Create a killer project dashboard

Written on February 09, 2018

Project dashboards are lifesavers. From weekly project status reports and stakeholder updates to real-time project monitoring, dashboards quickly show you everything you need to know in an easily digestible way. They keep project management proactive and help you effortlessly manage several projects at once. We explain how to create a killer project dashboard without fiddling around with confusing segmentation rules.

Project dashboard benefits

A project dashboard is your project panopticon; you can immediately see everything that’s going on. And so can everyone else – by visualizing your key stats in a standardized way, everyone accesses the most important project information quickly and easily.

Project dashboards can be as high-level or detailed as you like. The most important thing is that they provide you with the crucial information to keep your project on-track and all key stakeholders satisfied. Although they’re great for regular reporting, they’re also an essential tool for proactively responding to risks. You can see if the team is sticking to priorities, if you're working to-budget and if there are any issues in your workflow.

It’s all about simplicity and speed: with all the key stats arranged for you, reporting is reduced to minutes. There’s no need to hunt for information and spend ages pulling it into a template and managers can stay informed of project trajectory without getting involved. Everyone's happy.

What to track on your project dashboard

Whilst different projects may require you to track specific parameters, pretty much all of the following are essential for any effective project dashboard:

  • Budget: you need to know exactly how much of your project budget you’ve used and what’s remaining at all times. Of all the stats, this one has to be completely accurate.

  • Hours: how many hours have you spent on the overall project? This is obviously a no-brainer if you bill by the hour, but is also useful in terms of predicting future project estimates.

  • Project tasks: what are they? How long do they take? How much are you spending on each? By knowing what work your project actually involves, you can structure the most cost- and time-efficient project plan.

  • Employees: who’s on the team? What project tasks are they working on? How many hours do they spend on each? Who’s close to burnout? Who hasn’t billed for project work? Understanding the capacity of your team and how they are working together helps you ensure fair workload and resource distribution for effective teamwork.

  • Total unbilled work: to cost a project accurately, you need to know all the overhead and unbillable work that goes into it.

  • Critical actions: has someone billed an unusually high amount of hours on your project? How close are you to going over-budget? Your project dashboard should enable you to work proactively to solve potential threats before they become expensive problems.

How to create a project dashboard

To create a project dashboard, you essentially have two options: do it manually or use an automatic tool.

Manual project dashboards

You can create project dashboards from scratch with the right technical know-how or use one of the pre-made templates floating around the internet. You might want to do this when your project data is spread across several documents and spreadsheets, but it does require a lot of effort and Excel proficiency. People often just lean on manual spreadsheet creation because they’re not familiar with alternative project tracking tools or they don’t feel small projects warrant investing in them.

Sadly, manual project dashboards can be highly inaccurate and inefficient. There’s massive opportunity for introducing error just by overlooking certain data pools or by configuring a command the wrong way. They’re also a massive drain on resources, since they take a lot of time to create and adjust whenever new data sources are integrated.

Automatic project dashboards

Automatic project dashboards make tremendous sense if you want to just focus on your project work. All the hard work is done for you, so you don’t have to configure anything. Just choose your project tracking tool and go!

Automatic project dashboards offer the most honest diagnosis of project health, since every action is tracked in one place and no data is ever lost or forgotten. They make the case that you shouldn’t have to spend tons of unbillable time just to understand the basics of a project’s performance.

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