How do you get a quick overview of what is
happening on your project?
When deadlines seem to be zooming past at a
frightening rate, and this is only one of several projects you are juggling at
the same time, it can feel like you don’t have a grip on what’s happening on
You are not alone! Many project managers I
speak to talk about how hard it is to stay on top of what really matters.
Either they are so in the detail about what tasks need to be done, or they have
had a period of working on something else and can’t remember where to start on
They give you a quick overview of where the
project is. You get an at-a-glance view of your project’s world on a page. It’s
not going to tell you exactly where the problems are, but at least you’ll get a
head start about knowing where to look first.
In this article we’ll look at how you can
make the best use of dashboards on your project to track metrics and project
health, and help with status reporting.
What is a Project Dashboard?
What is a project dashboard? And do you
really need one?
A project dashboard is an on-a-page
view of project health. It shows the status of key project metrics so you can
easily see how a project is performing.
are typically made up of graphs, charts, Red/Amber/Green buttons and other data
visualisations that make it easy to see what’s going on.
might hear them referred to as status dashboards, project health dashboards or
project management dashboards. All the terms mean the same thing: a visual
summary of project status.
How to use Dashboards for Projects
Dashboards are a useful tool for projects
because they bring together information from various sources and put it in one
place. You get a holistic overview of project performance without having to
dive into various parts of your project management software to see what’s
You use a dashboard by reviewing status at
a big picture level. Look at the performance of the key metrics. Are they as
you would expect? If not, how are they deviating – are you seeing a positive or
negative trend against what you would expect?
On many dashboard software tools, you can
click a metric and dive into the detail to drill down into why the measure
isn’t performing as you would expect.
In other words, you start with the
dashboard, and drill into the detail from there. Dashboards are a fast way of
identifying where a project is going off track so you can spend more time on
course correction and less on trying to work out where the problems are.
Tip: Talk to your team about how to use a project dashboard so they understand why the data is being collected and how it is going to help you all manage the project going forward. The more they understand about the project management process for monitoring and controlling – and your dashboard is part of that – the more likely they are to keep the data up to date.
The Key Areas Your Dashboard Must Include
First, I should say that your project
management dashboard should include the metrics
that make it easier for you to manage the work. There’s no point in
creating a dashboard that includes a box about forecasted budget if you don’t
have any expenditure on your project because it’s all non-costed internal
However, rather than start with a blank
screen, let me give you some examples of the key areas you can expect to see on
can see an example project dashboard in this video.
Widgets are the blocks on the project
status dashboard that show you the data. They pull information from elsewhere
in your project management software, so it’s important that you and your team
keep the software up to date. Otherwise your dashboard will show you old news.
There is always something that goes wrong
on a project, so having a quick view of what the top issues are is a good
Your dashboard widget can show you open
issues and total issues, letting you drill down into the current problems so
you can help get them resolved and closed.
You can also configure parts of your
dashboard to show risks or changes – or pretty much anything that you capture
in the software itself.
You can track budget by phase. You can show
real time budget variance and estimate to complete. Having the budget data so
easily available without having to go digging through spreadsheets gives you an
early warning mechanism for financial performance.
You’ll definitely want to show schedule
performance on your dashboard. You can use this to track whether your project
is ahead or behind target, so you can make the necessary adjustments.
You can use a block on your dashboard to
track workload, billable hours, number of active team members and other things
to do with resource.
This can be handy because it gives you a
quick view of who is doing what and who might have some availability in the
weeks to come.
Use the dashboard to give you a graph of quality
issues per month, or another measure of your choice to help you manage quality.
The great thing about configurable
dashboards is that as long as you have the data in your project management
tool, you can get it out and into a widget to display on your dashboard.
