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Sales dashboard fatigue

Updated: May 21

A 2016 study published in the National Library of Medicine investigated fatigue in relation to clinical alarms in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Overall 2,184 clinical alarms were counted for 48 hours of observation, and 45.5 clinical alarms occurred per hour per subject… which lead to reduced attention or response to alarms.

The study’s conclusion? Fatigue due to clinical alarms, and false alarms were obstacles to proper patient management.

When alarms or metrics contain little information, users learn to ignore them.

We see this same issue with sales dashboards. Too many low information-content metrics. Vendors make matters worse by decorating their dashboards with red, yellow, green, and blue colors to indicate trends or goodness. Presumably green is good, red is bad. Yellow is in between? Maybe. Blue? I don’t know. Here’s an example. How do all these colors help?

What is needed is a comparison to both what is expected and to what is good. Is the amount going down always bad? In some cases, going down is a good sign of entering serious negotiations. Down by 80% is certainly different. Should both changes be flagged red? Can you tell the difference without wasting time filtering out things that only changed a little—wading through the noise?

Just because a metric goes up or down does not mean there is anything worth calling your attention to. Statistical process control people nailed this problem years ago by setting off alarms only when metrics become outliers. Not when they go up or down. Here’s an example from Certified Quality Engineer Academy.

The dotted lines are upper and lower control limits. Everything inside those are normal process variations. That red outlier is clearly something of concern. Imagine if there was a red or green alert every time the metric went down or up. It would be pure noise. At best, a distraction. Like the ICU alarms are to the patient care staff.

We see this same phenomenon with sales dashboard reporting. Too much noise. When it comes to sales reports, less—of the right information–is more. That’s our focus at Funnelcast; to give you a small number of statistically-driven actionable insights.


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