Dashboards are designed, first and foremost, with the viewer in mind. The intent of the project management dashboard is to convert data into a meaningful representation of project performance. But how does the viewer intend to use the information presented?
Viewers and stakeholders who are expected to make decisions in support of the project need sufficient data so they can make informed decisions in a timely manner. Having the correct information is critical. In this case, the dashboard may have to contain detailed information and the viewer may need to examine it carefully.
However, some stakeholders and viewers – such as those who are passively involved in the project and not expected to make decisions – are usually happy with a one-minute or “at a glance” dashboard. The one-minute dashboard can be displayed using the three directional icons in Exhibit 1. In Exhibit 1, a green arrow always points upward and indicates a favorable condition. For example, if the one-minute dashboard is used to display how well we are managing the project according to the project’s constraints, then the green arrow would indicate that we are well within the constraints limits. A red arrow, which always points downward, indicates that we have an unfavorable condition and have exceeded the limits of the constraint. A yellow arrow might indicate that we are within the threshold limits, or tolerances, for the constraint. Some people prefer to use the “traffic light” or circular icons rather than the arrows.
In Exhibit 2, we have a project that we assume has only five constraints. For each of the five constraints, we have identified an icon that shows how well we are performing according to the predetermined constraints. This type of one-minute dashboard provides only a cursory picture of the project’s health. If the viewer wants additional information, they may need to use drill down buttons for more detail, but for viewers who want just a quick overview of the project’s health, this one-minute dashboard is sufficient.