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Taking an Agile, Customer-Centered Approach to Data Dashboards

BrandPost By Wendy Batchelder, CDO, Salesforce
Aug 31, 20224 mins
Data Management

Credit: Salesforce

Everyone wants to be a data-driven company today, and for good reason. We know that data — good, relevant data — is critical for making informed business decisions. In fact, nearly six out of 10 (57%) executives say that insights from data have enabled them to accelerate the release of new products. And on a larger scale, McKinsey found that data-driven companies are 23 times more likely to acquire other companies than those that aren’t data-driven. 

While many companies have invested in deploying a data analytics infrastructure and hiring data professionals, there’s often a lack of clarity around what data is needed that will best inform leaders and help them make critical business decisions. It’s often left to the data professionals to make assumptions about what data will be most useful to the business. As a result, there’s often a disconnect between what data professionals provide and what the business really needs, resulting in unmet expectations, frustration, and a loss of trust in the delivery of insights.

In many cases, the team on the business side doesn’t know what it needs until it sees the dashboard that the data team has created, at which point it faces the realization that whatever it needs, this is definitely not it. Everyone walks away unsatisfied. The business team feels like the data team can’t help them, and the data team feels like they can’t win, because, after all, they delivered what was requested.

To avoid this situation, data teams need to change their approach to delivering dashboards and other data requests to the business: think of it as a product and take an iterative, agile approach. Of course, not every request will rise to this level of effort — sometimes, a simple dashboard is just a dashboard — but if the request is going to take a significant amount of time and effort to produce, it’s worth approaching it in this way to ensure that no time is wasted and that the business side gets what is needed to achieve its own goals.

Here are three steps I recommend taking to set all parties involved up for success:

  1. Start with the outcome: Sit down with both users and requesters — they may not be the same group. Ask how they are going to use the data and what decisions it will inform. If time allows, shadow the end-user for a while and do some shoulder surfing, to truly understand what their work demands.
  1. Determine what you need to produce that outcome: You’ll need to know what data is required and where it’s located. Determine whether you’ll need engineering and understand the definitions that will support it.
  1. Iterate: Spend time in iteration. If you build the entire product all at once, you’ll likely discover that it’s not exactly what was wanted. You’ll end up iterating anyway, just extremely inefficiently. Instead, start with a wireframe, and get feedback from the end-user. Then develop a minimally viable product. It’s a great idea to release the dashboard one portion at a time, gathering feedback and lighting up new working parts as they are finished over time. In this way, you can speed up solution delivery instead of executing every component all at once. Take that product mindset, deliver it with an agile nature, and use a continuous improvement approach for internal data products.

Taking a customer-centric, iterative approach to delivering internal data products helps ensure that everyone is working off the same page. If done correctly, the final product, once delivered, will add value and build trust so that the data team and the business can forge ahead towards the goal of creating a truly data-driven culture throughout the organization.

To learn more about how to get started creating a data-driven culture throughout your organization, visit Salesforce here.