Dashboards and Data Use, Online Forum, May 2010
Join the Data Use Network (DataUseNet) in a discussion about how dashboards and the information they provide can be used to improve the use of data in decision-making. DataUseNet looks forward to hearing your questions and experiences with using dashboards in decision-making.
What is a dashboard?
A dashboard is a report that visually presents critical data in summary form so that you can make quick and effective decisions.
The concept of a dashboard is based on the same principles of the dashboard of a car. In a car, you can quickly look at your dashboard to determine the speed you are driving, the amount of gas left in the tank, the temperature of your engine and many other critical elements of information. This information allows you to make decisions about how you will implement the remainder of your journey.
When dashboards are related to health projects, they give an at-a-glance perspective on the current status of the project in the context of predetermined metrics for that project. Depending on the project, those metrics may include health services delivered, numbers of new clients, number of new cases of disease, commodities remaining, or other indicators critical to the management team. It provides managers with a quick understanding of the current project context, without a detailed explanation of the causes or solutions and facilitates discussion by highlighting only metric status points.
Dashboards can be simple tools that are developed in Excel or more sophisticated versions that are linked directly to databases and require programming by IT experts.
Why use dashboards?
We are all familiar with the challenges faced by many of our colleagues to understand and interpret data. Frequently data are presented in large reports that contain so much information that decision-makers don’t know how to sort through what is there to identify the priority messages. Moreover, the graphs and tables presented are often complex and confusing. These figures are not easily understood by those in the position to use this information in decision-making. When data is prioritized and presented in a format that is easy to view then the ability to understand, question, interpret, and apply that data is improved.
How can dashboards assist public health professionals?
For health programs, meeting the growing health needs of the populations they serve with limited financial resources requires efficient planning and management. In order to plan and manage health programs effectively, decision makers need quality data quickly and in a format that highlights key programmatic issues. Unfortunately, however, accessing data is often a challenge for health professionals. Without the ability to track key program metrics decision-makers are unable to view trends, identify problems and target specific follow-up activities to improve services.
Please share with us your experiences using dashboards to support decision-making and also any questions you may have about developing or using dashboards in general. Specifically we’d like to discuss:
- In what context have you used dashboards to facilitate decision-making?
- What resources were required to develop the dashboard?
- What was the outcome of using the dashboard?
- What were the facilitating factors of using dashboards in decision-making?
- What were the barriers you encountered?
- Did those barriers keep you from using dashboards or did you find a resolution?
- Have you built capacity for using dashboards in your country?
- Have you seen data infrastructure and data quality improve as a result of using dashboards?
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