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Tessitura Network Blog

Turning Data into Dashboards

Amy Welsh shares the five-step process she uses to create Tessitura Analytics dashboards

Photo of Amy Welch, smiling, from the neck up.

Amy WelshTicketing and Systems Coordinator, Black Swan State Theatre Company

TitleTurning data into dashboards

Published8/31/2020

Read/View Time6 min


I hadn’t encountered dashboard reporting prior to Tessitura Analytics.

But I knew it would be a game-changer in terms of automated reporting and data analysis. Fast forward to now, and I regularly share seven key dashboards with members of my team to inform their decision-making on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. How did I get to this point and what can I share with you?

As Ticketing and Systems Coordinator at Black Swan State Theatre Company in Western Australia, my job is to provide the most important pieces of information to help people within our team, Executive and Board with decision making. For other organisations within our consortium, this could include external stakeholders such as producers and funders.

As a dashboard-based reporting system, Tessitura Analytics has made this task easier and more intuitive. Dashboards present subsets of mini-reports in one simplified view that allow ease of interpretation by multiple audiences.

Over time, and with experimentation, I have developed my own five-step process that guides my process of building and refining dashboards. Some of this may seem simplistic, but it’s based on the foundation principle: if your house is not built solidly from the ground up, you are likely to encounter problems further down the track.

“My job is to provide the most important pieces of information to help people with decision making. As a dashboard-based reporting system, Tessitura Analytics has made this task easier and more intuitive.”

1. Identify the Question/s

At its most basic level, data analytics is about answering questions and solving problems. We want to make informed decisions and take decisive action based on data.

It was a presentation delivered by Tessitura’s Amalia Hordern at the Australia New Zealand Tessitura Regional User Conference (ANZTRUC) that inspired me to ask myself three questions:

  1. What key information needs consistent measuring?
  2. What data do we need to help make decisions?
  3. What data do I want that I currently don’t have access to?

If you’re unsure where to begin, consider the questions you often need answers for and the reports you are already asked to provide. For me, those questions included:

  • Should we implement dynamic pricing?
  • Did that marketing effort have an effect on sales?
  • What are our busy sales days and channels, so I can allocate resources accordingly?

I was already providing daily, weekly and monthly ticketing sales reports in Tessitura and assisting with pre- and post-show reporting, board reports and Annual Reports.

Pulling apart this existing work helped me determine what data I needed in order to make decisions and fulfil current reporting requirements.

“Consider the questions you often need answers for and the reports you are already asked to provide.”

For my role, there are more than 10 metrics I am asked to provide, including, for example, Show by Mode of Sale (MOS), Zone by Capacity, Single Tickets by Channel and Ticket Packages by Price Type. 

This all became a great starting point for identifying the questions my dashboards would need to answer.

2. Group the Questions

How did I then translate my questions to Tessitura Analytics? I began by identifying common topics that could be naturally grouped. Metrics that needed to be reported together became the starting point of my dashboards.

Amy at her desk.

For example, the pre- and post-show reporting mentioned above ultimately became my Production Dashboard.

The audience for each dashboard is a key consideration and can determine whether this is an ‘at a glance’ report or a ‘deep dive’ analysis. Are you presenting key KPIs to time-poor executives? Or are you providing detailed membership churns or a ticketing traffic analysis for a quarterly sales report? Your audience impacts content, but also design of the board and widgets within it. If your dashboard is going to higher-level decision makers, you may need to factor in free text boxes to provide insightful commentary around a chart. The goal is to make each dashboard easy to read and interpret by its intended audience.

For example, I have included a ‘surface glance’ pivot widget for dynamic pricing in a dashboard for our executive team and a more granular version which includes zone in the production dashboard for myself and my team leader.

Remember that the ‘out of the box’ dashboards in Tessitura Analytics may provide what you need or be a helpful place to begin. Once I have an idea about a possible dashboard, I pull apart those already created by Tessitura Network. If I can adapt them to fit my requirements, it saves me re-inventing the wheel. I’m a huge advocate of working smarter, not harder.

Screenshot of Tessitura Analytics showing a bar graph and a pie chart.

