Setting up a KPI dashboard — not only for airline operations — is a complex endeavour.

There are many obstacles to overcome and lot of work is to be done.

And there’s always the risk that your complete work doesn’t pay off in the end.

Simply because the dashboard doesn’t get the sustainable attention you have been envisioning.

What are the most prominent mistakes to avoid in order to ensure a successful dashboard setup?

Avoid to many KPIs

Yes, I know it’s tantalising.

There’s so much content, you’d like to visualise.

Department A requires some additional KPIs and department B is currently focusing on some different KPIs. Oh yes, the management wants to see the top 5 KPIs. And based on the available data you could even calculate another 7 additional KPIs.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course it is brilliant if you’re able to provide all those KPIs and information.

However, initially you should focus on a very small set of KPIs. This will help to reduce the risk of your projects and reduce the risk of many additional mistakes tremendously.

And it will provide the chance to continuously enrich the dashboard over the next months — which is extremely important to maintain attention of your viewers.

Information overflow

Tightly linked to the first aspect, a very prominent mistake is in providing too much information on one single dashboard.

I’ve seen so many of these dashboards, reflecting the attempt to squeeze as much information as possible in one view.

The result is obvious: A pure information overflow. You don’t get the message of the dashboard. And finally, you lose interest because it is simply to difficult to understand it.

A result that contains to much information could look like this:

Information overflow is an absolute killer mistake. Always keep in mind: Less is more. When setting up a dashboard you always have to ask yourself:

  • Which user group am I addressing?
  • Which content do they really need (Not which content might be interesting)
  • How to reduce the content in order to really deliver the key message.

Here’s an example of a dashboard with a focused and reduced information:

AWall Operation Overview World

No structure

A KPI dashboard has to follow two essential structure principles.

The overall structure defines which and how many dashboards you are planning to develop. Dashboards should always focus on one specific business aspect or one question.

Within a dashboard, you have to have a clear KPI structure. For example, starting with high-level KPIs on the left side and providing more details on the right side.

Unfortunately, a lot of dashboard lack both of the above structures. They simply contain all KPIs which have been available in a visual way the worked.

Here’s an example for a dashboard without a clear structure:

And here’s one with a clear structure:

Too many different widgets

I know that many tools provide an endless list of widget types: Bar charts, donut charts, line charts — or even more fancy stuff like speedometers or batteries.

A huge mistake which is made quite often is using too many of the available widgets. This finally distracts the viewer massively.

Always remember, every visualisation pushes a thought process with your viewer. And it is simply not obvious for a viewer why the same type of KPIs are displayed differently.

Simple advise: Select a small set of widgets to be used. Four to five should be more than sufficient to visualise everything you want.

Advise number two: Stick with your selection and do not add additional widgets.

Outdated information / rarely updated

We are living in a real-time world. Wherever and whenever something happens in this world, we are informed immediately.

Actually, this is something we assume in business too.

Nobody wants to look at a dashboard which is updated only once a week. In many areas (e. g. airline operations) even once a day wouldn’t be sufficient.

People are eager for updates. That’s why you really have to pay attention to a continuous update flow of your dashboard.

Missing visualization

It’s true: It is not easy to develop a visualization concept. It is not easy to think about which widgets to use, which colors, which fonts, etc.

And I think this is why some dashboards simply “visualise” available stuff.

I’ve seen many dashboards (although the word dashboard is wrong here), which incorporate pure text, an Excel file and a Powerpoint presentation which is updated once per month.

Frankly speaking, this doesn’t make sense at all. And since nobody will look at this “dashboard” after day one, you should simply not start in case you have such an approach in mind.

Nobody understands the content

This is a smaller mistake, however done regularly. You’ve developed a well-crafted dashboard. Clear structure, perfect visualization but still people don’t get the content.

Quite often this comes along with two mistakes.
Mistake one: Usage of too many abbreviations or specific wordings your target group does not understand.
Mistake two: Content elements are lacking a description.

No seamless integration

Nowadays, KPI dashboards have to be available on every device. From large screens to pads and mobiles.

It reflects a huge mistake to only concentrate on one device.

You should read the full blog article about this topic:

Poor data quality

Last on this list but killer number one: The KPIs and information you are displaying on your dashboard are simply wrong — or not in a perfect quality.

More content needed?

Download our Airline Operations KPI Guide

The KPI Guide introduces 38 different KPIs. Each KPI is listed with a short description / explanation as well as an examples and specific notes.