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Imagine this—your project sponsor wants to understand how your project is progressing but has no patience to peruse the many project management tools you’re diligently maintaining (budget, schedule, project plan, etc.) They need to understand the big picture but don’t have to worry about the day-to-day details. Sound familiar?

That’s where a project management dashboard can come in handy—to visualize high-level data on the health of your project.

Although setting up a project management dashboard can seem daunting, the time, effort, and money saved by establishing, tracking, and visualizing project data pays off, especially when you’re managing a portfolio of multiple projects.

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 data on project progress.

The most useful project dashboards are dynamic data visualization tools that analyze project health and forecast future performance.

For example, you can use dashboards to visualize:

  • Project timelines, including milestones and the critical path (a Gantt chart view is useful here)
  • Current and projected costs
  • Current status of project tasks, including any blockers or dependencies
  • Any other key performance indicators (KPIs) that your team members are using to assess project health.

Your dashboard should also offer integrations with any related project management apps so that stakeholders can review more detailed information about project status, if they want to.

How To Create A Project Management Dashboard

While you have a lot of flexibility in how you design your project management dashboard based on specific project needs, you can boil down the process into five steps.

1. Set Metrics

Decide early how to measure success—ideally in the project planning phase. You should set key metrics that will help you track what’s going on with your project

Part of your calculus in setting metrics should include how easy they are to track. You don’t want to set metrics that are inordinately time-consuming to collect or that won’t yield meaningful results when you do so. You also want to avoid collecting too many metrics—you’ll miss the forest for the trees.

In a recent episode of The DPM podcast, Galen discussed this with Frances Odera Matthews. To determine which metrics you need, ask yourself some questions:

What would a perfect project dashboard look like for us? Do we want to see tasks…meetings…client information? Do we want to have space for files?

 

..There is a deep art form to database building, but ultimately you want to get the database and database template bit right. And then from there you can build your views. And then once that’s done, you can just plug and play your dream dashboards.

photo of Frances Odera Matthews
Frances Odera MatthewsOpens new window

Founder @ The Notion Bar

2. 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 can have a positive impact on the success of your project.

For example, say your organization decides that it requires a 60% employee adoption rate for a new technology implementation project to be successful. As the project progresses, you can track performance against this goal and adjust your approach accordingly if you see that your project is not on track.

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3. Design Interface

After you have a set of parameters you want to monitor, it’s time to determine the most efficient layout for your dashboard.

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?

Make sure to use a consistent scale across your charts and define the legend you are using in any graphs.

4. Assemble Dashboard Elements

The last step to building your project management dashboard is to assemble the elements into a coherent pattern. The elements should be informative, engaging, and cognizable at a glance.

To make the dashboard responsive to stakeholder feedback, you should be able to click and drag individual elements as easily as moving boxes around with your mouse. Don’t be afraid to rearrange the elements as you need them to get a better read on project performance.

5. Monitor Project Health

Once you’ve designed your dashboard to deliver business intelligence, make sure it is accessible to stakeholders. Dashboards are important project management tools that you should be using regularly for project tracking and messaging to stakeholders.

7 Key Components of Project Management Dashboards

Project management dashboards are, by nature, highly customizable. The data that you choose to include depends on:

  • Project or portfolio size and complexity
  • Goals and objectives identified in your project plan
  • Stakeholder preferences
  • Any other insights that you as the project manager wish to convey.

Here are a few popular components of project management dashboards that you could consider including:

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. 

Using this view, 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. This dashboard component is especially useful when planning a marketing push, so you know how much to invest to attract new customers.

2. Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction dashboard components track how your customers feel about your service, along with how likely they are to remain customers. It’s a good place to report on the results of market research and customer surveys. 

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

3. Sales Performance

By showing detailed financial data in a simple, easily understood format, sales performance views help you monitor the lifetime value of customers, customer acquisition costs, and sales growth. You can also use this information to understand the impact of your marketing efforts on product sales.

4. Cash Management

Financial managers use cash management data to keep an eye on cash flow. This dashboard component 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, rather than in a table, to increase visual appeal.

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. 

Including hiring data on your project dashboard shows you the money you’ve spent on recruiting and the number of new hires you’ve onboarded. You can also monitor long-term trends, such as retention stats and billable hours.

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 data tracks the number and cost of various suppliers, so you can assess your risk profile and develop contingency plans for when something goes wrong in the supply chain. 

This dashboard component uses a status ranking system to group suppliers based on price, reliability, and communication.

Examples of Project Management Dashboards

Project dashboards vary widely depending on the specific project needs and the stakeholders involved. Here are some examples to inspire you for your own projects!

The first example is a Google Analytics dashboard for a website project. It includes information on site usage, traffic sources, and which site pages attract the most visitors.

screenshot of project management dashboard in google analytics
Web analytics dashboard example; source: Creative Commons.

The second example dashboard reports on the status of the project tasks themselves, rather than metrics specific to the project scope. In this view, stakeholders can see the number of tasks by status and a view of incomplete tasks by project phase.

screenshot of project management dashboard in asana
An example of a task tracking dashboard in Asana.

Benefits of Project Management Dashboards

There’s a lot to be gained from setting up and using project management dashboards. Well-designed dashboards offer several benefits:

  • Improved project coordination: Project managers frequently use dashboards to coordinate with project team members on task status and streamline communication. This cuts down on uncertainty and helps reduce errors caused by miscommunication.
  • Faster decision making: Make decisions faster with a clear, dynamic data tool at your fingertips. Aggregating key project metrics in one location in a user-friendly format reduces bottlenecks and lets you develop solutions to project problems more quickly.
  • More detailed project insights: Look over KPIs and relevant metrics data at a glance. Use available project information to gain insight into how projects develop and the quality of your results.
  • Enhanced scalability: Take a small project up to a big one easily. Use a project management dashboard to go from hiring a handful of employees to managing resource allocation across divisions or by expanding a limited social media presence into a digital marketing juggernaut.
  • More efficient use of available resources: The time and effort saved with a simple and intuitive chart translates into money saved and projects delivered on time.

Top Dashboard Tools You Can Use

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

For specific project management dashboard software, check out our list of the best options here.

Get Started Using a Project Management Dashboard

Now that you’re in the know about what project management dashboards are and how they lead to successful projects, you’re probably eager to get set up for your next initiative.

Learn more by signing up for DPM membership and joining the conversation in Slack with 100s of other digital project managers.

Sarah M. Hoban
By Sarah M. Hoban

Sarah is a project manager and strategy consultant with 15 years of experience leading cross-functional teams to execute complex multi-million dollar projects. She excels at diagnosing, prioritizing, and solving organizational challenges and cultivating strong relationships to improve how teams do business. Sarah is passionate about productivity, leadership, building community, and her home state of New Jersey.