Did you ever watch Star Trek and wish you had Captain Kirk’s computer? One that could tell you anything about any part of your starship in a moment?
Enter the project management dashboard. It’s a central data dashboard designed to display all of your key metrics related to specific projects. A project management dashboard shows high-level metrics for project progress as well as project task status, budget, and anything else that offers real-time insight into a project.
Whether you’re fighting Klingons or shipping software, information and a dashboard tool can’t be beaten.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about project management dashboard software, and how to create your own.
What is a project management dashboard?A project management dashboard is a single page that tells you at a glance how all of your projects are doing.
A good project management dashboard provides one place for up-to-date and easy-to-read KPIs.
It’s invaluable for a modern project manager.
With project portfolio management, you can make decisions confidently with real-time data and keeping external stakeholders informed.
Some features you might see on your project management dashboard include:
- Tasks, with estimated completion time and ability to track time
- Client requirements
- Actual cost of each task
- Timelines with milestones and clear deliverables
- Status of tests, reviews, or outside certifications
A high-quality project dashboard will be useful for real-time updates and analyzing project data on completed or canceled projects. This data can then applied to all future projects.
The best project management dashboard is easy to read, simple to customize for your business, and has the ability to automatically update in real-time. Having a perfect dashboard won’t help if you have to waste all your time updating it.
How do you make a project management dashboard work for you?
Step one is choosing your KPIs, the metrics that tell you whether your project is on the track.
- Deliverables completed per week
- Positive client reviews received each month
- Months you remained within budget
For each KPI, identify the data source, like a spreadsheet, customer relationship manager, project management software, or another app.
Next, decide how to visually present each metric. If the KPI is an absolute number, like weekly expenses, a line graph could work. If it’s a comparison, like customers gained vs. lost, try a bar graph. For timelines longer than a week, try a Gantt chart.
The important thing is that anyone can look at the visual representation of your data and understand the metrics right away.
Now, all you need to do is arrange your visuals, link your sources, and behold: you’ve got a project dashboard.
That might seem daunting, but there are plenty of apps designed to help you — even if you aren’t a technical person.
monday.com has a wide selection of templates you can use to harness the power of a project management dashboard.
For instance, our project tracker template is a great base to get you up and running:
Project management dashboard questions answered
What should be included in a project management dashboard?
As long as your project management dashboard includes representations of live KPI updates, the only requirements it needs to meet are yours.
Here are a few suggestions…
- Product roadmap
A long-term plan for what features will be added to a software product. It also shows who is in charge of each feature and the steps needed to finish.
The monday.com product roadmap template is a good, user-friendly model.
- Task tracker
A widget for the day-to-day. A good daily task tracker can show you what every member of your team is working on at any point in time.
- Financial widget
This can be a bar or line graph that shows how your resource allocation for the project, and whether it’s sustainable. You can compare your actual spend to your projected budget, and adjust accordingly.
- Workload widget
A workload widget, like the one we’ve got on monday.com, is about allocating your human resources. With one of these, you can ensure nobody on your team is ever overworked or underworked.
There’s one more thing you need in a project dashboard, and it’s something people often forget.
Remember, a project dashboard is most helpful when your entire team buys into it. We’ve built all our templates at monday.com so that team members won’t just use them, they will enjoy using them.
What is the benefit of a dashboard?
A project manager makes a lot of decisions each day.
- Who should take ownership of each task?
- When should that work be done?
- What needs to be offloaded?
- Who’s being underutilized?
- Where are we with our budget, and what’s costing too much money?
- How can we allocate our budget?
Project management tools like dashboards give you a gathering place for all of these important KPIs that surround your project while being able to read those KPIs quickly.
Let’s look at an example.
The monday.com process management template shows a ton of information with just one glance:
In this screenshot alone, you can see:
- All the active projects
- Project status
- Project owners
- Task priority
(Yeah, we know, we’re recommending our own template. In our defence, they are useful.)
With one look, you know exactly where your attention is needed and you can control what you want to see. For example, is a campaign lagging because the marketing agency is overworked?
How do I create a project dashboard in Excel?
It’s true that Excel can be used to build dashboards that update automatically. If you link a chart to a data set, changing the data causes the chart to update too.
All you need to do is add your data to a column, insert a chart using the toolbar, then highlight the cells with the data you want to display. Once the chart’s in place, it will update to reflect changes to the linked data.
The catch: Excel has a steep learning curve, and we’re not convinced it’s always worth it.
This isn’t just us talking ourselves up here (although, unsurprisingly, we prefer monday.com templates to Excel spreadsheets). Excel is a powerful tool, but it’s not optimized for project dashboards.
Dedicated project management software is more appealing, more fun to use, and more likely to keep your team on the same page.
Never forget the three most important things about a project dashboard: relevant KPIs, automatic updates, and the ability to communicate lots of information instantly.
Those goals can be deceptively hard to reach. It’s always better to use software that comes with a dedicated dashboard template that doesn’t need require heavy lifting.
Preparing your dashboard
Now that you’ve learned what to look for in a project management dashboard, you’re probably excited to get started on your own.
We totally get it. Having your data ducks in a row is an amazing feeling.
No matter what kind of workplace you’re in, monday.com has a customizable project dashboard template for you. Try our team task management or weekly to do list templates to start. You’ll be able to bring the power of project dashboards to your team without having to tinker with them all night first.