If you’re like most companies, you love checking your business metrics but you hate all the work needed to generate these reports. If that sounds like your company then you need a KPI dashboard.
In this article, I will walk you through how to use software to improve your report generation and even automate most of it. Imagine spending less time on report generation and more time on the actual analysis. Crazy idea right?
We will focus on creating a KPI Dashboard which Klipfolio defines as:
“A KPI dashboard is an information management tool that is used to track KPIs, metrics, and other key data points relevant to a business, department, or specific process. Through the use of data visualizations, dashboards simplify complex data sets to provide users with at a glance awareness of current performance.” – Source
KPIs or metrics are simply numbers that matter to your business or team. If you’re in marketing, your important KPIs might be things like unique website visitors, conversion rates and signup rates. KPIs change from team to team and they even change as your company grows.
Let’s start by talking about why you even want a KPI dashboard in the first place.
Why Do You Want a KPI Dashboard?
This question may seem redundant but why do you want a KPI dashboard? What are you going to do with the data once you have it?
If you aren’t sure then we need to go back to the beginning and start with your business goals. What’s important to your business right now?
Let’s imagine that you’re interested in acquiring more leads through your website. A KPI dashboard could show you the latest leads in near real time. It could also show you where they are coming from (traffic sources) and what else they did on your website.
A company called Tint created a dashboard that would alert them if any large client signed up for their service. They could then immediately follow up with them and start a conversation with those high value leads.
This is a great example of how you can use data to inspire the right actions. This sounds simple but according to Forrester, only 29% of firms are actually good at this.
While 74% of firms say they want to be data-driven, only 29% say they are good at connecting analytics to action. pic.twitter.com/fY5OMkG2vZ
— Forrester (@forrester) March 18, 2016
There’s also a few other reasons why you may want a KPI dashboard.
1. Quickly Inform Everyone on Key Business Metrics
If you feel like your team doesn’t know what is going on, then a dashboard can solve this. You could even buy yourself a TV and show the metrics there. You can get everyone on the same page by deciding what are your important company wide metrics.
2. Consolidating Multiple Data Sources
Dashboard tools also let you connect different data sources into one. Imagine seeing your sales data from Salesforce alongside your marketing data from Google Analytics. This can done manually in Excel but dashboard tools can automate that process.
3. Align Different Teams
You could also use dashboards to align different teams on one goal. For example, there’s no point in increasing your website conversion rate if it eventually leads to a decrease in retention. You want a holistic increase across your entire business and a KPI dashboard can make it crystal clear how certain actions are affecting other teams in the company.
What Business Metrics Should You Show on Your KPI Dashboard?
All right, you’re sold on why you need a KPI dashboard. The next step is to figure out what metrics you should show.
We all have heard about vanity and actionable metrics and Eric Ries has a great quote that explains the difference:
“The only metrics that entrepreneurs should invest energy in collecting are those that help them make decisions. Unfortunately, the majority of data available in off-the-shelf analytics packages are what I call Vanity Metrics. They might make you feel good, but they don’t offer clear guidance for what to do.” – Eric Ries
“My experience has shown that companies should start by tracking a single actionable metric that they can literally bet the company on. I call this their One Key Metric (OKM). Companies choosing their OKM realize they must pick an actionable metric because pageviews or sign ups aren’t harsh enough and don’t correlate highly enough with the success of their business.” – Source
Even if you end up with more than one metric, it is clear that you need to clearly think about which metrics will help you take action. The goal isn’t to track as many metrics as possible but to take some kind of action that improves your business or product.
This is the default dashboard in Google Analytics. For most companies, most of these metrics are useless. It won’t help them accomplish their goals, whatever those may be.
If you still aren’t sure what metrics are important to your business, here are a few resources that covers industry specific metrics:
- Metrics for SaaS Companies: http://christophjanz.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-kpi-dashboard-for-early-stage-saas.html
- Metrics for Mobile Apps: https://blog.kissmetrics.com/must-have-mobile-metrics/
- Metrics for eCommerce Stores: https://www.shopify.ca/blog/7365564-32-key-performance-indicators-kpis-for-ecommerce
The goal of this section is to end up with 3-5 metrics that matter to you right now. You can always add more later on.
