The world of business is almost unrecognizable when comparing daily operations from now to 20 years ago. Of all the changes, the rise and domination of data have been the most drastic. No matter what role you work in, it’s now an expectation that you be able to manage, manipulate, and extrapolate insight from data sets. From sales and marketing to engineering and product design, data is useful absolutely everywhere.
Alongside the rapid rise of data, an array of tools that let us more easily navigate this new world have arrived. Of them, data dashboards are amongst the most popular, providing a central hub for all of our analytics. Data dashboards are invaluable tools, pulling together different data sets and creating a single source of truth for analysis and monitoring.
However, data dashboards are far from perfect. While certainly powerful, they come with a range of limitations that can pose a downside to many individuals and the businesses they work for. In this article, we’ll dive into the world of data dashboards, breaking down their main limitations.
Let’s get right into it.
What Are Data Dashboards?
Data dashboards serve as catch-all platforms, pulling data from many different sources and presenting it in an easy-to-understand format. Most of the time, they’ll pull from distinct APIs and sources, spanning over a range of different metrics.
Data can be a beast that’s incredibly difficult to tame. Out of all of the data apps that software teams have delivered, dashboards are often the most popular. This is due to their fantastic ability to display lots of information in a small space. Depending on your team, the dashboard you built might differ.
A marketing team is a great example of where data dashboards can really come in handy. Marketing teams have to manage PPC campaigns, social media interactions, and SEO data all at once. By creating distinct data dashboards which summarize all the information they need for each of these practices, the team can get a better grip on what’s going on.
The flexibility of data dashboards is one of the driving factors behind their usage. Considering that the big data market is growing rapidly, set to hit $103 billion by 2027, finding useful tools that can manage this growing stream is vital.
What Are the Main Limitations of Dashboards?
Of course, with every usage of data dashboards, there are an equal number of limitations. While these tools won’t completely change your world, they are uniquely useful to practically any team in your business.
Luckily, all of the major downsides to data dashboards can be overcome with a little training or guidance. After a few workshops, your team will be able to get the very best out of your company’s data.
In order to get the best use out of your data dashboards, you should focus on understanding and then overcoming their limitations:
- Placing Too Much Emphasis on the Past
- Too Much Information
- Customization Difficulties
Let’s break each of these limitations down further.
Placing Too Much Emphasis on the Past
Data dashboards compile information over a period of time that you select. For example, a team could focus on daily data, charting shifts in the click volume to their website. Alternatively, they could take a year-long view of their sales on a YTD scale. The flexibility of the date ranges that you can impose on a data dashboard is one of its leading benefits.
Yet, the limitation comes when users then begin to extrapolate too heavily from their past data. If you look at the last three months and see a 200% increase in sales, that does not mean that your next three months will also see a 200% increase. Your employees must recognize that past performance is not a guarantee of future success.
Many companies make the mistake of relying too heavily on the past to chart their future plans.
Too Much Information
Another common disadvantage of data dashboards is that they might contain too much information to be useful. According to research published by the University of Missouri, humans can only process between three and four blocks of information at once. In terms of data visualization, this means that we can only understand four things simultaneously.
If you fill your data dashboard up with reflections of every metric under the sun, you could actually be creating an overwhelming page. While it might look great to have everything on one page, it would actually serve as a major limitation for your employees. Relying on data dashboards as a single source of truth is fantastic from a technical standpoint.
However, using them to hold all of the related information to a department at once can lead to mistakes occurring and people overlooking important data.
Most of the time, the people that are using a data dashboard every single day aren’t necessarily going to be data experts. While your technical and dev teams will be completely fine, other areas of your business might struggle with manipulating the tool itself.
Without proper training, your employees might struggle when it comes to customizing a data dashboard. As we’ve previously suggested, having all available information on one screen is going to set people back. However, if your team doesn’t know how to edit a dashboard to put different data sets into conversation, they’ll be missing out on important insights.
Depending on how technically advanced your data dashboard is, some team members might struggle when it comes to getting the very best out of the tool. Due to this, we recommend that everyone undergoes, at least, a basic level of training to bring them up to speed.
After all, you can only give people the very best of data if they understand how to use it!
Data dashboards definitely provide more benefits than drawbacks, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Each data dashboard comes with a range of limitations that stop them from being truly positive tools. Across creating false expectations by extrapolating past data into the future and overwhelming your teams, data dashboards can cause setbacks.
However, the vast majority of these limitations can be overcome with effective training and understanding. Instead of just dropping your teams into a world where they have to exclusively manage data, be sure to help them understand how to do so effectively.
Once your teams are true data natives, the various limitations won’t be nearly as impactful. From there, you’re ready to convert your company into a completely data-driven center.