How data dashboards yield insights and foster collaboration

June 16, 2021
SCMP Insights
Article co-authored by:
Korey Lee, Vice-president of data, South China Morning Post 
Romain Rouquier, Director of data, South China Morning Post

South China Morning Post's data team recently won first prize in the INMA Global Media Awards 2021 “Best Data Dashboard” category. In this issue of The Lede, we have Korey Lee, vice-president of data, and Romain Rouquier, director of data, explain how data dashboard helps organisations make better decisions.

Data helps organisations make better decisions, but only if you organise them and make them meaningful. Dashboards can be an effective tool to make complex and masses of data more comprehensible for different stakeholders, which gets various internal stakeholders on the same page while collating different perspectives. 

Dashboards are used by nearly every department at media companies today from screens in the newsrooms, advertising sales departments to audience growth teams. But how do we build dashboards that yields insights and fosters inter-department collaboration?

Last year, we relaunched our commenting platform that involves knowledge experts to elevate conversations around trending topics. This is a cross-department collaboration, but different departments speak different data languages, have varied data maturity and tools and their own focus and KPIs. 

We worked on 3 different pillars when we built the dashboards:

Centralising insights from all departments in one place
Easing data adoption through User experience (UX)/User interface (UI)
Enabling greater reactivity with real-time data and alerts

Centralising insights from all departments in one place
Different departments use data in various ways with specific and varying areas of focus and KPIs. For example:
  1. Product: Which platform are users commenting on the most? How many users are logged in? How many visitors are ready to comment? From which entry point?
  2. Audience Growth: Which stories should we feature to encourage readers to comment? How was the performance of the EDM and the in-house ad? What is the open rate of the retention email?
  3. Editorial: What are the sections with the most or least engagement? How many comments from the newsroom have been posted? Is the quality of comments improving? 
  4. Corporate Communications: How many readers took part in the conversation? How many of those comments did not pass moderation?
  5. All teams: How did my actions impact cross-department targets?
To enable all teams to maximise the reach and its impact of this new platform, we centralised all the insights on our dashboard to drive transparency, mutual understanding, and shared focus. 

Easing data adoption through UX/UI

Clarity of information was the top priority when we built the dashboard.  Not only did we consider data visualisation but also UI and UX when building the dashboard. We organised and simplified data into a visual and understandable format, as well as sourced inspiration from the best non-analytical products to craft a well-designed and easy-to-use dashboard.

The dashboard structure was divided into 6 pages with a clear structure that
mirrored the design of our ‘Reach-Acquisition-Engagement’ funnel as it aligns with our company and team level growth objectives. It provides an overview as well as specific steps within the funnel:

Alongside one of our core team goals to democratise data, we wanted to make these dashboards easy for anyone in the organisation to use. 

Navigation needs to be simple:

Each page has a brief explainer to provide context and clarify the definitions of the metrics  and perhaps call-outs on specific focus areas to pay attention to.

User guides and tutorials help users better understand the details of the dashboard, add filters, and self-serve so these dashboards can be used globally across all of our satellite offices with minimal training:

Making ratios easier to interpret and then anticipating and answering follow-up questions is critical to provoke thought and potentially lead to further discussions

Enabling greater reactivity with real-time data and alerts

Dashboards aim to monitor activity.  To drive collaboration and enhance productivity, our dashboard provides real-time data and alerts that help identify trends, issues and opportunities.

We’ve integrated these alerts into our online team so they can be aware of spikes in engagement and potentially repost / curate compelling comments.

For our internal experts to engage with our readers, our dashboard can help them to know what comments are trending and when our external experts contribute so our team can respond or reply accordingly.

Launching a new feature and platform is undoubtedly complex and cross-departmental collaboration can be challenging, but good dashboards are instrumental to the success of many other projects, changes and decision making by maximising the impact of your data and fostering collaboration.