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Elite Data Analysis For Security II: Data Dashboard Pitfalls

By Todd LaRocca

Data Dashboard Pitfalls To Avoid During Data Analysis At Your Agency’s Security OperationData dashboards are useless if they aren’t helping you make better decisions.

Presenting or visualizing your data with the wrong design wastes time and makes bad decisions more likely. When it comes to organizational security at your federal agency, the stakes are too high to risk not having a clear picture.

As an agency security or suitability executive, choosing the right design for your data visualization is an important first step. Yet, far too many executives don’t design their data dashboards in an effective manner – skewing their information and jeopardizing their critical security decisions.

In this second post of a five-part series, we examine common pitfalls when it comes to crafting an effective data dashboard, and how to avoid those pitfalls at your defense or intelligence agency. In Part I, we discussed robust data collection tactics for stronger security decision-making.

Here are the five most frequent data dashboard pitfalls and what your security operation can do to avoid them:

Pitfall #1: Choosing The Wrong Metrics

Like we’ve covered before, it’s better to use your existing or easily accessible data than to establish a new metric that’s difficult to measure. Even if a metric doesn’t perfectly capture the security insight you need, it’s much better to have a KPI on your data dashboard you can consistently measure.


Pitfall #2: Creating Static Charts

Unless you’re creating a chart that only needs to be used once a quarter (or even less frequently), a static chart or dashboard won’t help you make better security decisions. Instead, you need at least some functionality or interaction on your data dashboard allowing you to select what’s being displayed or alter different variables to see how data might change.


Pitfall #3: Not Automating Data Collection

Frequently entering data or manually editing a visualization tool is a waste of your time. To keep you focused on the highest-priority security decisions, your data dashboard should automate data collection and adjust dynamically as new data is entered. Don’t invest more time or effort into building and maintaining the dashboard than the benefit you reap from using the tool.


Pitfall #4: Failing To Prioritize

A cluttered data dashboard does more harm than good. Having too much data or too many charts defeats the purpose of getting a clear picture from your security data. Instead of choosing 25 flashy charts and graphics, pick the two or three most insightful KPIs that actually help you make better decisions for agency security.


Pitfall #5: Not Focusing On The Final Decision

Many federal agencies purchase a turnkey software solution for data visualization then adjust their processes and decisions around satisfying the new software’s default dashboards. This approach wastes your time and resources because it distracts you from the final security decisions you actually have to make. Rather, you should determine what problems you’re trying to solve or decisions you’re trying to inform. Then, create your data dashboards to solve those problems or enlighten those decisions, leaving out any extra noise.


Data dashboards are powerful tools for data analysis and security decision-making, but they have to be used correctly in order to be effective. Learn to avoid these mistakes in your data visualization efforts before the next security breach identifies them for you.

Does your defense agency need to improve organizational security operations within a limited schedule and budget? Click below to download this e-book from Big Sky Associates and discover how to make process improvement efforts that are cost-effective for your budget.

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Catch up with the rest of the elite data analysis series: