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  • Writer's pictureMichael Dunphy

Gathering Requirements for a Dashboard


Photo by Stephen Dawson on Unsplash

One thing that that comes with working in the field of data, is getting the hang of answering questions with data. What were the sales last month compared to the previous month? Why did this webpage get increased web traffic last year? How many users joined the site in the first quarter? A data analyst succeeds in any organization whether it is in healthcare, finance, education, you name it, by having the ability to answer questions from stakeholders. However, just as important as answering questions, a good data analyst must also be able to ask the right questions.


At the start of any data project is the requirements gathering stage, basically figuring out what the stakeholder needs. Having a clearly defined list of requirements can save you lots of headaches down the road as you go further into the development process and ensures you are meeting the demands of those who will be using the analysis you produce.


In this post, I outline the types of questions to ask when meeting with stakeholders to ensure project criteria is outlined and thoroughly understood among both parties. These questions are tailored more towards developing a dashboard, but can be applied to other types of data projects as well.


Question types are based on the types of requirements needed to be defined. I find that there tends to be seven groups of questions focused on understanding the concepts below:

  • Goals

  • Audience

  • Key Insights

  • Metrics, Visuals, and Slices

  • Data

  • Design Considerations

  • Planning

Let’s go through each of these sections to see why each concept is vital for a successful dashboard along with some examples of questions to ask at each stage of the meeting with the stakeholder(s).


Goals

This should be the first set of questions to ask a stakeholder to understand the broader context of the dashboard and how it will be used. This is the big picture on why this dashboard is important. The goal of any dashboard or report is to either build or add to a current workflow within the organization.

Questions to consider:

  • What is the goal of this dashboard?

  • How will this dashboard be used?

  • What needs is this dashboard addressing?


Audience

Considerations should be made to the types of users of the dashboard. Identifying user personas will provide greater insight into how the dashboard will be used and what users prioritize. The stakeholder(s) should be able to answer this statement: As a _____, I want to see _____, so that _____.

Questions to consider:

  • Who will be using this dashboard?

  • Are users more technical or non-technical?

  • Can users be categorized into different personas? If so, what personas are there?

  • Can you finish the following sentence: As a ____, I want to see ____, so that ____.


Key Insights

Likely the most important section during a meeting with a stakeholder is understanding the insights they wish to gain from the dashboard. These questions look to turn each of the goals discussed in the first section into actionable insights to tailor the dashboard for those particular use cases.

Questions to consider for each goal discussed in the first section:

  • What questions are you trying to answer?

  • Why are these questions important?

  • What actions can be taken based on the answers to these questions?

  • What questions can be grouped for better organization within the dashboard?


Metrics, Visuals & Slices

This section is designed to have the most granular of questions now with the understanding of the goals, users, and insights gained from this dashboard. The stakeholder may not have all of the answers to these types of questions and may need guidance on what they are looking for based on what was discussed in the previous sections.

Questions to consider for each insight or question to be addressed from the previous section:

  • What metrics and/or interactions with metrics are needed to answer the question at hand?

  • What visuals should be included, and measuring what?

  • Are there any specific KPIs or interactions with KPIs that should be included?

  • What views or filters on data are needed?

  • How will the data be subset?


Data

This set of questions focuses on understanding where the data is located and how it can be accessed for the relevant metrics and slices discussed in the previous section. Metrics include any KPIs that should be tracked and slices include any filters to subset the data.

Questions to consider for each metric/slice discussed in the previous section:

  • Where is the data coming from?

  • How can the data be accessed?

  • Do data sources need to be blended together? If so, how?

  • How often will the dashboard and the data be refreshed?

  • Who should be involved in data collection and data wrangling?


Design Considerations

Now that the purposes and components of the dashboard are understood, design preferences should be discussed.

Questions to consider:

  • How will this dashboard be viewed? (i.e. mobile, desktop, both)

  • Is there a previous version or other dashboard examples to draw inspiration from?

  • Will a crosstab of the data need to be available to be exported? Will other options to export the dashboard be required? (i.e. PNG, PDF, PPT)

  • Is there a logo needed to be included in the dashboard? If so, where?

  • Is there a specific color palette to adhere to?

  • Is there a preference on the dimensions of the dashboard?

    • 1600 x 900 (Powerpoint/Slides)

    • 850 x 1100 (Letter portrait)

    • 1100 x 850 (Letter landscape)

    • 1244 x 750 (still 16x9, but fits better on most laptops)


Planning

The last set of questions should focus on the planning stage of the project, identifying key deadlines as well as dashboard feature priorities. It should be understood what an MVP looks like and who should be informed or consulted with at each stage of the development process.

Questions to consider:

  • When is this dashboard needed by?

  • Which features should be prioritized for an MVP?

  • Who should be informed or consulted with at each stage of the development process?


Checklist

After a meeting with the stakeholder, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Who will be using this dashboard?

  • What questions are trying to be answered?

  • Why are these questions important?

  • Where is this data coming from?

  • How will this dashboard be viewed?

  • When is this dashboard needed by?


Wrap-up

I hope these questions help you when meeting with stakeholders in the future to ensure that you have all you need for to create a successful dashboard that leads to greater insights and ultimately better decisions within the organization!



By Michael Dunphy

Published Jul. 10, 2023


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