Data Visualization

1.  Ensure all data is hyper-relevant.  You should show data that aligns with objectives determined through strategic planning.

2.  Provide at a glimpse a view of your outcomes and KPIs.  Don’t hide the headline as many people do.  Be loud and proud.

3.   Organize the dashboard for the consumer.  The consumer of the data should see the data with ease.

4.  Use sparklines.  Much of what I am providing here comes from Edward Tufte (and Stephen Few) who invented sparklines.  Simple line charts display your measures so you can see trends over time.  The trends are often more important than the points.  You can put many sparklines on a page and used wisely they are very powerful.

5.  Keep your charts simple.  You don’t need many axis intervals or gridlines.  The mind is powerful and can pick information from the data you show, when you let it.  Don’t confuse it with lots of unneeded formatting.

6.  Limit the number of fonts you use.  I remember back to the Stone Age when I first started using an Apple Lisa computer.  Because I could create documents with many fonts, I did.  But I soon realized when I saw others doing it that it’s very hard to read.  Pick a good clean font created this millennium.  While old (1991), I like Twentieth Century Mono-Type, but hey that is just me.

7.  Limit the use of italics.  Yes, italics are great for em-pha-sis but using more than two lines is hard to read.  The message is lost.

8.  Do NOT use polar, kiviat or spider diagrams.  If you think there is another graph that is harder for people to understand, let me know.  However, these are the worst and you should not use them.  Ever.

9.  Use gauges judiciously.  People like them (hence the term dashboard) but they overuse them and use them with different scales.  The latter problem is extremely vexatious.  When people look at a bunch of gauges with different scales, they will shut down or misinterpret them.

By Peter T. Davis, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, COBIT Foundation, COBIT Implementation, COBIT Assessor, COBIT INCS, CISSP, CPA, CMA, CMC, ITIL FC, ISO 9001 FC, ISO 20000 FC/LI/LA, ISO 27001 LI/LA, ISO 27005/31000 RM, ISO 28000 FC, ISTQB CTFL, Lean IT FC, Open FAIR FC, PMI-RMP, PMP, PRINCE2 FC, SSGB, RESILIA FC is the principal of Peter Davis+Associates, a management consulting firm specializing in IT governance, security and audit. He currently teaches COBIT 5 Foundation/Implementation/Assessor, ISO 27001 Foundation/Lead Implementer/Lead Auditor, ISO 31000/ISO 27005 Risk Manager (RM), ISO 20000 FC/LI/LA, ISO 22301 Foundation, ISO 9001 Foundation and Project Management Institute Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP) courses.

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