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Leadership & Team Management
How To Set Up A Project Management Dashboard The Right Way

Project managers are a rare breed. When the U.S. federal government sat down to simply describe the duties of a project manager, the document turned into a 188-page book

Learning how to set up a project management dashboard is one of those challenges, but it's totally worth doing. The time, effort, and money you can save by automating your data management can pay off when you're managing multiple projects.

At DPM, we're all about helping you succeed in project management. In this article, I’ll look over some dashboard templates you can use, and then cover a simple four-step method for building one of your own.

By the end, you should have a tool that improves your time management, cash availability, and overall efficiency as a project manager.

I’ll cover:

What Is A Project Management Dashboard?

A project management dashboard is a digital tool that shows how your projects are going. Ideally, it is simple, clear, and easy to read. It should also provide real-time updates on overall project progress and the progress of each project component. 

The most useful project dashboards are dynamic tools that allow analysis of current projects, along with completed and canceled projects for future analytics.

Depending on how you set up your project management templates, you can display a lot of information for quick reference. You could, for example, set up a project management dashboard to show current tasks with time tracking and estimated timelines. 

You can also see:

  • Timelines with names of team members and milestone markers
  • Current and projected costs of various tasks
  • Current status of tasks and the critical path for each
  • Detailed client requirements and a list of deliverables

Your dashboard should also be a portal to other project management apps that give you a more detailed look at task screens and timelines. Drilling down, you should be able to analyze costs, milestones, and client-side deliverables. Messaging and calendar components help keep the team connected and everybody up to speed on how things are going.

7 Key Types Of Project Management Dashboards

Project management dashboards help you make use of data. The dashboard template you wind up choosing for your project depends on what you need to see and how you'd like to manage the data from your front page.

While there's a lot of variety in how to design a project dashboard, some templates are especially popular because they answer specific needs or allow you to manage multiple projects at once:

1. Revenue and Customer Display

Revenue and customer displays show the total revenue of a project or business, along with a breakdown of how each customer adds to it. 

From this dashboard, you can see the average revenue per customer, the number of customers you've recently attracted, and how much each new customer costs to recruit. It's especially useful for planning a marketing push, so you know how much to invest to attract new customers.

2. Customer Satisfaction

A customer satisfaction dashboard tracks how your customers feel about your service, along with how likely they are to remain customers. It's a good place to manage the results of market research and customer surveys.

This dashboard shows retention and repeat business rates as well as how likely a customer is to recommend you to others.

3. Sales Performance

Sales performance dashboards track sales and show how much bang you're getting for the buck in your marketing efforts. By showing detailed financial data in a simple, easily understood format, this project dashboard helps you monitor the lifetime value of customers, customer acquisition costs, and sales growth.

4. Cash Management

Financial managers use cash management dashboards to keep an eye on cash flow. This dashboard can track a rolling cash balance on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual basis to monitor short- to long-term trends. You can choose to have the stats displayed as a graphic that makes more intuitive sense than tables of numbers.

5. Recruitment and Hiring

Projects that involve expanding your workforce require good feedback and analytics to enable you to put your resources where they can do the most good.

A hiring dashboard shows you the money you've spent on recruiting and the number of new hires you've brought onboard. You can also monitor long-term trends, such as retention stats and career contributions.

6. Web Analytics

If you're managing a social media campaign or web presence, this analytics tool shows your page views, detail expands, bounce rate, and goal conversion.

You can drill down from the high-level information to develop a detailed view of where your web visitors come from, how long they stay, and how they navigate your pages.

7. Procurement

Procurement dashboards track the number and activities of widget suppliers, so you can assess your risk profile and develop contingency plans for when something goes wrong in the widget supply chain.

This dashboard template uses a status ranking system to assign suppliers to tiers for price, reliability, and communication.

How To Set Up A Project Management Dashboard

Effectively using project management software is the most important thing you can do to ensure the success of your projects. By efficiently managing data and drawing accurate conclusions, you can push tasks through to completion on time and within their scope.

While you have a lot of flexibility in how you design your specific project, managing projects of all kinds is generally a four-step process.

1. Collect Data

Good data is the heart of your project plan. Getting good data about click and bounce rates, revenue and expenses, and progress toward milestones makes all the difference in how useful your finished project is.

2. Set Metrics

Decide early on how to measure success. Set informative metrics that help you understand what's going on. You might, for example, decide to monitor a budget monthly, quarterly, or over some other time period. How you decide to display relevant data determines how useful a dashboard can be as a management tool.

3. Design Interface

After you have a set of parameters you want to monitor, it's time to decide what the most efficient layout should be.

Does your data come across more clearly as a pie chart or a bar graph? Will other team members be able to understand your graphic interface as well as you do? You should be able to click and drag individual elements into your dashboard as easily as moving boxes around with your mouse.

4. Assemble Dashboard Elements

The last step to building your project management dashboard template is to assemble the elements into a coherent pattern. The elements should be informative, engaging, and cognizable at a glance. Don't be afraid to rearrange the elements as you need them to get a better read on your metrics.

Benefits Of Project Management Dashboards

There's a lot to be gained from setting up and using project management templates. Well-designed project apps let you:

  • Improve project coordination: Managers frequently use dashboards to coordinate with project team members and improve communication. This cuts down on uncertainty and helps reduce errors caused by miscommunication.
  • Speed up decision making: Make decisions faster with a clear, dynamic data tool at your fingertips. A well-designed dashboard lets you pull together data and human resources to develop solutions faster than almost any other tool for project management.
  • Create insight: Look over key performance indicators and relevant metrics data at a glance. Use the information you have to gain insight into how projects develop and the quality of your results.
  • Scale easily: Take a small project up to a big one easily. Use a project management dashboard to go from hiring a handful of employees to raising whole divisions, or from a limited social media presence into a digital marketing juggernaut.
  • Save resources and money: The time and effort saved with a simple and intuitive chart translates into money saved and projects delivered on time.

Project Management Dashboard Software

While project management dashboards can all look very different, they all aim to make your job easier. It’s also important to note that dashboards and software are pretty much the same thing.

Most software contains a dashboard and most dashboards are a part of software. You can also get specific project management dashboard software—check out our list of the best options here!

Project management is a big job, and you need the best tools available to succeed. Sometimes you can get by with an Excel dashboard or by spinning something up in Google Sheets, but specialized software makes the job much easier. 

Have a look at some of the ways dashboards can help you get your next project off the ground with our reviews of the best project portfolio management software and enterprise project management software for professionals. 

Get Started Using a Project Management Dashboard

Now that you're in the know about what project management dashboards are and how great they can be to work with, you're probably eager to get set up for your next project. Learn more about dashboard templates by subscribing to The Digital Project Manager’s newsletter, and never miss out on the tools you need to succeed.

By Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of thedpm.com. I've been in the industry for more than 15 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

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