The Zen of Dashboards

A single view that shows you every case and the situation of those cases.


Imagine your cases were a garden of stones and you wanted to place all the stones of one color together. You could lay them all out in a line then another line of another color and so on. Or you could pile those stones together and then right next to them would be another pile of another color. In one small patch of the garden you can now see all the stones of matching color. Neatly organised.

That is exactly what the default dashboard does.

When you are a small organization it is easy to keep track of all the cases in your head. In time as you grow you will no doubt resort to a spreadsheet and perhaps organized directories and mail inboxes.

These are all great tools, but if you continue to grow you wonder if there is be a better way to see what is going on other than navigating endless lists of cases, sorting by color or priority or date.

Personally this has been a driving force for me since I was a detective in law enforcement. I along with a team of others, went out day after day following up leads, putting in reports and then watched the diligent intel team review then allocate the new leads or re allocate the incomplete ones from the prior day.

Mountains of paper, thousands of leads and the most critical business process you could ever be involved in. It screamed for reorganization.

I eventually worked in the State Major Incident Group where I trained investigators in the use of our latest systems. They were an incredible improvement but hampered by the wish lists of management and IT constraints. Not actually designed for investigations.

Often when designing software there is a desire to replicate the existing systems or methods that you are automating. In fact if software fails to do this it is often discarded and users return to old systems or methods. During the development process however you should avoid replicating the weaknesses of the current system or methods. Everything should be questioned and if it does not add value, remove it.

The piles of paper had been replaced by endless lists and screens. The same mess, slower to interact with, but even in this form faster to navigate than paper, faster to process and show evidentiary links.

To me it was obvious that all these lists and methods of sorting and ordering information needed consolidating in some way.

From day one Polonious has been dashboard centric. Yes we have lists and sorting and color coding and you can even choose that as your default view if you want. But no one does after they understand the dashboard.

Why a dashboard? It is the only view the shows you every case and the current situation of that case in one single view.

A single view from which you can understand every lead, case or other process in your system.

Of course you may want your files organized differently so it is necessary to make the view changeable depending on your needs.

By default a dashboard will show you the status of all your investigations, priority, complaints, actions due, management review due, due and overdue. All in one simple to understand view. To drill down to a list of cases displayed on the dashboard you simply click on those cases.
Our user dashboard is also definable down to the user level and you can name and save your favorite views. Cases by Status, Investigator, Organization, Priority, State, Type and so on.

As with all things there is rigor involved in organization. As Polonious is a highly configurable tool you must have a vision of how you want to see your organization. How it is divided and the processes you want to represent. In short a visual goal that you want to achieve.

To that end when we first discuss process with our clients we do it with this exact framework in mind. We explain how the dashboard can reflect those processes and enable users to easily find and action the most appropriate cases.

As of 2.4 Polonious has also added fully customizable dashboard view where users can select the charts they wish to view, all are clickable and filter the view with the selections made. For a demo contact Polonious.

5 Hot tips for your dashboard.

Set some time aside to action your dashboard. It may not be the first thing you do if you must respond to emails and or phone messages. If you are reading emails should you be forwarding them to the case and actioning them there. This keeps the whole team in the loop and ensured you do not lose that information and actions taken in the future.

Now that your urgent communication is done you can start to work on your dashboard Do not read emails and do not answer calls unless they are suitably important. Avoid the urge to get distracted.

The dashboard is most suitably read from the top left to the bottom right. Cases at the top are in the earliest phases of investigation and cases in the left hand columns are running late. Hence any count of cases in the top left is most young, late case and needs your attention.

Sort through your dashboard one cell at a time, click on the cases in that cell and you will be taken to a list of those cases. Action the first case in the list then return to the case browse view (use the breadcrumb) after you have actioned the file and it will be gone from your list.

Keep doing this until there is nothing in the ‘Overdue’ column. If there is nothing in that column then address the ‘Due Today’ column. If there is nothing there then the ‘Review’ column and if nothing there the ‘Action’ column. Now you can celebrate and admire what you have achieved.

If your dashboard is in a mess then tackle this one cell at a time and action cases in that cell on that day. Return to it tomorrow and there will be less in that cell, action those then move on to the next cell and so on. You will conquer your dashboard in a shorter time than you think.

Think about escalation, how can the system better inform you or what is, has or should have happened. There are many abilities that can help users focus on the right cases at the right time.

The most common is action based. That is an action by a user causes the case to move to a new status. A simple example of this is a new case is created and a decision to investigate or not is required. Based on the action of the user that case will either close out or move to the next status indicating that further investigation is required.

Another is escalation based on time. In other words this case has been at this status for a certain time so we will escalate it by changing the status. Users are made aware that it has been on that status for that amount of time. An example may be that new instructions were received and they need to be actioned within 24 hours. So you may create a status of ‘New Instructions’ and after 12 hours you may escalate that to ‘New Instructions +12′. This indicates to users that these new instructions are older that others and should be actioned first. Of course you could add further escalations at 18 hours or perhaps multiple escalations as is appropriate. At each escalation point users can be emailed or a text message forwarded to let them know that these instructions need actioning.

Sometimes it is not so linear and you need to escalate only on the lack of specific actions and if some actions are taken on a regular basis then the case is not escalated. For example if a file must be actioned every five days then you can configure the system to escalate the status based on the fact that there has been no action for five days. However if there is action it resets the timer to ensure compliance in the next five day period.

All of the above actions effect where the cases appear on the dashboard and keep you informed about every case and its situation continuously.

If you are a Polonious user then information on all these configuration abilities are available on our user group and if you are not a member please join us just email

Last updated: December 3rd, 2014