CIO Dashboard

5 Characteristics of a CIO Dashboard

by Chris Curran on June 11, 2009 [email] [twitter]

Start DashboardI figured it was about time for me to tackle the CIO dashboard topic since you’ve been good enough to read along so far and were probably wondering if I would ever get around to it. I think this is a pretty substantial topic, so I plan to use a series of posts to cover it over the next few weeks.

Part 1 (this post) explores the rationale for and attributes of a CIO dashboard.  Part 2 will discuss dashboard audience.  Part 3 will cover dashboard design considerations and offer some examples.  The last post, Part 4, will summarize things in a 10 tips list.

Why Do You Need a CIO Dashboard?

Come on, aren’t you already swimming in data?  Most people are, but there are a few paralyzed by reporting – sort of a feast of famine situation.  Nevertheless, the idea of a dashboard is appealing.

Here are some of the reasons I have heard for taking on this kind of project:

  • “I need a summary of what’s going on across IT”
  • “I want to show progress that IT is making toward our goals”
  • “I need to better justify IT investments to the organization”
  • “I need a way to track a specific target set by the CEO/my boss”

Consider a comment from JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon on how he and his leadership team work (from Fortune, June 8, 2009):

You have to be very disciplined, and this is even more important in a crisis. Our management team, 15 to 30 people, talk every day at 7:30, 12 noon, and five o’clock – what’s going on, sharing information, making some decisions on the spot, reviewing facts and information.

In plain English is a requirement for all of his team to be armed with the right information every day that can be used to make timely decisions.  This is what I would want my CIO dashboard to do for me.

5 Characteristics of a CIO Dashboard

These are the five as the core attributes of a CIO dashboard, or any management dashboard for that matter:

  1. One Page in Length
  2. Easy to Read
  3. Doesn’t Require a Decoder Ring
  4. Accurate
  5. Up-to-Date

One Page in Length

In keeping with the simplicity theme, a management dashboard should contain no more information than can fit on 1 8.5×11 page (or 1 window).  Furthermore, while we would all like to think we live in a 100% digital world, the dashboard should be printable – a requirement if you have senior management as your audience.

Easy to Read

To quote Edward Tufte in his seminal The Visual Display of Quantitative Information:

Data graphics should draw the viewer’s attention to the sense and substance of the data, not to something else.

A good dashboard needs to be low on the chartjunk and generous with white space.

Doesn’t Require a Decoder Ring

Not only should a dashboard be easy to read, the data must stand on its own and not required a legend or key.  For example, one of my insurance clients has a composite metric to measure and report on the “health” of a major replatforming program – red, yellow, green.  Much quantitative and quantitative data combine to create the measure, but it is not simple or transparent.  Instead, they would be better served by reporting metrics like budget to complete and earned value measures.

Accurate

One of the biggest challenges in management reporting is data accuracy.  A CIO of a regional bank I have been working with wants to understand how much of her staff are working on strategic projects.  The problem is that the time tracking system only provides maintenance and trouble-ticket related categories and some generic project buckets.  The resulting data is virtually meaningless.

Up to Date

The dashboard metaphor often leads to a desire for real-time data.  I purposely use the term up-to-date instead because real-time data is both extremely difficult to deliver accurately and almost never needed.

In the next post, I will lay out some ideas about tailoring your dashboard to your audience and some design considerations, including online versus printed dashboards.  I look forward to your comments and suggestions.

Go to the next post: 4 Types of CIO Dashboards

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  • Mike Davis

    Great topic, looking forward to the rest of the discussion. This is top of mind for me these days.

  • Mike Davis

    Great topic, looking forward to the rest of the discussion. This is top of mind for me these days.

  • Chris Curran

    Thanks Mike – appreciate your comments. Any specific questions that you are thinking about?

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  • http://www.ciosteve.com Steve Berg

    Chris – this is a subject near and dear to my heart and something I have struggled with for years! It is tough to decide what is critical enough to get onto the one page dashboard, let alone getting accurate and up to date data! I have a dashboard (Excel sheet) that I produce weekly and by the time I’ve pulled the data together (manual process) it is already out of date as things seem to move so incredibly quickly here. Then the once the data is reported, the process starts over again!

    I look forward to hearing about your recommendations and examples in future articles! I would also love to hear about what KPI’s you use to measure the success your IT business units and how they roll up into the dashboard.

  • http://www.ciosteve.com Steve Berg

    Chris – this is a subject near and dear to my heart and something I have struggled with for years! It is tough to decide what is critical enough to get onto the one page dashboard, let alone getting accurate and up to date data! I have a dashboard (Excel sheet) that I produce weekly and by the time I’ve pulled the data together (manual process) it is already out of date as things seem to move so incredibly quickly here. Then the once the data is reported, the process starts over again!

    I look forward to hearing about your recommendations and examples in future articles! I would also love to hear about what KPI’s you use to measure the success your IT business units and how they roll up into the dashboard.

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