Best Practices for Creating Useful Dashboards

Finding the Data That Builds Metrics

OK so now you know a few really important things:

  • Who – you know what roles you will be dealing with and at this point, you know which person or department in your organization will be playing that role.  Which means you know who you need to speak to (in the event that it isn’t you).
  • What –  what metrics you will be calculating and how those metrics will be calculated

Now you have to find the data that will calculate those metrics.

Finding the data that you need to use to create the metrics you are trying to measure could potentially be the hardest part of this whole process.  If your data is architectured properly, and you understand that architecture, you should have no problem finding the correct fields, measures and dimensions, or columns and rows, that you need to calculate any metric.  If not, you will need to now conduct an interview of the Data Gatekeeper (DG). You will likely need to schedule some time with the Data Team.

I’d highly recommend coming to this meeting prepared; know exactly what you will be asking for.  Using the spreadsheet you created in an earlier lesson, the one that you outlined the metrics that need to be presented on this dashboard, you can now add new columns for a few important pieces of information for calculating and presenting the metrics.  

For each metric, you will need to know what table and column of what database contains the data for that metric.

You can go about this part in a few ways, two of which are discussing with the Business Owner (BO) the exact metrics they are looking for and then asking the DG.  Or you can request a map or chart of the database’s schema from the Gatekeeper and use that information in calculating the metrics and building the SQL queries. What kind of permissions you have to the database, and the DG’s level of trust in you will determine this access, so this is part of the conversation you will have in the meeting with the DG.

Below you will find some explicit examples from the earlier lesson “Determine Metrics To Monitor”.


Understanding where you are going is the easiest way to figuring out how to get there.  Knowing how you are going to get to where you want to go is the only way to know how to build the vehicle that is going to get you there.  In the next lesson, we are going to get to building the dashboard.