Series: Building Great Dashboards Part 2: Creating a Dashboard Mock Up

Part 2: Creating a Dashboard Mock-Up

Building Great Dashboards Series

Part 2: Creating a Dashboard Mock-up

This is part two of our four-part series on building great dashboards.  If you have not read Part 1: Gathering Dashboard Requirements, you may want to go back and start there.

In our previous blog post, we described how to have a productive requirements gathering meeting, that allows you to know what stakeholders want out of the dashboards.  For the next step you may be tempted to jump right into Tableau, Power BI, or your dashboard tool of choice but we recommend building a mock-up of the dashboard. This mock-up is just an image or a visual of what the dashboard will look like.  If you have graphic design skills or a graphic designer on your team, then you can use a tool like Adobe InDesign to build the mock-up. Otherwise, PowerPoint or even a piece of paper will work just fine. The goal is not to build a mock-up that will look exactly like the final product – just something close enough to share with end users for discussion and feedback.

Click here for an example mock-up created in PowerPoint.

Now that you have the basic idea of what the mock-up is, let’s dive into why you should use it and how to build one.

Why should I build a mock-up dashboard?

After your requirements meeting, there are probably a lot of directions you can go in to answer the high-priority questions that you gathered from the team. Before you begin using a dashboard tool like Tableau or Power BI, you need to build a data set, and how you build that data set will be based on what the final dashboards will look like. In reality, you could spend weeks building a data set and initial dashboard, only for key users to request something completely different. Enter the mock-up. A mock-up is a very quick way to get a visual and your plan in front of the key users so everyone can agree at a high-level on how the dashboards will look and function.

How do I build a mock-up dashboard?

It can be intimidating staring at a blank computer screen trying to decide what to create. Below are a few ways to help you get started.

Look for inspiration

There are many resources that show dashboards created by other people that can help get that creativity flowing. Tableau shares a Viz of the Day from its public gallery. The Big Book of Dashboards provides examples of dashboards for specific business challenges and scenario solutions. If your organization already has a library of high-quality dashboards, then you can look at those for inspiration as well.

A tip from our data scientists: Whenever you see a dashboard you like, save a copy of the image to a folder, so you can scroll through them all when it is time to create a mock-up.

Get a team together

Don’t feel like you have to do it alone! If there are other analysts at your organization, even if they are not on your team or working on this project, ask them if they will help you to build a mock-up. You can briefly describe the key questions, and they can quickly sketch an idea. It does not take much time, and it may end up inspiring the final design.

Crazy Eights

Crazy eights is a design exercise to help you quickly come up with multiple mock-up solutions. You can do it by yourself, or in a group. Just take a regular piece of letter-sized paper and fold it so that there are eight separate rectangles on it.  Set a timer for eight minutes, and start sketching out a different dashboard design in each rectangle.  Keep it real quick and dirty.  For each box, spend about a minute trying try to come up with a totally different view for the dashboard. You may find this difficult after the third or fourth one, but do your best to try to get to eight. Do not worry if your views start to get outlandish, just keep trying to come up with new ideas. Once you are done, you can try to pull the best ideas from each sketch to build a final mock-up.

Share with the stakeholders

Once you have built a mock-up, it is time to go back to your key stakeholders and get their feedback on the mock-up.  This is best done in a live meeting, but if it is hard to get everyone together at the same time, it can be done via email. If you send around a PDF, the team can add comments and notes directly in the file for feedback.

After collecting feedback from the team, you are in a really great place to build the data set and start building dashboards. Watch out for an upcoming post on Part 3: Soliciting Feedback While Building a Dashboard.

Our Reflection + Education

Our Reflection + Education

With the current environment of social unrest in our community and throughout the U.S., SIGMA announced that we as a company would be observing Juneteenth, the nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

We felt that it was important to give our team members an opportunity to support each other and our community during this profound time and we encouraged our team to take the day, or part of it, for reflection, volunteerism, education or activism in support of our diverse community and the Black Lives Matter movement.

In support of our team members, we provided a number of resources and suggestions, some of which were used by our team during their observance of Juneteenth.

The majority of the SIGMA team and their family members participated or donated to the Virtual Roc Juneteenth 5k Run/Walk to benefit the Rochester Civil Rights Heritage Site. Between donations and race fees our team was able to give $450+ that will go toward honoring local Civil Rights leaders. Some of these team members also spent the day exploring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park in downtown Rochester, which has been transformed into a space for individuals to write messages of support.

