Build a security dashboard – How to guide

Build a security dashboard and risk managers can:

  • Measure performance in most business functions
  • Demonstrate compliance with forthcoming legislation for example, Martyn’s Law.

Lets take a look at how to build a security dashboard best practice.

Video transcript: Tips on how to build a dashboard

Introduction to dashboards

My name is Andrew and these are my tips on how to build a dashboard now in the beginning we had dashboards exclusively for things such as aircraft however, in a company came along and went bust that company was Enron they took down the accounting giant Arthur Anderson and there was a big scandal as a result regulators stepped in and said organisations must in the future know what’s going on across them and people like me, technologists came in and said I have an answer and that is to have dashboards that is why across organisations, across the world you will find dashboards in pretty much every single department. Now in overview there are three different types of dashboards we need to be aware about and they serve three different functions.

Kinds of dashboard

The first kind of dashboard is one that’s probably the most popular and that is an analytics dashboard. This looks back in time and it looks at say the last day to the last three years. Then we have operations dashboards which are much more live data immediate. It can show data from the last millisecond to the last seven days. And then finally we have things like this which is the strategic dashboard. These tend to look in the future, they’re goal orientated and they’re much longer term. They’ll often sit on top of the other two types of dashboard. Now, what are the frequently asked questions of dashboards?

Dashboard FAQs

Simple. What, where, and when. People want to know the answer to these questions. And one great way to answer it is to have live maps such as we have here on the left-hand side. This is a street map and as you hover your cursor over certain points, it tells us what’s happening where and at what time. We can also do the same kind of thing in facilities and buildings with schematics such as this particular example. Visualization. Now that we know overview of all of the different types of dashboards, let’s have a look at visualizations and things we should think about avoiding in A Dashboard.

Avoid these elements in a dashboard

The first of which is this, the ever-present but not particularly helpful heatmap. They’re appealing to the eye and we instantly look at those red points, however there’s a problem. All the other high-frequency, low-impact stuff doesn’t get any of our attention. That’s why heatmaps can be helpful, but it can also be very misleading. Then we have things like radar charts, spider graphs otherwise known as. Again, eye-catching, but if we try and work out what on earth is going on there, it’s nigh on impossible. Also, we have pie charts. We grow up with pie charts, but pie charts are good when they’re like this, and if we add in some small variables, then they lose a lot of their function. They get crowded out. Try and avoid pie charts if you have lots of small variables. And finally, avoid vanity projects. Vanity projects are things like this. An entire dashboard, which is now defunct, because somebody wanted a dashboard built for their specific needs, and when that person left, no one knows what on earth to do with it, and all of the pipeline falls by the wayside, reports are no longer produced, and it is a total waste of time. We should ensure all of all dashboards that are built outlast the tenure of any one particular person. Alright, what should we then include in our dashboards?

Add these to dashboards

What are good things to have? Good options. Replace the pie chart with a tree chart. It perhaps looks less attractive, but it shows things in a much cleverer way. And if we were to take our cursor and click on M-I-S-C, miscellaneous, it would then explode out and it would show us a lot more of the what actually exists within that miscellaneous section. Tree charts are superior to pie charts, consider using them. Bar charts, ask anybody in the world of data visualization and dashboards, they will tell you the bar chart is the daddy. This is the baby that shows most data in the most effective way. For example, we can easily see that Bexley has less volume than Camden or Croydon. And if we were to take our cursor, we could hover over any of these points. Because it’s a stacked bar chart, we can see even more information. Super simple, super useful. Finally, things to consider when building out our dashboards.

Examples of different dashboard

This is a good example of a good strategic dashboard. It’s clean, simple, and it just has a few north-south points. star metrics on there. Contrast that with this on Operations Dashboard. This is less likely to be used long-term, but it is something which is super useful on a day-to-day basis. If you’re close to the data, you’ll probably find this super useful. It shows the impact of COVID- on air travel. Finally, if you have the money, and if you can afford him, get someone like Matt Miller, a superb award-winning designer, to make visualizations like this for you. This is a really good example of taking a basic set of data and doing something with it. In this particular example, we have the nd US Open and Matt Fitzpatrick’s shots from it. If you put this visualization on the wall somewhere, instantly people will move over to it because it’s just beautiful. And then, through curiosity, they’ll start to look at all the other charts that are on there. Visualizations like this really do bring data to life.