Using this method, I originally identified four main dashboards to assist with required reporting at Black Swan Theatre Company:

  • Production Dashboard
  • Season Dashboard
  • Student / Education Dashboard
  • Ticketing Traffic Dashboard

I’ve since added three more dashboards:

  • Ticket Packages Dashboard
  • COVID-19 Impact Dashboard
  • Weekly Sales Dashboard

3. Create a wireframe

Before starting to build a dashboard in the application, I draw a wireframe of its layout. I do this in pencil so I can play with order, emphasis and groupings of metrics. But you don’t have to use pencil or paper — you can use a whiteboard, post-it notes, or cards blu-tacked on a wall. The key is to not do this in Analytics directly; it’s much easier to edit and play.

The Production Dashboard was the first one I created in Tessitura Analytics. Since it contains the most critical data for me and my team, it was my priority when transitioning to dashboard reporting.  

As I created the first wireframe, I learned that widget layout is key — which data should be placed where. Your dashboard should read from left to right, then top to bottom, with the most important information displayed in the top left corner. 

Hand-drawn wrieframe labeled 'Production Season Dash'

Producing a wireframe helps me to visualise the dashboard as a whole and keep my audience top of mind, before I become embedded in the detail of individual widgets.

4. Build your dashboard

Once I am relatively happy with the wireframe, I start playing in Tessitura Analytics itself and the build begins. This is one of the most time-intensive parts of the process, so don’t rush and carve out some quiet time with headphones on if necessary.

Whether you’re adapting an ‘out-of-the-box’ dashboard, or starting from scratch, the filters of your dash are the main place to start. Like the parameters on standard reports, these determine the scope of information your dashboard presents. As your dashboard is based around reporting certain metrics together, they should share some common parameters and filters.

My dashboards regularly include Season or Fiscal Year, Mode of Sale (MOS) and Price Type filters. I like to use the on/off toggle, rather than adding or deleting filters. It’s easier to see their impact on the dashboard or widget output. It also makes things easier to fix if removing the filter makes your data do unexpected things.

Different widget designs tell different stories; if you want to learn more, resources like ‘Storytelling with Data’ are a great place to start. I personally love the speedo widget, which is good for reporting progress to target. Line charts are great at showing change over time. If you have more complex data with multiple fields, then a pivot table is the way to go. 

As a rule, it is easier to duplicate and edit both dashboards and widgets as you are building. If you have created a widget you really like, you can also drag and drop it across dashboards to duplicate. It’s a small feature that makes a huge difference.

“Different widget designs tell different stories.”

5. Revise and edit

I believe Analytics dashboards are never finished products. Each is a work in progress that is continually refined in response to feedback from management and my own interactions with it.

Remember: dashboards exist to provide data to decision makers and answer their questions appropriately. Could you have missed key data in your planning? If so, revise and change. 

My weekly ticket sales dashboard is an example. I realised one of my widgets was not accurately answering the question for which I was being asked to provide data.

In this instance, the detail of weekly sales of student group tickets by production was not so important to the dashboard recipients. All they really wanted to know how we were tracking against the overall target. So, I revised the widget to simply show total paid ticket sales against target and changed its style to speedo. Then, using the wireframing principle mentioned above, the more granular information regarding student sales by production was placed to the right.

Screenshot of 'old version' showing a spreadsheet and bar chart, then 'new version' with a speedometer-style indicator and a bar chart.

Tessitura Analytics dashboards have improved our workflow at Black Swan in a tangible way. The weekly ticket sales dashboard alone has replaced about seven or eight Excel spreadsheets, two or three Tessitura reports and close to two hours of staff time every week. Being able to deliver data in such a visual format to our key decision makers means they can interpret the data more readily and make informed decisions.

I also highly recommend utilising Tessitura’s community forums, webinars and training materials for the information, advice and shared wisdom you can access. The TAMATO (Tessitura Analytics for Marketing and Ticketing Operations) and TAFFY (Tessitura Analytics for Fundraisers) forums in particular are invaluable.

New to dashboards and Tessitura Analytics? Don’t let that put you off! Experiment and play until you find what works for you, your reporting requirements and your organisation. The dashboards you produce will make a big difference to your job and your organisation’s ability to take regular positive action based on insight from data. As I said — it’s a game-changer. You won’t look back.

 

 

Top photo: Cloudstreet production image, photo by Pia Johnson

Photo of Amy Welch, smiling, from the neck up.

Amy Welsh

Ticketing and Systems Coordinator

Black Swan State Theatre Company

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