Other activities that our team members participated in on Juneteenth included podcasts and videos. Some of our favorites included:

NPR’s Code Switch

TED Talk: How we can make racism a solvable problem – and improve policing

TED Talk: What it takes to be racially literate

Click here for a list of additional resources including local opportunities and organizations in Rochester, articles, podcasts, documentaries, movies and book suggestions that were provided to our team.

An Open Conversation

Wednesday, July 1st also marked our first SIGMA Summit- a virtual internal conference that allowed our team members to share new ideas, processes, successes and included an open conversation about SIGMA’s support of inclusivity and diversity as well as a discussion of structural racism in our community.

“The Summit provided an opportunity for our team to hear each other’s thoughts, ideas and concerns about the current environment and it felt meaningful and impactful. I felt moved by the willingness of our team to share their honest thoughts and opinions. We will continue to recognize and integrate open conversations like this into our company DNA and ensure that our team members feel empowered to open up and share without judgement.” – Stefan Willimann, CEO.

Series: Building Great Dashboards Part 1: Gathering Dashboard Requirements

Part 1: Gathering Dashboard Requirements

Building Great Dashboards Series

Part 1: Gathering Dashboard Requirements

Self-service dashboards have been growing in popularity for many years, but the truth is, for many teams, stakeholders still rely heavily on having a Data Analyst to walk them through the process and come up with thought-provoking questions to ask.  When teams were working in the same office environment, this may have worked reasonably well, but in our current situation and the majority of teams working remotely because of social distancing, it is harder to support.

With that in mind, we thought we would share a series of posts on building great dashboards. Today, we outline our principles for holding a productive stakeholder meeting to gather dashboard requirements.

  1. Don’t focus on the specifics of what the dashboards will actually look like, but instead identify the questions stakeholders are trying to answer.

When we start asking what stakeholders want to see in a dashboard, we often get very specific suggestions about chart types and visualizations. Although this may be important later in the process, when you are in the gathering requirements stage we want to focus on understanding what they are trying to see and answer with the data and then worry about the best way to display it later.

For example: If a stakeholder says, “I want to see a bar chart with the top industries that our leads are coming from.” Try to get to the underlying business question, which in this case might be “What are the top industries for new business opportunities?”

  1. Ask “why?” when stakeholders describe what they are looking for. 

Asking “why?” will help you to understand the underlying business problem they are trying to answer and may yield a radically different dashboard design in later stages.

Continuing our example from above: If you asked “why?” a stakeholder may respond with “I need to know how to focus marketing resources.” Their answer may now lead us down a different path than just seeing the top industries shown in a bar chart.

  1. Don’t limit the discussion, but be sure to prioritize. 

In the gathering requirements stage be sure to capture all ideas, even if you think they will not all be able to be included or addressed right away. With that being said, it is very important to prioritize all requests so we know what to focus on now and what to focus on later. For every request, ask stakeholders if it is high, medium, or low priority.  If everything is high priority (as sometimes happens), limit each stakeholder to one request or metric they would want out of a dashboard to help focus their thoughts.

Ideally, at the end of the meeting you will have a long list of requests, but in a prioritized order that can be executed in a logical way. Use our Dashboard Gathering Requirements Guide to help you stay organized.

If you follow these steps, you will come out of the stakeholder meeting with some great data that will set you up to create successful dashboards.  Watch out for an upcoming post on Creating a Dashboard Mock Up.

Building Great Dashboards Series:

  • Part 1: Gathering Dashboard Requirements
  • Part 2: Creating a Dashboard Mock Up
  • Part 3: Solicit Feedback While Building a Dashboard
  • Part 4: Dashboards are Like Plants, They Need Tending
A Message From Our CEO

A Message From Our CEO

SIGMA as a company will be observing Juneteenth, the nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

We feel it is important to give our team members an opportunity to support each other and our community during this profound time. This Friday, June 19th, we are encouraging our team to take the day, or part of it, for reflection, volunteerism, education or activism in support of our diverse community and the Black Lives Matter movement.

We will be providing our team with educational resources and encouraging them to participate and/or contribute to the virtual ROC Juneteenth 5k Run/Walk to benefit the Rochester Civil Rights Heritage Site. We will also be holding an open conversation about community support and the Black Lives Matter movement during our upcoming internal SIGMA Summit on July 1st.

SIGMA Data Insights Multi-Touch Attribution Blog

Getting Started With Multi-Touch Attribution

Attribution and multi-touch attribution have become a top priority for many marketers today. Determining how to achieve multi-touch attribution can be a complicated journey and it will take some real work to get to the final destination, but there will be wins along the way.  Here we will provide you with our process and a few tips for getting started with multi-touch attribution.