How to Create a KPI Dashboard With Step by Step Instructions
Now that we know why we want a KPI dashboard and we know what metrics we want to show, we need to create it. This is the fun part of the process since we get to play around with different tools and create cool-looking graphs.
Before jumping into the tools, let’s look at a few principles for good dashboards:
Principle 1: Make it Visual
Dashboards tools make it easy to create all kinds of charts so let’s take advantage of this and use them. For example, instead of just showing the new number of newsletter signups, let’s also show a line chart showing the overall trend over the past 30 days.
Principle 2: Compare Numbers Against Other Periods
Numbers by themselves don’t mean much. That only way to know if a number is good or bad is by comparing against another number. The common way to do this is by comparing different data periods e.g. this week vs last week, this month vs the average of the last 6 months.
Principle 3: Keep It Simple
Simplicity is the solution here. Starting with 3-5 metrics will keep things simple but ensure that you’re not overwhelming your team with pages and pages of reports. Trying to keep reports to one page will force you to prioritize.
For you reference, here are a few different types of charts:
Line charts – great for showing tends.
Tables – overview of data like names, emails, phone numbers, etc.
Bar charts – great for comparing different types of sources e.g. traffic sources, mobile vs desktop.
Gauges – progress towards a specific goal.
I will now walk you through how to create a few dashboards using a tool called Cyfe. Cyfe lets you pull data from all these data sources:
Below you will find step by step instructions for how to create a dashboard that covers important marketing metrics. You could follow these same instructions to build your own custom dashboard.
Start by creating a free account with Cyfe.
Then confirm your email address. Pretty typical process.
You will then be taken to the main screen where you see an empty dashboard with no name. Let’s start by adding our first widget by clicking the icon with 4 squares.
I want to show the following metrics in this dashboard:
- Google Analytics traffic on users, pageviews and sessions
- Traffic sources in Google Analytics
- Top landing pages in Google Analytics
- Mailchimp email signups
Let’s start by connecting a Google Analytics account so let’s click the “Web Analytics” tab and then choose “Google Analytics” (not the real time version).
You can now see the widget in your dashboard but you need to configure it first. Go ahead and click “Configure Widget”.
You then want to click the “Add Account” button. You can connect multiple accounts for each widget and you only need to do this process once.
Cyfe will ask you to choose the right Google account and then ask for your permission to access your Google Analytics account. You will be able to choose a specific property/view after you authenticate.
You should now be able to see all the accounts/properties/views that you have in your Google Analytics. Choose the one that you want.
Our first metric will be the “Overview” under Audience which simply shows us users, pageviews and sessions in one graph.
Cyfe will then convert that data into a cool-looking chart showing data from the last 30 days which is the default time period.
I’ll now repeat the process for the remaining metrics and also connect my Mailchimp account.
You will also notice that you can’t just add an unlimited number of widgets. This will force you to prioritize which metrics are actually important.
After adding a few more widgets, you should end up with something that looks like this:
Cyfe will automatically pull the latest data every time you load the page. The premium version of Cyfe even lets you export your dashboards into PDF and create public links that you can share with the rest of your team.
Focus on figuring out what metrics matter to your business and how these metrics will help you take more action.
I also put together a video that will help uncover what “metrics matter to your business”. This is something that companies struggle with, making the dashboard creation steps that I listed above pointless.
This 25 minute video will help you understand the following:
- The most common mistake that companies make when creating their dashboards and how a simple document can help you avoid that mistake
- The different tools that you could use to create dashboards (besides Cyfe) including tools for those who are developers and prefer something more pwerful.
- How to use Cyfe to pull data from tools like Mailchimp and Google Analytics and create an automated dashboard in minutes
To access this free video, simply click the image below. Let me know what you think!
I find most companies are stuck with high-level metrics and they aren't able to properly understand what actually drives user growth for their web and mobile products. To do that, you need the right data and the right tools.
If this sounds like your situation, then you should download our free tracking plan (and tutorial video). This is the document that you should create before you ever implement tools like Mixpanel, Amplitude, Segment, and Intercom. Click the image below to download your own free tracking plan (and tutorial video).