We’ve tried a lot of different tools and strategies for project management and internal communication, but one of the most effective things we’ve done is watch some TV.
We mounted a TV in a common area of our office that displays a rotating dashboard of metrics about our business. It changes over time, but we’ve displayed things like:
- Number of outstanding issues
- Number of active projects
- Number of current customers
- Who’s booked next in the main conference room
- Happy Birthday messages
- Project launch messages
- Recent successes
- Current monthly revenue
- Expected annual revenue
- Real-time activity feed of new sales
It’s a great way to disseminate important information (or Key Performance Indicators for you business types) to your team without requiring a single meeting! Since everyone walks by this mounted TV a few times a day, it’s a quick and easy reminder of how our business is doing. If one of the numbers seems off-track, then we can tackle it right away, rather than waiting for a monthly or quarterly “state of the union” meeting.
I’m ready to watch TV at work, what’s next?
- Dashboard screen (an attractive presentation of your key data)
- Google Chromebox (converts your dashboard into a video feed)
You can pick almost anything you like that has an HDMI port (which is on every TV nowadays). You’ll probably want something relatively thin if you’re going to be mounting it on the wall, just for aesthetic reasons. We picked up a 46″ LCD TV on a Best Buy special one day.
The most flexible way to create a dashboard screen is to create an HTML web page. You can do this by hand, or you could save yourself some time and use one of the many online tools out there, such as:
Or, you might be able to reuse a dashboard screen from your current CRM or project management software. For example, we use the excellent dashboard screen already provided by Baremetrics on one of our TVs.
You might think that displaying a web page on a TV would be a simple task. Many of the newer “smart” TVs even have a web browser built-in to them, so why not use that? Well, the fact is that if you want a nice looking web-based dashboard (like the tools mentioned above will produce), then it actually takes a fair amount of hardware power to properly render and display those pages. I’ve tried a lot* of different hardware components before settling on the Google Chromebox as my current favorite.
The Chromebox is relatively cheap, easy to use and just works. You just plug in an HDMI cable and a wireless USB mouse/keyboard, and you’re good to go. The Chrome web browser built-in to the Chromebox does a perfect job rendering any dashboard screen I’ve thrown at it so far. The box is small enough to stash behind the TV, even when it’s wall-mounted, so everything is out of sight.
- Toshiba 46″ LCD TV
- ASUS Chromebox (~$160)
- Microsoft Wireless Desktop Keyboard/Mouse Combo (~$40)
- Easy Auto Refresh Chrome extension to refresh the page automatically
- Dashboard provided by Baremetrics.com
Some Example Dashboards
Here are some examples of various dashboards from a few of the tools mentioned above:
Having an always-on and highly visible dashboard for all of our team to see has been incredibly useful. We’ve caught issues before they became bigger problems, and we’ve celebrated good news with cheers throughout the office. It’s reassuring to walk into the office in the morning and see those charts with the trend lines moving in the right direction.
I recommend you start “watching” TV at your office, too.
I have tried all of the following and gave up on them for various reasons before settling on the Chromebox:
- Amazon Fire TV Stick (have to “sideload” web browser, web browser crashed frequently)
- RaspberryPi (difficult to configure, not enough horsepower)
- Various flavors of the “Android Stick” dongles (difficult to configure, not enough horsepower)
- AppleTV via AirPlay from a nearby MacBook (looks great, when it works, kept disconnecting randomly)
- Google Chromecast: Works well actually, but requires a nearby laptop to be on 100% of the time. That said, if you have a laptop lying around this is a great option to try, since a Chromecast is only $35. We preferred the Chromebox so it could be mounted on the wall behind the TV.