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The success or failure of a dashboard is closely linked to data visualization: Focus on users and their tasks, and you're likely to succeed; focus purely on data visualization, and you'll fail.

That's because tailoring your dashboard to user needs transforms ideas into action, and data visualization into visual management support.

So what specific measures can you take to ensure such success?

Consider the following three questions and then take the action steps described if the answers to them are "no."

1. Is the provided information relevant to users, and do they have the tools to influence them?

Consider your daily commute to work. If you driving, you use the most popular dashboard of all—the car's dashboard. Thankfully (for purposes of this article), that dashboard is a perfect example of a badly designed one—because designers were primarily concerned with pure data visualization.

Now consider your commute home from work. You can compare that journey to reaching your organization's goals. You want to achieve your goal quickly and in a cost-effective way (effectiveness and efficiency). You are a considerate driver, you observe the rules of the road, and you try to minimize the risk of errors. To reach your goal successfully, you need data related to your goal and your driving habits.

Now let's take a closer look at your car's dashboard (figure 1). From left to right there is a display for engine temperature, RPM, current speed, fuel level, and, below the tachometer, the total number of miles driven over the life of your car.

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image of Alexander Skorka

Alexander Skorka is COO of Dapresy, a global provider of market intelligence and insight software to marketers.

LinkedIn: Alexander Skorka