Case Study: Multi-Touch Attribution

A membership organization client that had historically used direct mail as their primary method of acquiring new customers began to layer on digital as a multi-touch piece to their marketing. This marketing included tactics such as e-mail, search engine marketing (SEM), and paid social.

Their goal was to not only expand their reach, but also understand what the overlap was across channels and the true cost to acquire a new customer. Looking at each of the channels separately it appeared that the digital channels were relatively inexpensive compared to direct mail, however, we needed to determine if there was overlap between the different channels.

Start Small

With attribution, it is best to start small, so we focused on one state and one month to take a deep dive and gain insights. The purpose of this deep dive was to understand the interaction between the channels in two ways:

  1. Expanded Reach: How many new customers were they bringing on who had not received direct mail?
  2. Expanded Response: How many new customers received direct mail, but did not take action without additional digital efforts?

We worked through each channel and estimated what the overlap in response was between the different channels. What takes only one sentence to write in a blog post, took many weeks of analysis and a lot back and forth with the client to accomplish! The truth is that when you are first getting started you will need to make some assumptions and inferences of the different channels.  We came to the realization that Facebook reporting does not make it easy to know exactly who came through that specific channel, but we came up with an algorithm that gave us a starting point.

Review Learnings

Once we had worked out the overlap between the channels, estimated the expanded reach, and expanded response, we reviewed what we determined to be the main learnings:

  1. When taking into account all channels and the overlap – the acquisition costs for digital channels were more in line with direct mail than we originally anticipated.
  2. SEM was the digital channel that was most effective at expanding reach and finding customers who were not receiving direct mail.

Where do we go next?

We had many ideas about next steps but narrowed it down to the top three:

  1. Refine the attribution approach and apply it to the entire organization with on-going reporting.
  2. Use promo codes wisely to help identify which channel people ultimately “bought” from.
  3. Set up tests to learn even more about the interactions between channels.  For example –  split up an audience who in the past would have received direct mail and email into three groups:
    • Direct mail only
    • Email only
    • Both direct mail and email

As you can see, multi-touch attribution is something that will evolve over time at your organization. Get started wherever you can and build from there. It may be challenging at first, but understanding the true value of different marketing channels is a very worthwhile endeavor. In the end, it will help your organization immensely as you start to use it in optimizing your marketing.

To help guide you through the process, download our infographic.

Data-Driven Marketing

Make Informed Business Decisions with Data-Driven Marketing

In the uncertain times that have become our daily lives, it is more important now than ever to be smart about how best to communicate with your customers. Using Customer Insights effectively can provide a great value to marketers when activated through marketing and sales efforts to get the sales needle moving in the right direction. “Smart customer data” has emerged as a powerful strategic asset for the most successful marketing professionals. The process of using this data to help define goals, audiences, campaigns, and tactics-as well as measuring and analyzing performance- makes marketers much more agile and responsive to rapidly changing consumer expectations and behaviors. If you recognize the need to accelerate your marketing with a more data-driven, analytical approach, we recommend getting started with some of these ideas:


Assess when and how your customers want communication

  • Give customers the opportunity to share their communications preferences with you by making it easy to do so on your privacy pages and in every reply form.
  • Once they tell you their preferences, make sure you respond and respect their choices in your campaigns.
  • Use message testing over multiple channels to build your understanding of what makes your customers tick and what types of messaging they respond to.
  • Keep track of what worked and optimize results. The satisfaction of your customers could grow.


Use insights to drive your content strategy

  • Different segments of your audiences will be interested in different types of content. Use insights about your segments in content development.
  • Determine the types of marketing content and delivery formats your key segments crave and respond to the most.
  • When developing different content, consider where customers are in the sales cycle. Are they gathering information and researching the category? Consider providing an overview of where you stand vs. your competition.


Master data-driven cross-selling

  • Build a cross-sell matrix and keep track of the most likely next-to-buy products for your customers.
  • Analyze the typical time between purchases, and make sure you trigger a cross- sell offer around the time your customers will be going back into the market.

     Note: this cross-sell matrix should be based on real data and not just experience or a gut feeling.


Use customer data for digital micro-targeting

  • Use digital ad buying platforms to deliver ads directly to your individual customers with segment specific messages.
  • Push your current customer data into the platforms. They can build predictive models on the fly to find lookalikes.
  • Deploy digital ads to the same group of people just before and just after direct mail contact to see if you can boost your direct mail results based on your call to action.
  • Work with your media buying team to pilot some of these innovative 1:1 digital techniques and find out where you get the biggest bang return on investment.


