or message us in-app. 

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