In summary then, in conclusion, we should not ignore the form or the beauty of our data. We can have lots of function, lots of data, but if it’s not presented to well, then it undermines the value of that data. We need to think about design as much as we think about the data itself. If you’ve enjoyed this video, please get in touch, share, comment. We’re here at My name is Andrew. Thanks for watching. Bye for now.


Introduction: Where did the dashboard come from?

Cars and aircraft use dashboards and have done for over 100 years. However, their use in business only became popular after the Enron scandal, which led to the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley legislation. Consequently, corporations had to show a grasp of what’s going on across their business and a great way to achieve this is through a dashboard.

Do all dashboards look the same?

Dashboards all look different. Some look plain awful and others waste space. The below dashboard wastes space with inordinately large 3D pie charts and a brand banner. While others look great, their content is out of date or incomplete, which makes them redundant:

Ugly Security dashboard

Dodo (dead) dashboards

There are more dead than live dashboards. Even though they take years to design many are ignored or switched off because they:

  • Met the needs of one person who has since moved on
  • Are an unwanted distraction
  • Are too expensive or effortful to change

Therefore, heads of security need a dashboard that lives and breathes everyday.

Put in effort up front to specify a security dashboard and you can expect it to live for years and make the investment worthwhile. Moreover, it could radically improve how things gets done.

Redundant dashboard because no live data shown

What exactly is a dashboard?

Definitions vary but in essence a dashboard:

Presents summary and exception information in one place, using text and visuals.

They can display on a phone, PC or dedicated screen. In addition, they will often provide more than one display, being broken down into:

  1. Strategic: High level, long term, summaries
  2. Operational: Provides ongoing performance guidance
  3. Analytical: Historic insights such as trends

What does a risk manager need?

Risk managers often need to build a security dashboard to meet all three needs. The landing page will be the strategic display and have options to launch the operational and analytical display.

    2. What to measure and how to display it – content and visuals

    Let’s take a look at some typical activity from the world of security and suggest ways to display the content.


    The location, type and time of an incident are key bits of information. Maps provide all this information and focus the viewer on where incidents take place. Maps are a good example of an operational dashboard.

    Floor plan map

    Security dashboard incidents on a floor plan

    SIRV uses bi-direction maps in its Major Incident Management module to display information on schematics:

    Major incident management cordon and form exclusion zone - shows calculation on schematics and map

    Floor plans often change over time, this may mean the dashboard needs periodic adjustment. Street map:

    Map Protest in London June 21 to June 2022 by SIRV

    Street maps offer 2D location only. Therefore, multi-storey buildings make the presentation of incidents more difficult. Heat map:

    Security incidents shown on a heat map

    Heat maps focus the eye to where incidents most often occur. However, this means the exact location of low volume incident reports is often overlooked.

    While maps help the viewer focus on where incidents take place, line graphs help identify when they take place.

    Line Graph:

    Security incident time of day graph

    The above line graph (with line of best fit) displays the average time of incidents over a 24 hour period. This is useful to know when to deploy resource.

    Security patrols

    Security patrols typically consist of security guards checking defined locations. Therefore, like incidents, they lend themselves to maps.

    Stacked bar charts (similar to the below), can be used to show complete vs incomplete patrols.

    Security patrol stacked bar graph

    If the patrol uses NFC tags or bar codes, then we can display frequently missed points. This can be a map or list:

    security patrol map for dashboard

    Alternatively, we can use grids to show missed patrol points:

    Security patrol points grid

    Grids may appear bland but they’re highly functional and quickly direct the eye to the problem points.

    Risk and threat assessment

    A great way to focus minds is to present a risk assessment matrix:

    Security incidents risk assessment

    It’s great to use animation and show the change in risk over time. However, we do not recommend the use of spider graphs like the one below, they’re often found in security plans are not very useful:

    Security threat assessment spider diagram

    Spider graphs appear clever but they tell the viewer the same as a bar graph and take more time to understand.

    Events, audits, checks and statistics

    Martyn’s Law will increase the need to demonstrate compliance with legislation. Therefore, recording drills, procedures and audits are key. These could include:

    • Welfare visits
    • CCTV checks
    • Training
    • Lock dock drills
    Security training pie chart for a dashboard

    Pie charts like the one above look nice but are not recommended. Because they only work when there are few, similarly sized variables. Add many variables with small values and they’re lost on the human eye. Therefore, use tree charts like the one below. It’s preferable to pie charts and communicates more clearly.

