The bloat cycle

I’ve spent a lot of time working on business dashboards over the past few years. And every dashboard has gone through the bloat cycle: start small and elegant, get a new metric bolted on every time a senior exec asks a question which the current version doesn’t answer, and eventually become so long and illegible that everyone, especially the person producing it, hates the dashboard and wants it to die. The final death knell is usually when you realise that a calculation has been badly broken for some time (3000% year on year growth? Really?) and nobody has noticed because nobody is actually reading the whole thing.

In the end, the people who look at the daily numbers basically want to know a couple of things:

  1. On the whole, is business performance great/good/OK/poor? (ie what’s the trend?)
  2. Is there anything I should be tackling right now? (i.e. what are the outliers?)

Lots of very expensive executive brain cycles get wasted trying to get from what’s on the dashboard to what’s the crude answer to those questions.

I’m pretty sure we could build a very concise and beautiful-looking magic dashboard that just answers those two questions and suppresses the rest. Wouldn’t that be great? The part I’m still trying to work out is how you build enough trust and understanding so that the readers don’t get unnerved by the conciseness and insist on staying with bloatboards.

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One Comment on “The bloat cycle”

  1. […] which tell you nothing useful about the performance of your business area, and which just create dashboard bloat. If nobody uses the number to make decisions, then it isn’t a KPI – it’s just […]


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