Just as a great data visualization combines valuable information with a user experience that encourages consumption, an effective dashboard brings together data and subject matter experts who have collaborated to realize a solution that works for both – and most importantly, for the end-user.

Here are five reasons why these two types of experts- both data and subject matter evangelists- need to be working together in your organization.  

  1. You eliminate preconceptions. When they’re pressed for time, many people skip steps, build insights based on their preconceptions, and do not explore trends or outliers. Oftentimes, those preconceptions are proven wrong. When you have colleagues that understand the data to advise your data team, you can eliminate these fallacies.
  2. You build effective and accurate stories. A data expert may know a great deal, but rarely knows as much about the data as a subject matter expert. You’ll see much stronger results if you have subject matter experts to vet insights and ensure that they're sound. That way you can make an effective story that’s also accurate.
  3. You create a shared premium on updated information. Once users see how powerful it is when real-time information is deployed in a dashboard, they become your advocates. Drawing on the expertise of subject matter experts means you know the right data to update and highlight, while data experts can create the best way to display that data to maximum advantage.
  4. You can better deploy interactivity. Business dashboards tend to focus on a lot of interactivity, which is great for analysts or policy advisers, but not as effective for people who like to see the big picture. People that want insights and don't want to have to search and dig around for them. If you do the work to understand the data and subject matter, you’ll know exactly how much interactivity and how much storytelling makes sense for the end users.
    This electric meter administration panel balances data with subject matter expertise to create an interactive tool that makes finding trends easy, even for non-experts.
    This electric meter administration panel balances data with subject matter expertise to create an interactive tool that makes finding trends easy, even for non-experts.
  5. You’ll generate greater trust in your results. When I worked in government, our Secretary’s office (up to the Governor’s office) needed data and visualizations they could reference in conversation with media and the public. It took a lot of teamwork and a lot of data and subject matter experts working together in order to organize this process, but you can’t put a price on the amount of credibility it created. 

Bringing data and subject matter experts together takes a lot of time, work, and energy, but in my experience it always pays off in the end