Test offer-optimization

  • Create offers with just enough incentive to get your customers and prospects to act.
  • In addition to monetary offers, create offers that provide information or interesting content. Too many monetary offers can backfire and train your customers to wait for the best deal.
  • Use a test and learn approach to get the most response from your product and service offering.


Whether your aim is to fine-tune marketing targeting by selecting audiences that will deliver the greatest return, to deliver more relevant messaging, or to find the customers that are ready to leave (or those that are ready to buy) – the answers are often found in your existing customer data. Analyzing data from inside your organization will build customer insights that can improve your marketing performance.

Providing Meaningful and Timely Information for B2B in Our Current Environment

With the constantly changing environment, many companies and organizations are hesitant to make big business decisions like starting a new project or committing funds to a new platform or service. This is your opportunity to provide meaningful and timely information to your customers and demonstrate your commitment to their organization by giving without expectation.

Rather than trying to sell customers a new product or service, consider providing your customers with relevant information that can help them in this current environment.

Provide Up-to-Date Industry and Organization Metrics

We are being flooded with information on an hourly basis, whether it be political, social or economic. This influx of information makes it difficult to focus on what is truly effecting a customer’s specific situation. Spend some time researching industry metrics that are specific to your customers that can help them make informed decisions. For financial institutions, these metrics may be related to the stock market, the number of accounts where direct deposits ceased, or the percentage of late payments each week.

Share Free Tools

Point them in the direction of free tools that could help their employees work from home more efficiently or give them an alternative option to communicate with customers. Salesforce, Basecamp, Google, Zoom, and others are offering free access to project management and videoconferencing software. There are also industry-specific free tools available like those mentioned in an article by Forbes providing a list of free technology resources for FinTech organizations.

In addition to sharing free tools from other sources, be sure that customers know how to download and use apps that are available to them through your organization. For instance, if your company provides data and analytics dashboards to customers through Tableau, ensure they know how to download the app and use it on their mobile devices.

Give Advice on Updating Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Most organizations know and use KPIs to measure their success when reviewing and analyzing initiatives, but the current environment has changed all of that. Knowing what your customer’s KPIs were versus how they have changed is critical to communicating with employees and end use customers.

Prior to COVID-19, organizations may have had goals like building brand awareness and finding prospects and turning them into customers. They likely looked at metrics like conversion rate, new users and sessions and cost per lead while tracking submissions on their web contact forms as their KPIs.

In our current environment, customer’s goals and KPIs have likely changed. Instead of building brand awareness and prospecting, their focus has changed to nurturing current customers. In turn, conversion rates mean less, while customer open rates and response rates to emails and direct communications should take the focus.

Compliance: The Final Frontier

A Guide to Data Privacy in the Era of GDPR, Part IV

Our three previous blogs have delivered you to the shore of a new world – one where consumers can see and control what happens to their digital presence, and where companies are expected to actively protect, serve, and empower them. You’re on the cusp of compliance: you’ve built the necessary policies and processes, and have cultivated a compliance-positive culture within your organization. Stepping onto that shore is stepping into the future, and the future is where true compliance lies.

So far, our focus has been on making material changes to your business. But we have approached them as point-in-time efforts; we didn’t pay much attention to the living nature of the future work they represent.  The new concepts of data protection and compliance live and breathe.  They evolve over time, which means that your company, and everything you’ve just built, needs to as well.

So how do you meet this challenge?  How do you stay compliant?

In the simplest terms, there are three aspects of GDPR, CCPA, and beyond that need constant focus and care:

  1. Co-managing consumer data with your partners
  2. Assisting your partners with their compliance practices
  3. Keeping your business in sync with new and evolving laws

We’ll delve more deeply into these topics in the SIGMA Insight, but I still want to emphasize their importance here.  If your efforts stop at your company’s border, and only your link in the data chain is strong, then you and all your partners won’t achieve compliance.  This is an opportunity for your company to become a leader in the space.  That’s what we have done here at SIGMA.

Your company must provide a guiding hand to all your partners. Test and question their practices, suggest improvements, and be firm when you need to.  It’s okay – and, in fact, a recommendation of the GDPR – to refuse to work with partners who can’t or won’t follow these laws. Lead by example and share what you know, and if necessary, flex your muscles at contract time. Make it known that you’ll only partner with companies who take consumer protection as seriously as you do, and who are always trying to be good digital guardians of the consumer information we know to be dearest.

