Maybe a dashboard isn’t the answer you’re looking for.

This, like many cartoons, is both hackneyed and useful. It's hackneyed because we've all experienced this situation: too many charts, too many dashboards, not enough thought put into the so what. While this is certainly substandard work, it's so common that we accept it as the status quo and no longer really "see" the problem. The cartoon is simultaneously useful because, like much art, it makes the invisible visible.

Avinash Kaushik calls reports like this "data pukes". Not only are data pukes not useful, they actually lead to a loss of credibility for a data culture throughout an organization, a shared shrugging-of-the-shoulders. That's why this matters.

The thing that most frustrates me is that our tools encourage us to produce this type of work. The rise of Jupyter and the notebook paradigm is the first big push back against this, since notebooks elevate narrative text to being a first class citizen. But the tools that organizations use to disseminate knowledge consider narrative to be of tertiary concern at best.

IMO, there should be a small number of organizational KPIs on a small number of dashboards. Everything else should be a specific investigation including a clear narrative and conclusions, produced at a specific point in time.


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