- Project Management Metrics, KPIs, and Dashboards: A Guide to Measuring and Monitoring Project Performance 3rd Edition, Harold Kerzner
- Balanced Scorecards and Operational Dashboards with Microsoft Excel 2nd Edition, Ron Person
How to Make a Project Dashboard
You can make a project management dashboard
manually in Excel or PowerPoint but I wouldn’t recommend it. I have been down
this route and maintaining the data is so time-consuming. Realistically, you
aren’t going to maintain a dashboard manually more than once a month, so as
soon as you’ve created it, the data is out of date.
Plus, it’s a total waste of your time as
you already have the data in a presentable format within the project management
tools you already use. Learn how to use your existing software to do the
dashboard creation and maintenance for you!
Go into your project software and configure
the widgets to show you the measures that are important on this project.
You can have a bespoke dashboard per
project depending on what is important for that work. You can start from a
template, or an example project dashboard from another project, but don’t feel
that all your dashboards have to look and work the same way. Tailor them for
how you are running the project.
5 Tips to Make Your Status Dashboard Easy to Use
Whatever data points you include, you want
your dashboard to be easy to use. Here are some tips for that.
1. Choose the right tool
As I’ve mentioned, I prefer using a
software tool to do the data manipulation and presentation. Choose a product
like BVDash that has strong dashboard capabilities. You’ll save so much time if
you are using tools designed to present information in a clear and concise way.
2. Make it intuitive
Make it easy to see what you are looking
at. Don’t try to squash too many variables into a graph. If necessary, split
your measures in two so that you’ve got enough white space on the screen to
make it easy on the eye.
The project management status dashboard has
to make logical and intuitive sense. If you see a box labelled Budget it should
have some financial information inside! You want it to be easy to use and have
a low learning curve. Remember, it won’t only be you looking at it –
stakeholders and your sponsor need to be able to understand what they are seeing
at a glance.
3. Use real time data
If you are pulling information from your
underlying software tool, your data will be real time. However, make sure your
team know that’s happening and are in the habit of updating the system.
4. Make it shareable
As a project manager, for me the point of a
dashboard is to be able to easily spot performance issues on the project and
find out what is causing them.
But dashboards are also useful tools for
communication. Share the dashboard with your team to help them understand
current progress and manage their own work. Create an executive project
management dashboard to share with your sponsor so they can have confidence the
project is progressing as it should.
Dashboards improve project communication. Share them and help your team work more effectively together.
5. Customise the content
Finally, customise the content. Out of the box
dashboards that can’t be configured are basically no use to anyone. You might
not need a widget on portfolio performance but you want two on quality. When
you can tailor the dashboard, you get what you need to manage the work.
Project Dashboard Examples
What should the end result look like? Here
are some examples that you can use as project dashboard templates for your own
work. Be inspired by these layouts and build something in your tool to give you
a similar result.
Using Dashboards to Support Project Status Reporting
Have you realised what the dashboard
widgets can tell you, beyond helping you manage the project?
All the data points included on a dashboard
are things you should be including in project status reporting.
Another benefit of dashboards is that they
are a one-stop-shop for pulling the key information for your project reports. Use
the information from today’s dashboard to populate your status reports and save
yourself a job of having to look up each data point individually.
Project Management Office Dashboards
You can also use dashboards to give you a
view of multiple projects at once. A project portfolio dashboard would be a
good solution for a PMO, as it can show you the status on multiple projects at
the same time.
A PMO dashboard rolls up the status of
projects so that you can see a holistic view of what is happening in the business
at any given moment. You can tailor the dashboard so it presents what execs are
most interested in hearing about.
dashboards provide an “at-a-glance” view of what is happening on a project.
software like BVDash to give you real time information about the project.
your dashboard by choosing to display the metrics that give you data useful for
your project and how you manage it.
- The easier
they are to create and use, the more valuable they are as communication tools
for you and the team.
BVDash is project management software that can be used by any project team to deliver results. A user-friendly solution that can be customised based on your needs, it includes powerful dashboards to give you a birds-eye view of your projects in real time.
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