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Letters to a Young Manager

Selling the Dashboard, #390
LTYM > Project Management

Dear Adam,
I understand your excitement about the new executive dashboard software you are implementing. It makes sense that the senior managers don't trust it yet.

My brother recently told me a story about his son who is working on a large data integration project for his company. He created a data warehouse using SQL (his "language" of choice) that pulled info from all parts of the organization.

For the dashboard design, he met with each of the unit heads and asked what info they wanted to see. He was surprised and a bit disappointed when they each showed him their spreadsheet report and asked that the system give them that.

"But the dashboard can do so much more," he said.
"Just give me the numbers," was the reply."

With patience, he asked them what they looked at on the spreadsheet. Some zeroed in on a few numbers, some added a column of figures to compare with another column. Each one knew what they did with the numbers, but wanted to see the basic figures nonetheless.

So the first version just showed the basic data, like the spreadsheet report. Then after a month or so, when everyone agreed that the system was giving them the right numbers, he showed the COO the derivative calculations and charts. "Wow; I need that," was the COO's reply!

Soon everyone wanted the higher level dashboards. And they took comfort in the fact that a tap on a chart, showed the underlying set of data, just like the old spreadsheet.

What was key is that the trust built over time, first with the familiar and then with the more advanced analytics. If he hadn't taken these steps, the system would likely be added to the pile of useless software, regardless of its rich feature set.
Best regards,


Start with trust in the basics before adding extra features

Discussion Questions:

1) One of the simplicities of Apple's designs is the one-button. What do you think of this approach?
2) How would you compare pros and cons of the typical TV remote versus the iPod or iPhone?
3) Is trust-building part of your project management process? Should it be?
4) Is there something about building this system in SQL that's a red flag?

For Further Reading:

See John Maeda's, "The Laws of Simplicity," MIT Press, 2006

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