A project dashboard helps project managers deliver more value to their organizations
As a software company that focuses on strategy reporting, we’ve always been a big proponent of strategic projects—those that are linked to strategic objectives and help you achieve your key goals. That’s why we’ve worked hard to master the art of the project dashboard, an important tool in any PM’s toolbox. Whether you realize it or not, you need a project dashboard in your organization. Unsure about what that is and exactly how it can help? Keep reading to learn why project dashboards are so valuable, see different dashboard examples, and get some tips on how to maximize their use.
A project dashboard is a collection of key data, qualitative information, and visuals that summarize a portfolio of projects. It takes what would otherwise be a mass of scattered information related to all the moving parts of projects—budgets, statuses, tasks, owners, etc.—condenses it down to the most important pieces, and puts it in one convenient location. Project dashboards serve as a quick reference point for project managers, making it easy for them to keep a close eye on tasks that may be falling behind or projects that are underperforming so they can take corrective action.
There is a lot for a project manager to keep track of; sometimes, tasks and milestones for even a single project happen across a number of departments. Project dashboards are helpful for managing single projects, but they become essential when there are multiple strategic projects ongoing that all play into achieving your goals. In this case, a project dashboard—or what we like to call a project management dashboard—will contain information about a portfolio of projects so that the project manager and employees can see performance across all projects quickly and understand performance on the portfolio as a whole.
For organizations that use projects to drive strategy execution, the project dashboard serves several important functions:
Every project has a different intended outcome, different milestones that will help reach the end goal, different teams, and different processes. As a result, project dashboards vary—there isn’t one “correct” template to use when getting started.
That being said, a great project management dashboard must contain some combination of visuals that simply convey overall project performance, key project management KPIs being tracked in association with the project, and qualitative reports that add context to performance reports across various aspects of the project. It all depends on what is important for you to see in relation to your projects. The way you choose to present the information may vary, but most project dashboards would include:
Seem like a lot of information for a dashboard? Keep in mind that you shouldn’t be summarizing the status of all projects in your organization, and likely not even all your strategic projects. Your status dashboard should only show the handful of high-priority projects that have the biggest impact on your strategy.
At ClearPoint, we’ve built out a number of project dashboards that are useful for performance tracking and planning of next steps. Take a look at these examples:
A project status dashboard shows the different status indicators (red-amber-green) with the various projects listed below, and a summary graph of how many projects are in each of the status categories. You can click into any project to learn the details behind its status, including a Gantt chart timeline, percent complete, and qualitative analysis.
A project management dashboard acts as a central hub for project managers to assess the current progress of an organization's initiatives and identify which projects need an extra push, which will require extensions, and which are running smoothly. A Gantt chart displays the timeline and status of each project and milestone, with summary information on the various projects below. Again, viewers can click on any individual project for more detailed information.
Gantt charts like the one shown below are useful so project managers can see which activities are on the horizon; they also show how different activities are related to one another and how the completion or delay of one milestone might impact the others.
A project budget dashboard displays charts that show percent complete, percent budget spent, and the forecasted total cost for one or more projects. The data table below these charts offers further details on each project’s budget vs. actual spending (and the percent complete), so you can make a quick visual comparison. As always in ClearPoint, viewers can drill down into each project for more information on spending and progress.
A program management dashboard serves as a central hub of information about a program and all its projects. (A program is a longer-term endeavor that is accomplished through multiple projects.) Program management is also important to strategy execution and can be handled through ClearPoint right alongside project management.
Program management dashboards differ depending on the program, the organization, and the program manager. The one shown below includes the program objective, a status overview for the program’s overall health and progress, and a Gantt chart showing timelines of the various projects included in the program. Having this information readily available allows project leaders and program managers to assess program health, drill down to determine the performance of individual projects, and decide on next steps.
Regardless of what information you decide to include in your project dashboard, here are a few tips that will help make it as useful as possible:
Interested in learning how ClearPoint can help you manage and execute strategic projects more successfully? Schedule a call with us today.
RJ drives new business for ClearPoint, guiding prospective clients through the sales process.