Imagine driving your car without a dashboard. Or flying a plane without it.
Now look at the project you manage. What does your project dashboard show you? Does it give you info and data to know if the project is on track; milestones are achieved on time; costs are under control? Which colours of the traffic lights dominate? Perhaps, it looks like this (for a bit of amusement):
Many project management programmes/softwares have built-in dashboard functions. A click here, a click there – and you and the project’s sponsor have it all on one page and/or on the screen. Nice and neat.
If you do not have AI to do it for you, use excel to create a project dashboard. It can serve as a monitoring, communication and reporting tool. It will show the up-to-date status of the project and you can take it out of your sleeve anytime needed for a meeting or report. You can even turn some of the data into a nice infographic and place it on the website of the project/the intranet page. This can be very handy as not all sponsors’ (and even project managers) enjoy reading a Gantt chart.
To build a dashboard, determine which data is essential. In development management projects, this data comes from the donor’s reporting requirements and/or project board needs. In internal projects, the requirements for a Project Status Report serve well that purpose. Checking with the project’s sponsor what essential info they need on the project helps as well.
The following elements are for illustrative purposes and need to be adapted to each project:
- the list of milestones to be completed since the last report and their current status (on time or delayed);
- the list of milestones due in the next reporting period;
- commitment of resources;
- costs to date compared to budget;
- number of beneficiaries reached/trained;
- number of deliverables produced;
- days to go live;
- any necessary disaggregated data (by gender, regions, products, departments, for example).
I also found the following tips for dashboard’s design helpful:
- choose 2-3 colours;
- follow minimalism rather than art nouveau in visuals;
- keep it on one page;
- make sure everything is readable (avoid small print);
- if it is necessary to be descriptive, accompany the dashboard with a project status report.