In the context of COVID-19 and post-COVID-19, all sectors, including governments faced an unprecedented emergency, data exploitation was essential to manage the crisis and the uncontainment. In this context, the production of dashboards has been critical for optimal management of the situation, in real-time, and of the adaptation it implies. On social media, each of us has seen a flock of different dashboards all very different from each other, so we wanted to create the ideal dashboard user manual and share our best practices with you.
First, it is important to know what the pragmatic purpose of building a dashboard is, but also whether its use differs in each sector. In response, these dashboards have been used to track the evolution of the virus’ impact on the economy, culture, or health, providing powerful analytical experiences that allow users to measure, monitor, and improve performance.
So how do you define the making of a dashboard, what is the starting point?
1- Focus on the user and his needs
To do this, we will first answer the question defined by the users. This is why it is necessary to know who they are, to know them. Knowing how I can answer their question, and what I need.
For example, during the lockdown, we had the opportunity to be part of the creation of a collective named CoData composed by some of the best French Tech companies in purpose to help for free companies and administration to manage the rebound and the consequences of the pandemic.
For this project, we created 4 applications in 2 weeks, one for the economy (reopening of shops), one for the health system (prevention of a new wave, and care), one for education (reopening of schools), and another for culture (reopening of museums, venues, etc.).
Consequently, Stories that we told through this different dashboards were really important. As the user dives into the data and gradually moves from macro data to finer data (number of beds available compared to the number of beds occupied, all within a certain time frame). What’s critical is that every time you open the dashboard, you can easily access :
- to trends in real-time, so you need fresh data and reactivity
- to territoriality. Do we have good health coverage in our territory? Education? Do we have deserts, abandoned areas?
At Toucan, we make sure that the user is guided so that he can always follow the thread of the story, just like when he reads a book. We call this data storytelling, which is why we provide context elements, where we find the spirit of the book with a cover that makes you fancy reading. And then we break the story down into chapters, stories, with a glossary that allows you to have access to the same level of knowledge and a better definitions’ understanding. The reading of the data (data visualization), is thus simplified and easy to use.
But today, even with the most attractive viz’ in the world, it’s the navigation path that will make the user come back and also that he consults this dashboard like any daily app on his mobile phone.
2- The use of apps for a better experience and a top adoption rate!
If today we all have the same mobile phone (or almost) and not a unique phone for each one that would have been made by a craftsman it’s for a good reason. There are people who are specialized and have good practices and that’s what a customer buys. And it’s for the same reasons that the Uber or Airbnb applications are so popular: simplicity, an outstanding UX. It makes the offer easy and encourages adoption.
In short, the dashboards need to be beautiful, attractive, dynamic, and the user has to evolve within certain gamification, where he enjoys clicking on buttons and being guided through his navigation path. Hence, the importance of playing with contrasts, colors, and the right shapes to choose. At Toucan, we prefer bar charts to pie charts, which are easier to understand for the eye. This allows a better appropriation of the information. So whether it’s for a dashboard in the health, education, or economic sectors, the task must be entrusted to data viz’ specialists and the application of best practices. And for this, we need one graph per question, no more.
A common language for a reading aligned with the evolution of the situation
To build a dashboard, the next step is to define common rules adopted by all.
First, using the same language. For example, in the case of COVID-19, many countries didn’t have the same definition of the term “case”. If we don’t agree of the vocabulary used, the definition of the common indicators will be impacted as well as the reading on the evolution of the situation. The challenge is to have a common language in terms of data, per se “data literacy”.
At Toucan, this starting point is an inseparable part of the process of framing a dashboard where the agile method guarantees fast production (2 weeks for Codata, but generally 1 month to create an application) and above all to achieve the initial objective. The good practice implies that the dashboard is made in two iterations:
- A design iteration: where you create the visual of your application from auto-generated data and work on the design from the questions asked at the beginning of the project. The agile method implies that: as soon as you have a screen, you share it to get feedback, you adjust and you keep up if you must.
- A data iteration: Once the design stage is complete, you move on to data integration step, where a data specialist is in charge of integrating the data into the application either by sharing the sources via a server on the application, that fetches the data or by connecting directly to the client’s source information systems. The goal is to automate in order to be as fast as possible.
This way of doing is specific to Toucan since, in 2 iterations of 15 days each, you have your dashboard unless your need is ready in advance. In that case, you can have your dashboard in 2 days. So quick, I know-)
3- Results, earnings, outlook
Certainly, when public data is used, it must be anonymized. However, it’s important that this data must evolve in a secure environment where the margin of error must be minimized. It’s in this direction that Toucan has chosen to automate everything in order to limit the manual actions of the user and possible mistakes.
Even if it’s still very early to get feedback of the Covid-19 context, we know that the significant advantage of a Toucan dashboard is to have a single source of information with the synthesis of data from their sector. For example, for education, it’s very difficult to monitor the return to school (which classes? Which school is open? ). Hence, the importance of gathering all the data in one place in order to extract precise insights is critical. In this way, academy rectors will be able to make decisions based on the information delivered in real-time and adjust their actions.
As the situation we are currently experiencing is unique, and we have no point of comparison, it’s important that dashboards can adapt to changing needs. Indeed, the scalability and flexibility of dashboards are key to overcome the crisis because the indicators can be quickly reoriented. Our projects with Codata is a perfect example of monitoring operationally the impact of the uncontainment action plan and the decisions to be taken to readjust. Such as :
- The health app : making masks available in pharmacies, receiving new cases for prevention
- The culture app : what precautions should be taken to reopen cultural sites and how to measure their effectiveness in protecting the population
Finally, even if we are still adjusting our present, we will have to quickly think and build the “next world” where remote working will become the norm, and collaboration tools will have to be up to scratch. Even though every social network already has its own integrated messaging, collaborative features such as Toucan’s internal dashboard chat are becoming less common. Yet they are rarer in the B2B or public area, especially since there’s no need to train the user, and they allow him to stay in the same ecosystem by making everything available to him.
Even if the Covid-19 has brought us closer in some ways, the future will definitely be “remote” and the tools will have to adapt.
ABout Toucan Toco
Our mission : tell Business Performance Stories through interactive Data and Data Storytelling.
Our users: Marketing, Production, Finance, Human Resources, SalesForces and Top management of Big Companies.
From 4 partners to 90 employees in 5 years, we were self-financed until 2019, thanks to the support of more than 100 clients, for more than 300 projects, including Renault, Crédit Agricole, Elior, Icade, Nexity, EDF, GRDF, BNP Paribas, Heineken, Marques Avenue, Euler Hermes, BIC, SNCF… We have completed our first funding from Balderton Capital and the former founder of Business Object to accelerate our development in the United States.
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• A strong culture, based on caring and goodwill
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