When it comes to actions you take on behalf of a consumer, make sure you share what you’ve been told to do, whenever you’re told to do it.  Keep an open hotline to your partners, and again be a leader who ensures that everyone works in concert when there’s a data task in the offing.

Finally, and as important as anything we’ve done on this journey, keep your eyes and ears open for everything new that’s coming. In January 2020, you’ll be compliant with 2018 GDPR and ready for CCPA 1.0.  But you need to be ready for the possible 2020 and beyond GDPR revisions, CCPA 1.5 and 2.0, and whatever new state, federal, and world laws are announced in February, June, and December. Keep your data protection team activated, and be ready to leverage everything you’ve already learned to keep yourself ahead of the curve.

Thanks for taking this journey with us. Be sure to read our upcoming SIGMA Insight for an in-depth look at all things GDPR and CCPA, and how your company can join SIGMA as champions of consumer data protection.

Putting it All Together

In our first two installments of this blog series, we introduced the GDPR and CCPA, and helped you look inward at your organization to understand your company’s data protection practices. The grand plan, of course, is to move you from general awareness to restructuring your organization so it can thrive in the new era of digital data protection. That restructuring is the topic of today’s blog.  (And remember, at the end of this series, we’ll be publishing a full Insight on Data Privacy and Protection, so don’t forget to keep checking back!)

If you’ve done your due diligence, you’re reading this armed with a solid understanding of how data courses through your enterprise. You know how it enters, who touches it, what happens to it, where it goes, and how it’s expunged.  You know who is allowed to see it – or at least who is supposed to be allowed – and you understand the controls you have in place to manage it.  And you know what the GDPR and CCPA require in terms of new functionality: consumer contact tools, information disclosures, paper trails, etc.  Now it’s time make the material changes that will establish your company as compliant.

Writing new policies/controls can be time-consuming and complex, but shouldn’t be seen as a crisis.  You’ll probably engage a committee or have a leadership review, run through a few drafts as you find that the initial concept hits some technological snags, and ultimately come away with something robust and streamlined that fits fully with the privacy laws you’re trying to abide. When you’re comfortable with it, implement it. Everything you’ve done before is prologue – the main story starts now.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one challenge you could face: for some companies, the cultural shift that goes hand-in-hand with these policies might be harder to manage than their actual rollout. For example, some companies have an informal, honor system-based access request process: Analyst Bob asks IT Kyle for access to ABC Widget’s customer database because he needs to do some work, and IT Kyle bops into Active Directory to grant it. While that works in the pre-GDPR world, it’s forbidden in the compliant one. Forcing Analyst Bob and IT Kyle to file a form, cite the proper business justification, and leave an easy-to-follow paper trail, could be jarring – and actually seen as a barrier to productivity.  Same with Marketer Sheila who wants to email a spreadsheet of contacts to Data Processor Tina at your subsidiary in Tacoma.  So you’ll need to work internally to demonstrate the value of the new processes, while acknowledging that things might not be as easy as they were in the wild frontier-land your old processes created.

Next, you’ll deploy your new contact forms, open an 800 number, and validate your information request and action certification forms. If all goes well, you are almost ready to open your doors to the new land of compliance.

Tune in next week for the final stop on this journey…

Knowledge is Power

A Guide to Data Privacy in the Era of GDPR, Part II

When last we left you, you were staring into the jungle of data protection laws known as the GDPR and CCPA. The question at hand was where to begin.

Charting a path through unknown territory, especially with these laws’ high stakes, seems like a daunting task. By reading this far, you’ve developed a sense of what’s ahead, and understand that making these changes is not going to be a quick weekend effort. But without a map to guide you, you can’t see your way to success. That said, it’s impossible to craft a good one right out of the gate; you’ll build your map as you head toward complete compliance. It all depends on your organization’s current state.

As the title of this post suggests, knowledge is powerful. You’ll need to thoroughly understand your company’s systems and practices to complete the hard work ahead. That’s how you should frame this first part of your data protection work: a survey of the terrain, and a discovery of what you don’t know about the consumer data in your care, and the structures that support it.

Think of it as an audit, but with a focus on system security, access privileges, and data sharing. Start by examining everything. Involve your IT teams, your security managers, your data analysts and more. Get to know exactly how your company works, and then document it. Because that’s the map you actually need, and the foundation for the work we’ll talk about in our next post.

Stay tuned for part three of this blog, and SIGMA’s upcoming Insight on the subject.