Focus on Priorities with Desktop Dashboards

“A list of 90 Key Performance Indicators is a contradiction in terms.” insists Allan Wille, long-time Dashboard Spy contributor and President/CEO of Serence, the desktop dashboard company. He went on to explain that today’s business users are hard pressed to monitor what really matters (business progress) in a world where the most precious commodity seems to be attention. How can you even monitor 90 things, much less consider them each “key”?

Allan has just finished a nice write up that features sneak peeks at the desktops of different business users across an enterprise. As Allan explains about this fascinating study:

Here is another little article that I thought might make a cool discussion – before and after shots of user’s desktops around the idea of what they really should be paying attention to.

Here is Allan’s excellent article for you Dashboard Spy readers:

Are you focused on your priorities?

Allan Wille, Serence Inc.,
August 8, 2008

You have regular meetings to discuss performance. Every quarter, there’s a bigger meeting where the organization looks at its successes and failures and reevaluates its priorities.

How is progess measured between meetings? Maybe there’s a spreadsheet that you update when you have time or there are complex reports from an enterprise resource planning system. Do you look at them? Does it matter?

If the answer is yes, you belong to a select group of people that can overcome daily distrations to stay focused on the big picture. It’s too bad you spend so much time digging and analysing. In the time that remains you’re an informed and effective contributer to organizational goals.

But if you’re like the rest of us with competing demands that make focusing on KPIs difficult or impossible, this article is for you.

Obvious Priorities

Here is a snap shot of NORAD. Even if you don’t know what NORAD does, you can make an educated guess based on the image. This is because NORAD’s priorities, the USA, the former USSR, and the space between the two, are right in front of everyone. If something changes it would be difficult to miss.

Norad Dashboard Screens

Click to read the rest of this article:

Alternatively, here is a picture of a German emergency response center. Like NORAD, in this business saving time saves lives. It’s easy to see that the operator can keep a close eye on the railways and highways that matter to her job performance.

Dashboard-like view at a German Emergency Response Center

With that in mind, let’s compare the screens used by marketing, media, and IT professionals. Like you, their job performance, and the overall performance of their organizations, is measured against previously agreed-upon success metrics.

The CEO’s Desktop

This executive owns an advertising firm with a variety of household names on his client list. It’s easy to guess at key performance metrics that might keep him up at night: progress against revenue targets and renewal rates for existing clients come to mind.

Desktop of an ad agency ceo

Judging by the 90 icons on his desktop, he wants quick access to a lot of information. Even if his key performance information is just a click away behind one of these icons, there’s now only a 1 in 90 chance of that icon being the one that captures his attention. Add ringing phones, email alerts, and people coming in and out of his office to that mix, and it doesn’t get any better.

How about the VP of Marketing?

Instead of basing decisions on anecdotal evidence and individual opinions like “I really like beige”, modern marketers have a lot performance metrics and analytics options.

As the VP Marketing for a business intelligence software startup, you might expect this guy’s desktop to stream web analytics information like web visitors, program spending, marketing-generated sales pipeline, marketing ROI, qualified-leads and lots of others.

Desktop of a VP of Marketing at a Business Intelligence Software Startup Company

Instead, there are about 50 icons – half the number appearing on the CEO’s desktop. But no performance metrics.

Let’s Look at a Mid-Level Manager

Elsewhere on the org chart we find a Manager at a media buying agency. Judging by her desktop, she’s either highly organized, or most of her work takes place in person or on the phone. Despite that, it’s safe to assume that she needs to stay on top of program spending for different clients using different media channels as well as tracking the results. She’d probably appreciate having those figures right in front of her when a client calls with questions.

PC Desktop of a mid-level Manager

There are only 9 icons on this desktop though there are 20 more shortcuts appearing on the dock at the bottom of her screen. From 90 icons for C-level management, to 50 for the VP and 30 for managers, this tiny sample of desktops suggests that the higher you are on the corporate ladder, the more issues you have to monitor. Alternatively, it implies that senior mangers aren’t very good filers, which seems unlikely. Regardless of the reason no can see their performance metrics at a glance.

Are Technical People Different?

Here’s an IT Manager’s desktop. He manages the servers, email, work stations, and service desk tickets for a federal government agency.

The performance metrics you’d expect him to be concerned with include server states, bandwidth usage, virus alerts, and help desk tickets. With the productivity of all the information workers at the agency under his care, he could really benefit from having network performance information on his desktop.

PC Desktop from an IT manager at a federal agency

Performance: From Theory to Execution

Exceed the limits of your attention span and the quality of your work is bound to be affected. The beauty of metrics-based performance management is that your organization identifies a short list of KPIs that fits within your attention span. A list of 90, 50 or 30 key performance indicators is a contradiction in terms. Long before you get to 30 discrete measures, they’re no longer “key”. Big league baseball does its best to contradict this idea by reporting more player performance statistics than you can swing a maple bat at.

KPIs are not new thinking. They have been recognized for more than a decade in most board rooms. But they often stay in the board room until the next meeting. That’s where desktop dashboards like Klipfolio come in.

Unavoidably on your Desktop

Look at how Klipfolio, the desktop dashboard for business, changes two of our examples: the VP Marketing and the IT Manager.

Web Analytics

If the VP Marketing monitors web-based KPIs, here’s a Klipfolio web marketing dashboard for him. Marketing KPIs such as sales leads, top keywords, and web traffic come straight out of Google Analytics to his desktop. The VP can mouse over any metric for more info and then drill down into it with just a click. He can dock the dashboard across the top of his screen, down either side, along the bottom, or leave it floating, and still have lots of real estate for his other icons or applications.

Klipfolio Dashboard Google Analytics

Service Desk

Here’s a Klipfolio Enterprise service desk dashboard added to the IT Manager’s desktop. It tracks various departmental KPIs: device states, open help tickets, and many more. With these KPIs on his desktop, the IT Manager has still has plenty of real estate for his 50 icons – though he may no longer need them. Unlike using a browser-based dashboard, if he launches another application, a spreadsheet, email, or anything else, the Klipfolio dashboard is still visible.

Klipfolio Desktop Dashboard for Helpdesk

Helpdesk: Few teams in the enterprise suffer from more real-time urgency than the service desk which makes the need for an effective help desk dashboard more acute.

Allan Wille is President & CEO at Serence, an Ottawa enterprise dashboard software vendor that helps accelerate business decision-making through real-time awareness of key performance metrics. He can be reached at

Tags: Desktop Dashboards, Serence Dashboards, Desktop Dashboard, Dashboard Widget

3 thoughts on “Focus on Priorities with Desktop Dashboards

  1. Very good.

    I like Klipfolio for that very reason.

    If it were down to me, everybody would have their very own KPIs embedded into their desktop.

    I’d even consider buying them widescreens so that they could always be docked on the right, always on top without taking away excessive screen estate.

    When somebody’s personal performance is THAT visible, they WILL focus on hitting those targets.

    Only requirement is to ensure no key targets are not displayed as those would immediately got ignored.

  2. I know these guys but the first time I added Google Analytics data to my desktop with this dashboard I was blown away.

    As a writer, having the hot keywords available at a glance is really valuable.

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