We find that many managers who are able to turn inputs into an aesthetically-pleasing dashboard, end up disappointed by the hard information that the outputs provide. Below we’ve provided a couple of keys to developing dashboards that provide actual value to your Project Portfolio Management process.
1) Begin with the Desired Output
Though many emphasize turning inputs into outputs, the most difficult part is actually turning outputs into inputs. Once you decide what information you would like to gather from the dashboard and determine the data to track that will best lend to that information, then turning those inputs into outputs should be the easy part.
What you want to avoid is having 24-karat plumbing. A plumbing system that uses gold piping looks beautiful, but on a practical level, all it does is transport human waste. This is what happens when organizations don’t put careful thought into what they are trying to get out of the dashboards. Selecting inputs with no end in mind will give you aimless outputs, so regardless of how sleek you make your dashboard, it will be accomplishing nothing more than turning purposeless inputs into purposeless outputs.
2) Use Clear and Objective Measures
Organizations often make the mistake of using inputs that have no chance of accurately representing the realities of the portfolio. For example, it isn’t uncommon that we find managers requiring their resources to mark their assigned tasks as Green (“good”), Yellow (caution) or Red (failing). Not only is this system subjective to the point of worthlessness, it is a conflict of interest, since resources are personally vested in portraying their work on a task as successful. This may be a plainly obvious example, but far too often organizations rely on data that have large margins of error, which can lead to outputs that are untrustworthy, which in turn is a huge liability when you use this information to sway decisions.
Think of your inputs as a recipe, where you are trying to produce the output of a cake. If your recipe is simply, “Mix the right amount of sugar, flour, etc. and bake it in a hot oven for a while,” then you will get a lot of variance in your results. The inputs should be as objective and clear cut as possible (eg: giving exact measurements for volume, heat and time in universal units), so that the outputs can be consistent and reliable.
To put all of that simply: you start with careful consideration of what hard information you would like to end up with, then you decide on clear and objective measurements you can use as inputs to divulge that information. Once you have that plan, turning the inputs into a beautiful dashboard should be the easy part.
For more on developing dashboards that provide business value–including specific examples of recommended inputs–you can watch our webinar on Leveraging Business Intelligence.