    Security training matrix tree chart

    Calendars are great to schedule and communicate upcoming events:

    Statistics are easily shown through bars charts. For example, the below stacked bar chart shows crime statistics:

    Crime statistics in London

    3. Change to content and visuals – adaptation

    Over time needs change so too does the need to build a security dashboards Therefore, it’s important the content and visualisation on a dashboard can change too.

    Even though some software vendors provide easy drag and drop options for visualisations, this is not always a good thing. Because heads of security are not design experts. Consequently, dashboards:

    • Are too busy and put off the viewer.
    • Change so often it’s not easily understood.

    Heads of security need a dashboard to undergo periodic not constant change. Therefore, ensure the dashboard purchase agreement includes a sum to cover future changes.

    4. Use of the dashboard – interaction

    The level of interaction dashboards offer varies. Some are fixed displays which make no allowance for interaction. Whereas, others offer options to:

    • Hide and show visuals
    • Change data ranges
    • Move and zoom into maps
    • Make notations directly onto the dashboard
    • Drill down to view the source data
    • Download all or part of the dashboard

    Dashboards can raise as many questions as they provide answers. Therefore, it’s important one can drill down and view the data behind the dashboard.

    Share protests visualisation

    5. Where to view the dashboard – display

    Be sure to specify what screens you will use to view your dashboard; it will guide how much information can be shown.

    Screen types - specify where you will view the dashboard along with the pixel density

    It’s not only the screen’s dimensions that are important but also its resolution (pixel density). Because a screen with 1920×1080 resolution will display twice the information of a screen with identical dimensions but half its pixels. (Put this to the test, change your screen’s resolution).

    Give thought to where you position your screen. For example, control rooms are good places for a dashboard but they’re not ideal if the monitor is too far from the viewer.

    6. Build a security dashboard – design examples

    We’ve looked at visuals for heads of security, now let’s look at different business dashboard styles and layouts.

    HR Metrics

    Dashboard Example - HR Metrics

    The above HR metrics dashboard is clean and simple. However, it has some disadvantages:

    • It has very few visualisations (only two bar charts)
    • The two tables have background colours and shading, which is unnecessary and therefore clutters the screen
    • The top left is occupied by a logo and button options. This area is prime real estate for the eye. Any branding should be discrete and option buttons moved to the right.

    Executive Summary

    Executive Summary dashboard

    With its dark background, this dashboard has the ‘flavour’ of a security dashboard. The dark background means it is less stress on the eye than a white dashboard. However, it has some drawbacks:

    • Red signifies danger and the dashboard’s reliance on this colour suggests there is danger in many places.
    • Again, buttons and logo are to the left, when they’re best on the right.

    Strategic dashboard

    Security dashboard homepage

    The superstore dashboard uses summaries only. Therefore, it’s an example of a strategic dashboard. However, it offers only four pieces of data and they’re text not visual format. As a result, this dashboard is a wasted opportunity to engage the viewer.

    Covid impact on air passengers

    Dashboard Air Passenger Growth History

    The Covid impact on air passenger numbers is a great dashboard because:

    • It has buttons to allow the users to interact with the map
    • It’s information rich but only uses two visualisation types
    • A range of complimentary colours are used

    In addition, the timeline provides good, accurate context. Heads of security should consider this kind of timeline once enough data is stored.

    Good design

    It’s clear design has been an important consideration in all these dashboards. However, aesthetics alone does not make a good dashboard but it can undermine the value of the data it presents.

    How data gets to your security dashboard

    Do not underestimate how much work it takes to get data on to your security dashboard: To produce accurate, timely data for a dashboard is a task in and of itself. Because dashboards typically consist of summary and exception information, most data is:

    • ‘Cleaned’ and put through a
    • data pipeline.

    Build a security dashboard with clean data

    To clean data is to filter, sort, sum and treat raw data ready for a dashboard. This task is often the responsibility of a data analyst or data scientist.

    Over time these people will attempt to automate part of if not all of the data cleansing process and set-up a data pipeline.

    Data pipeline

    A data pipeline is a secure and reliable method to process data input from one source and output into another (in this case, a dashboard). Therefore, to change a dashboard’s content can take time.

    SIRV email list subscribe

    Get great content straight to your inbox

    Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

    GDPR Consent

    Terms and Conditions

    You have Successfully Subscribed!