Does Your Executive Dashboard Give You the Big Picture?

I really like the common expression “You can’t see the forest for the trees” which means you are too busy looking at the details so you don’t see the big picture. Alternatively, one could say “If you want to know about water, don’t ask a fish”.

The thing here is to stop wasting time on irrelevant details. For instance, the bounce rate always triggers useless discussions in meetings. While the bounce rate might be really useful within some context, it has to be manipulated carefully by experimented hands.


Because the bounce rate is a detail in most cases. I’ve seen managers who should be more preoccupied by revenues wasting hours arguing on the bloody bounce rate. Indeed, a 80% bounce rate is freaking, right?

The point here is that anyone in charge of a project should look at the big picture. Digging into details is the analyst’s job. Not the manager’s.

So how do you clear your executive dashboard of irrelevant details? Avinash Kaushik once wrote a post about the “So what test” which is really helpful and pretty simple: A KPI has to still be relevant after three “so what”.

For example:
- The bounce rate is up by 10% this month
- So what?
- So it tells me that visitors are more numerous to leave the website without any interaction
- So what?
- We should redesign the home page
- So what?
- So the visitors keep visiting the website… I guess?

As you can see, this not helpful at all. What do we do and why should we do it?

A good KPI should lead to action. To valuable and precise action. Remember that money and efforts are put into this action. So a poor KPI might have bad consequences down the road.

Photo credit
Stéphane has been working on business Web projects for more than 15 years. He has a computer science degree and a MBA specialized in e-commerce from Laval University in Quebec City. That also explains why his writing can sound weird: He is a French Canadian!

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