When Big Numbers Become Big Problems(Please publis…

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a colleague about Data Visualization.


I explained that in data visualization, it is the relationships between numbers that matter, rather than the numbers themselves.


His opinion was different. From his point of view, the dashboard should have numbers because that’s how users see the main KPIs.


In response to my inquiry about how exactly a single number could provide insight, he gave an example of the large BANS that appear at the top of the screen and, according to him, explained the situation in seconds. This is indeed the opinion that many dashboard developers hold, including myself in the past.


Why do Bans/cards on dashboards become so common?


1. ” Experts” recommendations such as:

“Don’t bury the most important fact, your KPI, in a chart. Show it loud and proud as a Big A** Number (BAN)!”

2. Considering a dashboard as a stage for telling a story. The big and beautiful numbers go well with the idea of presenting the main point.

3. The desire to impress. Sometimes managers have a fantasy of seeing running numbers with indicators on the plasma, and that’s how they think they know what the “pulse” of the business is. Because we have a tool that can make it happen easily, we run to meet their “desires”.

The result – is “cards” with large numbers like in the picture below appearing in most of the dashboards.


As I began investigating the real goals of data visualization, I realized graphs are a functional tool, not a decoration. Dashboards are not a stage for a story, but a monitoring tool to improve a situation. All of this should be accomplished with a minimum of time and effort. Part of the change was that cards simply disappeared from the screen without being noticed.


Why don’t BANS really help to monitor and understand the critical points of a business?


1. By using this format, the whole is separated from the parts. It is like putting a central piece of the puzzle on top, not in its place where it belongs. The result – on the one hand, the center part is separated, on the other, the picture has a “hole”. It’s not a good way to develop a dashboard.

2. These BANS take up a lot of space on the screen.

Below is a picture of a detailed table that is almost the same size as the Cards area.


3. There is an “advantage” to decoration, but it can also “hide” your insights. In the picture, it appears that the month was successful in total and that there was an increase from last year. But when we look at the full picture, one of the stores has seen a drop in performance of over 40%… Maybe not so good after all.


Final thoughts


The cards have simply disappeared from my last dashboards without me noticing.


It requires a lot of work and scientific precision to create a correct and detailed visualization. However, when I see the use of dashboards is leading to discussions and changes in processes, I know it was worth it.


*All graphs were created using POWER BI


Let me know what you think by giving us a thumbs up,

Greetings, Rita 







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