Improving business intelligence through user-focused dashboard design
As an intern at Screen Industries and Training Centre (SIRT) I was tasked with creating an internal dashboard for business intelligence to communicate the overall status of the company including their projects, budgets, and grants. The ultimate goal was to streamline information for the board of directors to improve efficiency in decision-making.
Insights from research and interviews helped determine who the key users would be and what functions they needed.
How might we simplify (efficiently communicate) large amounts of data to allow key stakeholders to make meaningful decisions by visually communicating key data points, with a deadline and budget constraint.
This goal would serve as an anchor for design decisions, ensuring we were solving the right problems.
From a general overview of all current and previous projects to individual breakdowns for each project’s characteristics, this dashboard was designed to give insights into the current performance of SIRT projects. The following user flow showcases the Applied Research section of the dashboard and its top-down approach in showcasing information in a user friendly and efficient manner.
The home page of the dashboard consists of an overview of the two main sources for research projects for SIRT, Grant based research and independent research called “Fee For Research”. This provides a view of both categories combined to get a general understanding of the current state of the work being carried out, including active projects, funding, availability, and comparisons to other years.
Following a top-down breakdown model, the dashboard allows users to access a home page for projects categorized as Grants or FFRs, this gives a more detailed view while still being able to observe all the projects in the category as a whole.
In addition to overviews, one can also access breakdowns for individual projects. The information showed cased in the project page gives the user a quick and efficient view of the current state of the project, general info, spending and achieved and upcoming milestones.
This view is complemented with a timeline view including the current progress in the different project milestones, contributors and deadlines.
Since this was an internal project, the targeted users consisted of internal stakeholders, and current & future clients. This dashboard was created to be able to showcase KPIs, budgets and other key data points to help the board of directors make meaningful decisions; demonstrate KPIs and project's schedules to clients and showcase the company's capabilities to future clients. To properly encompass all of the users and use cases for the final dashboard we created a persona spectrum.
As the sole UX designer at the company, it was my responsibility to lead the design and development of the final product. While I was designing, I had to collaborate with the project managers and research team leads to gain insights, make decisions and learn the workflows of research projects, how they are pitched, granted and developed.
Since SIRT is a research facility backed mostly by government grants and contract work for other companies, there was a focus on making this final solution as cost-efficient as possible. In addition to that, I had to ensure that the internal tool could be easily maintained by individuals at SIRT after I finished my internship with them.
The initial stage of my work consisted of first defining a project plan, this came down to determining the key functionalities that needed to be addressed and the best platform to develop it in. After the initial meetings with key stakeholders, we found that the following needed to be addressed with priority:
1. Top-down view of total funding awarded and the individual project spending
2. Visualize a high-level overview of the total amount of active research projects
3. A broad view of the active research projects with access to schedules and milestones
Another part of the project that needed to be established was the platform for the final product to be developed, this was addressed with the constraints of a small budget, maintenance concerns and a small team. While originally it was set up to be front-end developed in the web, it later was changed to Microsoft’s Power BI software
One on one interviews were conducted with key stakeholders, clients, and project leads to collect information and key data points that needed to be addressed in the dashboard.
Carrying out interviews allowed me not only gather important user information but also to understand the workflow of the pitch, approval and development of research projects at SIRT.
The key insights gathered were used to inform the information architecture of the dashboard's structure. Critical data points were added first, then the rest of the architecture was built around those. The resulting structure was a high-level view of the company's ongoing research projects that could be drilled down into as necessary.
This stage marks the beginning of the UI and visual design of the dashboard. This consisted of creating high fidelity mockups, screen flows and design systems to finalize the UI of the dashboard and take it into development. Through this process, testing was always made every time there was a major change to layouts or any other UI changes. With high fidelity interactive mockups and screen flows, I was able to create the final version of the dashboard while carrying user testing to refine the final user experience.
The development stage initially started with a web-app in mind, so the beginning of the development process was front-end code with the Chart.js library. Due to budget constraints, the development of the dashboard was switched to using Microsoft's Power BI. Due to these technology constraints, I had to revise and adapt the UX features that were in the initial models of the dashboard to ensure that it could have the same experience in Power BI.
While some changes were made to the final models of the dashboard due to the platform change, everything was able to be accounted for, planned and designed accordingly to preserve
the same level functionality.
Being one of the biggest UX projects I have taken on, it allowed me to address the widest range of my skills as the sole UX designer.
This project let me test my skills as a designer by managing the project & UX, creating the system design, and analyzing data while working with a small budget and short deadlines. Unfortunately, additional budget constraints did not allow the project to be continued but this provided a great experience and allowed me to reinforce my work as a UX designer and project management.
Improve my ability to communicate with stakeholders
Apply my project management skills and improve them where necessary
Visualize complexed data systems into an intuitive layout