What the Heck is a Dashboard and Why Do I Need One?


You know by now that projects create a lot of data. The person who asked you to pick up this project and see it through will no doubt be catching up with you soon to find out how the work is going. They’ll expect you to sift through that data to let them know whether the project is on time, spending too much, burning through resources and a host of other questions.

Many project leaders believe that the project dashboard is their top management tool. Using a dashboard is the best way to spot problems early, and it should be the first place you look to see whether your project is on track.

It’s also the first place to go when people ask you for the status of your project as it holds everything you need to give them what they want with the least possible work for you.

Project Dashboards

What is a Dashboard?

A dashboard is a set of charts and graphs that show the key measures about your project in real time. Examples are:

  • A Time chart uses data about your project tasks to show whether you are ahead or behind your schedule.
  • A Cost chart tells you whether your projects are ahead or behind your agreed budget. It displays the Actual, Planned and Budget Cost so you can compare and track your progress.
  • A Progress chart is great for giving you a quick status update and seeing exactly how much project work has been completed. This is the metric that most project sponsors care about above all else! It compares what you planned to do with what you’ve actually been able to complete.
  • Risks, Issues and Changes charts display how many high, medium and low impact risks, issues and changes.

Each chart is either a pie chart or a bar graph. The data is color-coded to make it easy to see the status of the item you are looking at.

Do I Have Dashboard?

No matter what project management software you use, dashboards and graphical reports should be a part of it. These give you a number of options for viewing the charts that give you a visual summary of information about your project. When you know your way around your tool it’s easy to find out what you need to know to keep your projects on track.

Take a look in your software and find out what the options are. In ProjectManager.com you can drag and drop each individual element so your dashboard looks exactly how you want it to.

Benefits of Dashboards

So now you’ve got them, why would you want to use them? Here are three benefits of using dashboards.

No Need to Crunch the Data

You have other things to do with your day than add up columns in spreadsheets or manually create reports. One of the best things about dashboards is that you don’t have to. The data is all crunched for you by the software.

Need to know how many hours the team has worked? Need a view of how you’re doing against your planned budget? It’s all there for you, added up, calculated and neatly presented in a way that makes it easy to understand without a degree in statistics.

Real-Time Information

The power of dashboards comes from the fact the data is up-to-date all the time. Whether you’re looking first thing on a Monday, mid-week or even at the weekend, you’ll always see the picture of your project as it is right now.

That’s because behind the dashboard is all the information that your project team enter about the tasks they have done. As soon as they complete a task, they update their time sheet with the latest position on that task – whether it’s now finished, or whether there is more to do, for example. This feeds through to your dashboards, giving you a real-time, ever changing view of how the project is doing.

Instant Reports

When your manager calls you asking for a copy of the latest report, you have three choices:

  1. Open a new document and create a report from scratch.
  2. Take a screenshot or download a copy of your dashboard as a PDF file and email it to them.
  3. Give them access to the dashboard to see the real-time project status whenever they like.

Let’s rule out option 1, okay?

Either of the other options free up your time to do something more productive like actually managing the project or getting on with some of your other work. Plus they are nicely formatted and pretty, giving a really professional impression (even though you’ve done hardly any work at all).

Dashboards can help you save a lot of time when you are managing projects and they are so easy to use and set up. Let ProjectManager.com take the strain by giving you real-time reporting in an easy to understand format. Try it for free today.

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