Performance Dashboards: the Fitbit for the Workplace?

Performance Dashboards: the Fitbit for the Workplace?


Do you wear a fitness tracker to monitor your real-time progress towards fitness goals, such as daily steps, sleep and calories burned? Does it motivate you to be healthier? What if you could have a similar tool for the workplace that could give you real-time feedback into your organisation’s performance and progress towards its KPIs? Would it motivate you to be more productive?

Performance dashboards are a digital display of multiple organisational performance metrics. They can help organisations better “see” data, and in turn, measure, monitor and motivate performance.  Like the dashboard apps that connect with fitness monitors, or (for those who prefer to drive) the dashboard in a car, performance dashboards simplify complex data sets into easy to read visualisations such as tables, charts, scatter plots and gauges.

Traditionally, performance dashboards have been the domain of executives in large companies, looking for strategic insight into their organisation’s overall performance including real-time performance against quantifiable targets. Today, dashboards can be customised to be used across all levels of organisations, providing better transparency, faster feedback and increased employee motivation and cohesion.

How do they work?

Performance dashboards work by integrating both historical and real-time data from multiple organisational databases and systems, analysing this data, then processing it into a visual format that makes it easier to interpret and share. Key metrics are often displayed on a single screen, with options for users to drill and slice data in order to gain clearer insight into emerging performance patterns and trends.


KPI Dashboard Example taken from:

Performance dashboards are normally hosted by the cloud, meaning they can be accessed and shared at any time and in any location.

Benefits of performance dashboards

Performance dashboards are useful for organisations because:

  • They help align the organisation and promote accountability because KPIs and targets are clearly defined, and everyone uses the same metrics and data
  • They provide encouragement and motivation to employees by enabling faster, ongoing and visible feedback about performance and progress towards targets
  • It saves time and money by providing “self-service” access to business data and eliminates information silos that can occur if data is held in various data-bases and not analysed
  • They provide clearer visibility of data trends, correlations and outliers including capacity to better slice and dig into data
  • They can assist organisations quickly identify areas of strength and weakness
  • They enable organisations to more easily spot emerging issues and to refine strategy based on evaluation of real-time data

How do I get one?

Companies like Tableau and Sisence have developed dashboard building software that enables organisations to design their own custom dashboards more cheaply and easily. However, before you build your dashboard, you should consider the following questions:

What metrics should we include?

Dashboards should display the most important indicators of organisational performance, and not just be a “data puke” to use the colourful imagery of Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist. To help determine your KPIs and metrics, take time to consider: Why does our organisation exist? What factors are critical to its success? (Be sure to consider all factors, not just financial ones) How can we quantify this success using data?

Of course, not everything that matters to your organisation will be able to be measured, and the measures you do select may not be as comprehensive as you would like. This is ok, as your dashboard is fundamentally a data-based tool to help you monitor, measure and manage performance. Other qualitative insights about your organisational performance may be obtained through team meetings, one-on-one discussions and direct feedback from clients and other stakeholders.

Are the metrics/ KPIs real time and actionable? Do they allow for recognition of improved performance?

In the same way your Fitbit notifies you that you are falling behind in steps and you need to be more active, your dashboard metrics should be able to compel changes in employee behaviour in real time. Dashboards will not be motivating and useful to employees unless employees can see how their day to day decisions and efforts affect targets and KPIs.

The best dashboards should also facilitate recognition for staff or that are performing strongly or working towards agreed targets. Remember, recognition does not need to be financial to be motivating. Think of the satisfaction offered by the ping of your fitbit congratulating you for reaching your daily step target! Or the buzz of getting a like on your Facebook status!

Is the data accurate and reliable? Can the data be collected easily and cheaply and updated quickly?

It goes without saying the data included in the dashboard should be accurate and there should be processes in place for any errors to be identified and corrected. Also, If you can’t collect the data easily and cheaply, it may not be worth using in your dashboard. Ideally, the information should be able to be automatically updated in real-time to remain relevant and useful.

Could dashboard reporting lead to unintended consequences?

Using data as a measure of performance may lead to some employees attempting to “game” metrics, incentivising behaviours that are not in the overall best interests of your organisation. To overcome this, ensure that you use (and promote) your dashboards as informative, but not conclusive, and balance your performance monitoring with other qualitative (non-data sources) such as one-on-one interviews, work samples and feedback from team meetings and clients.

Performance dashboards in schools- Case study of CEDP

Catholic Education, Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP) has recently developed performance dashboards using Tableau software to provide Principals (and other designated users) with an overview of student learning within their school.

CEDP uses the lenses of school performance, student performance, resourcing and regulatory, community and culture, family and religion and teacher development to create a holistic picture of student learning. Multiple metrics relating to these “6 lenses” of student learning were then selected for display on the dashboard, for example, student attendance data, school assessment results, NAPLAN and HSC results and gains, school leaderboard position, and teacher professional development data. The dashboard also enables performance targets to be customised for each school (and identified at either the system or school level), and for each school to keep track of their real-time progress towards these targets.

This year, CEDP has launched a campaign called “Every Learner, Every Day” to encourage improved school attendance (with a target of 90% attendance, 90% of the time). Along with using the Tableau dashboards to provide a more holistic overview of both school and individual student performance, the data will also enable Principals and other staff to obtain better real-time analysis of their progress towards this system based attendance initiative.

Kirrily McDermott

References and Further Reading

Brown, J.L (8 November 2016), Performance Dashboard Design: How to put data to work, UXbooth

Eckerson, W. (2011), Performance dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring and Managing your business, Businessbooksummaries

Kerzner, H. (2011) Project management, metrics, KPIs and dashboards: A guide to measuring and managing project performance

Klipfolio (2017) Guide to Business Dashboards  

Lavinsky, D. (6 September 2016), Executive dashboards, what they are and why every business needs one, Forbes

Tableau (2016) Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta ensures student success with data

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