"Up and running? – Don’t touch". It’s not always like this.

BI technology has become widespread in recent years, and users in various industries and areas have begun to actively use dashboards and ad-hoc visualizations in decision making. A case in point is one of the biggest European banks . In the Customer Relations Department alone, by mid-2021, over 40 dashboards were implemented to analyze sales, churn, products, customer communication channels, etc.

“We have dashboards but that doesn’t work”

These dashboards were developed by the employees of the bank itself. They were helped in this task by a BI tool that did not require much effort or stellar qualifications to roll out even fairly complex visualizations with a large number of indicators, slicers and filters (Tableau). The fact that a powerful and convenient BI product makes it possible to quickly develop the necessary dashboards is obviously a good thing. But there is also a downside. Often, rapid development aimed at quickly addressing user needs for information leads to the fact that dashboards are created without a uniform approach to design, naming, architecture, and documentation (and often without any documentation). For example, in one dashboard the response dynamics is displayed by a bar chart, in another by a line graph, in one the last month is shown in blue, and in another in red. As a result, no one can figure out what is meant by the term ‘revenue’ in each particular dashboard.

Over time, managers begin to understand that although the BI system has been implemented and seems to be up and running (data is regularly updated, dashboards do not go offline and are available at any time of the day or night), employees are still not happy, the information cannot actually be used effectively, while the data they receive is unreliable. From a top-down perspective the problem has been framed and the search for its solution begins.

What is redesign? 

At this point, there is often a temptation to dismiss the project as a failure. Start over from scratch, on a new tool, with new approaches. This is a difficult and expensive decision that is hard to justify. A much simpler option is often to redesign existing dashboards. Typically, such a project is combined with the implementation of a single guideline for the development of dashboards and training employees in the principles of optimal visualization in accordance with the guideline.

Many people think redesign means that the old dashboards are simply recolored, new visualization features are added and brought to the same format. This is not really the way it works. Often, in the process of analyzing what has already been developed, major problems are detected in approaches to data aggregation and storage, in the algorithms for calculating key metrics, and in reflecting scenarios for the data used in dashboards. Most often, a redesign is a deep reworking of the very process of using information and making decisions, and not just adjusting visuals. However, a redesign is much easier and more efficient than starting a new project from scratch. Therefore, many companies opt for this particular solution to the problem and thus achieve success faster and at a lower cost. Let's take a closer look at the project carried out by T1A for one of the biggest European banks.

This pilot redesign project focused on the process of building and analyzing consistent communications with customers. The customer communication process and the effectiveness of this communication are monitored and analyzed by many bank specialists at different levels, ranging from the marketing campaign as a whole or a customer segment to the results of specific communication for one particular customer.

At the time when the project got under way, dashboard reporting already existed at the bank. The main tool for reports and dashboards was a product provided by a BI market leader.

After the initial communication, preliminary interaction with the customer, the head of the Client Relations Department and the employees of the department, we singled out a number of opportunities for improvement, both in terms of standardizing visualizations, and enhancing BI tool capabilities. This analysis zeroed in on specific areas for improvement. 

Main problem: The dashboard was inconvenient for users

It took a lot of time to figure out what was shown on the dashboard, how it was calculated, and  considerable effort to draw conclusions.

Figure 1.The original dashboard, developed by the bank's employees, did not fit on the screen and required scrolling to view.
Together with the bank’s managers and experts, the goals that the teams planned to achieve as a result of the redesign were as follows:

- Provide key user groups with the ability to track data at a level of detail appropriate to their area and level of responsibility. For example, so that the marketing manager could see how many and for which campaigns the customer had launched, while the executive manager could see the number of deals closed and the amount of additional revenue generated;
- A single-screen view of all KPIs makes it possible to switch between visuals without having to scroll down;
- make the sequence and arrangement of data visualizations more convenient for specific tasks, but with sufficient flexibility for ad hoc analysis;
- rework the dashboard in accordance with the bank's brand book. Use the identity of Bank – its logo, colors, and fonts;
- remove unnecessary elements and visualizations that do not add value to data analysis and decision making.

Solution: dashboard restructuring 

At the beginning of the project, we conducted UX research.  We analyzed all the main scenarios for the data employed by different user groups: product managers; market managers; campaign managers. The results of this research were supplemented and adjusted taking into account data visualization best practices. We also factored in generic recommendations for displaying web content based on an understanding of how a person usually perceives visual information.

In line with the results, it was possible to achieve a convenient and versatile dashboard layout that measured the effectiveness of customer communication from different viewpoints. By clicking on the same link, users solving different problems would be able to gain the information that they need.

In this project, everything had to be done on a turnkey basis. Why? One of our tasks was to maximize the tool’s capabilities. An example was needed on how to best use the functionality to make dashboard operations more user-friendly. To do this, the customer attracted not only analysts and a data visualization architect, but also an experienced BI developer. 

Based on the results of prototyping, we framed the requirements for reworking the data mart. The old data warehouse was not able to fully support the operations of the radically overhauled dashboard. The bank's experts made changes, after which T1A’s BI-developer implemented the final version, which was tested and put into commercial operation.

The dashboard was tested not only by customers (Client Relations Department), but also by colleagues from related departments – marketing managers, product managers, and financial experts. Users are not only from the Client Relations Department. They also include colleagues from related departments – marketing managers, product specialists, and financial experts, i.e. all those interested in understanding and improving customer communication on a daily basis. This essentially means all the people who are interested in understanding what works and what does not work at all stages of customer interaction, who attempt every day to make communication with customers better.   

Figure. 2. While  discussing the old picture, we started to brainstorm and offer options that eventually found "the way to the customer’s heart."

Ekaterina, data visualization architect:
“When we first got acquainted with the “Trains” dashboard used at the bank, we immediately realized that radical changes would most likely be required. When communicating with our customers during the research sessions, we devoted considerable attention to identifying priority patterns of analysis. We attempted to pinpoint what users were missing in the first version of the report. It was also important to understand what could be eliminated without impairing the quality of analytical data, since the dashboard was clearly cluttered with information and its visual representations. Based on the results of close contact with our counterparties at the bank, we managed to obtain a concise, but versatile dashboard. It was especially gratifying to hear that our customer was eager to use this dashboard.
Importantly, we got not only positive feedback, but also saw an increase in the number of users. For a visualization architect, this is the most important assessment.”

Figure 3. Redesigned dashboard 
* Disclaimer - None the data presented in the dashboards is real and is provided solely for the purpose of illustrating the design*

First version of the Trains dashboard before the redesign

T1A Europe Tableau Guidebook