How to Build a Team That Builds Great Marketing Dashboards

Ryan Chin Alight Insights, Tableau Best Practices

Want awesome-looking marketing dashboards? Then you need a rockstar analytics team that can build those dashboards. 

Right now, visualization and BI talent are in high demand, so hiring a team might feel like an impossible task, but it’s really not. You just need …

  • A clear idea of the skills you really need
  • A way to test whether job applicants have those skills
  • A process for continually building and refining your team’s skill set 

It’s the blueprint we’ve followed to recruit a group that produces dashboards that deliver powerful, in-depth insights and look amazing, too.

Set Your Objective, Define Your Skills

There’s a difference between winning teams and, uh … teams that aren’t winners yet

Winning teams have clear objectives and a strategy for accomplishing their goals. They also understand the kinds of skills necessary to reach those goals, whether that’s devastating speed or a preternatural gift for improvisation

What do you want your team to accomplish? Once you know that, you know the type of people and skills that you need to recruit. 

In our case, we want BI developers who can build marketing dashboards that are easy for clients to understand and use for making good decisions. And there are three fundamental skills that make that possible: 

  • Psychology
  • Eye for design
  • Problem-solving

Notice what isn’t on the list? A long list of technical skills and certifications. Those can be important and useful, and you probably shouldn’t hire someone who’s a completely blank slate. But ultimately, most technical skills can be taught and developed. The fundamentals are much, much more difficult to learn. 

That’s why you should keep an open mind about job applicants. When we’ve hired BI developers, most of them have fallen into one of four buckets. 

  • Experienced developers. They’ve got years of experience and have been Tableau Jedis for so long, they actually fought in the Clone Wars
  • Analysts who are new to BI. They have experience working with data, but they’re still learning how to build dashboards. 
  • Subject matter experts. People who have mastered the ins and outs of your larger industry — whether that’s finance, agriculture, retail, what have you. In Alight’s case, people with marketing backgrounds.
  • Recent graduates. They’ve built dashboards as part of class projects, but lack any professional BI experience. 

Everybody wants experienced developers — they’re awesome! These people will form the backbone of your analytics team, and that’s what you want all of your new hires to eventually become. 

But our team has added people from each of the other three categories, too, and they’ve been incredibly successful because they possess the necessary fundamentals: an understanding of user psychology, good design sense and the ability to solve problems without a ton of hand-holding. 

Design Your Assessment 

So, you’ve determined the essential skills that your analytics team should have. How can you make sure job applicants actually have the goods? 

You need to design an assessment that allows your job candidates to flex those muscles. For a lot of BI development teams, that means asking potential hires to design a dashboard — either in mockup form or inside a tool like Tableau, Google Data Studio or Power BI. 

Make a list of the specific things you want your ideal hire to be able to do. In our case, it looks something like this: 

  • Psychology 
    • Does the candidate understand who the marketing dashboard’s audience is?
    • Does the dashboard speak to the audience?
    • Did they include too much information?
    • Does their dashboard achieve the 5-1-5 rule? That is, do their reports allow a user to understand the report within five seconds, develop an actionable insight within one minute and make a business decision within five minutes? 
  • Eye for Design
    • Were the correct chart types utilized?
    • Is color used as a tool?
    • Did they think about how to indicate important information?
    • Is there a flow to the dashboard? Does my eye jump around the dashboard, or is there a progression?
  • Problem-Solving
    • Did the candidate identify how the data was structured? 
    • Was the logic behind their calculation suitable?
    • Did they QA their work?
    • What process did they take prior to building the dashboard?

Alight uses a two-part assessment. Here’s what it looks like.

Assessment 1 / Test

We actually version this step of the process. Experienced developers and marketers are asked to build an “executive summary” marketing dashboard using a dataset that we provide. Recent graduates and analysts new to BI? They’re given a test containing questions about Tableau’s standard “Superstore” dataset. 

Assessment 2 / Interview

Next, we interview each applicant about the decisions they made during the first part of the assessment. We’re looking for context. What was their process? Why did they choose to visualize this way instead of using a different method? 

We’ll also identify other skills involved in the test, like Tableau or data knowledge, and try to learn more about the person’s career goals, communication style, task management and culture fit. 

If that person’s a good fit, if we think they will make valuable contributions, we hire them. 

But that’s just the start. 

Create a Development Plan

Hiring the right people is important. What’s often overlooked, though, is how important continuing education and development are, even for veteran developers. You’ll probably find that your best people got that way because they’ve developed a habit of self-education and improvement.

There are two primary ways to build up your people. 

The first is by helping them strengthen their fundamental skills — e.g. design sense, psychology, problem-solving. While it’s really hard to teach these skills, it is possible to sharpen them.

We also identify technical and subject matter skills that can increase their ability to contribute, like Tableau mastery, data expertise or marketing knowledge.

  • Coaching: Sometimes this comes in the form of regular one-on-one meetings with the recent hire and their supervisor or a more experienced developer. Team meetings and user group meetups are also good ways to expose up-and-coming BI developers to best practices and new ideas. 
  • Formal Training: Continuing education is critical in our field, whether that’s in the form of online courses or on-site training. Every year, we set aside budget for online training and send our team to Tableau Conference. 
  • Skills Challenges: Sometimes it’s fun to tackle a side project that might not have anything to do with your normal job and that lets you stretch your creativity and learn new skills. The Tableau community’s Workout Wednesdays are a great example, and you can find several other examples in this vein. But there’s nothing stopping your team (even if it’s just two people) from coming up with your own challenge.  

Full disclosure: Building a butt-kicking BI team does not happen overnight, or even in a few months. It takes time, and will almost certainly involve a little frustration along the way. But the effort you invest in recruiting and developing your team will pay off in next-level dashboards — and through them, game-changing business insights. Trust us, we know.  

Ready to Take the Next Step? 

Need a little helping building dashboards now? Alight Analytics offers a suite of next-generation solutions that come with a set of quick-start dashboards that are ready to use with Tableau, Google Data Studio and Power BI. You can have advanced, professional reports within days. Learn more here

Want to join our team? Check out the latest career opportunities here!