5 Ways to Optimize Your CEO Dashboard

optimize CEO dashboard

When was the last time you took a good look at your dashboard? And I mean really good look. Not just a quick glance over the charts and graphs to see what is in red. Now think to yourself, Is everything making sense? What is all this data? What does it mean? Is it still providing my company with value?

Research indicates that most traditional CEO dashboards do not provide companies with the data they need to make confident, data-based decisions.

81% of CEOs does not trust the data upon which they claim to base their decisions on.(i) According to Debra Logan in Gartner, decisions are taken based on “gut feeling” and not on Dashboard data.(ii) A PwC CEO Survey has shown over the last 10 years that there is an “information gap”. The gap between the data CEOs need to make decisions and what they get — has not closed in the 10 years.(iii)

Why is this? And why would you have a tool that you don’t trust? Don’t panic. Take a deep breath and let me introduce you to the five key areas you need to focus on to optimize your CxO dashboards.

1. Context and Background

It is crucial that CEO decisions are always made in context with the best available information possible. As the PwC Survey indicates, many traditional dashboards today lack the information needed to make good decisions. The presented information is often inadequate or incomplete. The BI team might think it has supplied the management with all the insight needed for good decision-making, however, decisions should not be taken based on graphs, tables, and numbers alone. What a CEO needs to make a good decision is knowing the full picture, complete with context and background.

Building this full picture overview into your dashboard is a great way to optimize your CEO dashboard and lay the foundation for a good decision-making.

Examples of “context and background” information to add to the CEO dashboard:

  • Strategic anchoring – How is the decision helping to execute company strategy?
  • Why has this decision point come up? What is the background behind the decision?
  • What decision needs to be made? Are all the elements clearly defined: time, money, risk, or benefit? Is there a clearly defined business case?
  • What process has led up to the decision? What is the decision audit trail?

Traditional dashboards are not giving the right context and background. Therefore, you need to bring these aspects into the CEO dashboard. Focus on the why, when, how, whom, what, and being able to track decisions in their various stages.

2. Insight and Assessment

How is insight flowing to the CEO? And what insight does the CEO need to make the right decisions? How many insights are lost on their way to the top?

CEO dashboards should contain all the insights that a business case is built upon. What does the data show? What is the commentary? What are the uncertainties? What are the downsides? What is the confidence level?

Good CEO dashboards should also foster a dialog around various hypotheses. Data discovery is not always started by a data scientist. Hypotheses might be made by various people in the organization. Even the CEO might have his/her hypothesis about cause and effect chains. One way to optimize your CEO dashboard is to facilitate this hypothesis dialog with the C-level and the data scientists in the dashboard itself.

Traditional dashboards need to go beyond the data exploration level and be able to present business cases for decisions with the full insight, assessment, and pros and cons.

3. Planning and Prioritization

When a discovery is made, and you have gained an insight, it is important to act on the insight. The best CEO dashboards link insights with a plan on how to realize the value discovered. The plan will contain the activities or project plan, and include aspects such as the following:

  • The overall project plan with key activities and milestones
  • Who is executing the plan? Who needs to be responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed?
  • What is the risk and cost? (Risk and cost assessment)
  • What is the business case and how to realize the value? (Value realization plan)
  • What stage is the project plan – initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling, closing?

Having a clear plan of action mapped out in your dashboard will empower you and your team to make decisions that align with your company’s business strategy.

4. Execution and Control

A plan is nothing without data. Data is nothing without execution. CEOs need dashboards that are more than reporting and data aggregation. The biggest challenge for a CEO is execution.

According to Bain & Company, eighty-five percent of strategy failures happen because of an organization’s inability to implement and execute a plan.(iv)

Building an execution plan and controlling that the plan is executed is the key to CEO dashboard success. Make sure to give your CEO three views into the dashboard you provide.

A) The Story View

The story view shows the strategic view – high level strategic objectives with cause and effect relationships based on company’s strategic direction. What are the objectives? How are we going to meet our objectives? How are we doing now? What are the risks and how are we mitigating these risks? What are our key projects and how are we spending our money?

B) The Execution View

The execution view is a vital part of every CEO’s dashboard, and it focuses on one of the main priorities of the CEO – execution. What are the action plans, and where are we lagging? What are the challenges, and where do we need to dive in and put our management attention? Who is not delivering as planned? And how can we help?

C) The Data View

Data dashboards with filtration and drill down and/or ad-hoc queries capabilities are the most common types of dashboards that CEOs are exposed to. My experience is that we should not overcomplicate these queries. I have seen CEOs getting access to nine different filters, and instead of drilling down into the data, they drill away and get lost. Avoid overcrowding the user interface with complex data exploration functionality. Focus on displaying data that provides the most value for your CEO and present it in a way that is easy to understand and act upon.

5. Impact

The purpose of every dashboard is to create an impact on the business. We need to remember this purpose as our number one priority when creating and optimizing CEO dashboards. My experience is that a dashboard that creates a business impact consists of the following main capabilities:

  • Data – quantitative and qualitative (assessments)
  • Insight and analytical capabilities
  • Planning capabilities
  • Execution capabilities – often supported by a workflow engine
  • Business story or framework – make sure that your dashboards become business framework oriented and not purely report oriented

A traditional dashboard will give you an insight. However, by optimizing it with plan and prioritization, you move a big step closer towards making a business impact.

Context and Background, Insight and Assessment, Planning and Prioritization, Execution and Control, and Impact are the key areas to focus when optimizing your CEO dashboard. Unfortunately, most of today’s dashboards focus on collecting data without putting it to use.

Maybe that is the reason why as many as 7 out of 10 dashboards fail to deliver business impact.(v)

To get the most value out of your dashboard, make sure to keep it optimized with the right components that create business impact. And remember, since your CEO understands the concept of business value, business impact, results, and outcome, you should expect the same from your dashboard.


(i) KPMG Data & Analytics spotlight on Disrupt and Grow: 2017 Global CEO Outlook

(ii) Finansavisen article about Debra Logan’s presentation at Gartner event

(iii) PWC CEO Survey 2019

(iv) The CEO agenda: Strategy into Action

(v) Gartner Keynote 2013