Dashboards are a way to present data about the “trends of an organization’s key performance indicators.”1 Dashboards are designed to provide information to decision makers about important trends and outcomes related to key program activities in real time. Think of a car’s dashboard. It gives you information about the amount of gas the car has, the condition of the engine, and the speed—all of which allow you to pay more attention to what is going on around you. Dashboards optimally work by combining data from a number of sources into one document (or web page) that is focused on giving the user the “big picture,” and keeping them from getting lost in the details. For example, a single dashboard could present data on event attendance, participant demographics, web analytics, and student outcomes, which can give the user important information about project reach, as well as potential avenues for growth.
As a project or center’s complexity increases, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. By using a dashboard that is designed to integrate many pieces of information about the project or center, staff and stakeholders can make well-balanced decisions and can see the results of their work in a more tangible way. Evaluators can also take periodic readings from the dashboard to inform their own work, providing formative feedback to support good decisions.
For some real-world examples, check out bit.ly/db-examples