In the age of big data, smart TVs and smartphones, general consumers are inundated with more data than ever before – they deserve smart dashboards.
A large number of organizations have implemented dashboards during the past few years. However, many of those dashboard implementations have either failed or been only moderately successful because they are little more than a carry-over of a portal interface from the late 1990s. The user-adoption of dashboards is largely driven by the visual-interactivity and user-experience with the dashboard interface. So, it’s no different than the user-adoption of any other gadget that hits a critical mass adoption – phones and tablets being recent examples of those.
Taking inspiration from a smart TV and smartphone, these are the defining qualities of a smart dashboard:
Smart Interactivity – A smart dashboard should be more than the sum of its parts. Most dashboard solutions are a little more than a collection of disparate charts and tables. For techies, they are simply a set of portlets within a portal. However, to qualify for smart interactivity, a dashboard must display interactivity among its various display elements. It should be able to detect commonality of information and help users visually see common elements on the dashboard. The various portions of the dashboard should blend in as a unified presentation. View an example here.
Smart Drilldown – A dashboard drilldown should be more than a hyperlink that transports the user to another destination. When a chart or gauge on a dashboard serves as a link to another tab or window, the user instantly loses the visual context of the original inquiry. That link becomes just another webpage rather than part of a dashboard. A smart drilldown should allow the user to filter down their data, while maintaining the context of original data point that is clicked on. The destination is presented within the same frame as the origination widget or chart without displacing the rest of the dashboard. There must be a natural filtering of information depending upon which data point (or data row) the user-clicked on within a chart or data table. View an example here.
Smart Reports – A dashboard should not be a mere launching point for reports or worse, a collection of reports displayed in small separate windows. A smart dashboard must be inherently capable of turning its graphical displays into a traditional report format with one simple click of a mouse. In doing so, it can treat dashboards and reports as two sides of the same coin rather than treating them as separate currencies. Such reports should be able to apply data filters and user-security precisely as in the dashboard when that instant transformation occurs between a dashboard and report. View an example here (click on report icon in the bottom right of the dashboard).
Smart Analytics – A smart dashboard should have analytical capability easily comprehended and wielded by any non-technical user. Such analytics interfaces should mask the underlying complexity, and still produce powerful results. An example would be utilizing simple slider-based what-if analytics. Much like a smartphone, the most sophisticated of technologies should be presented intuitively enough to be operated by a 10-year old, if not younger. View an example of a what-if analytics in a smart dashboard.
Smart Infographics – A smart dashboard should extend beyond static images. Infographics are a powerful depiction of information in an easy to comprehend graphical style. A smart infographic takes it further – it can embed intelligence within an image, so that each portion of the image comes alive with user interaction and conveys information specific to the area of the image. View an example here for a smart infographic of a stadium.
Smart Displays – A smart dashboard should be able to carry a consistent visual experience across a range of display devices – a 50” LCD, a 14” laptop, a 9” tablet or a 5” smartphone. Much like our everyday interaction seamlessly changes between displays as we move from our office desk to a client meeting, a smart dashboard should be responsive and adjust its display proportion and deliver a consistent user-experience. A user should be able to shift their display devices (laptop to tablet to phone) without the need to re-comprehend the dashboard visuals. View an example here (visualize on your desktop or laptop, tablet and phone).
Dashboards hold a great promise in transforming corporate cultures. They can deliver real-time performance feedback, transparency and accountability. But first, they need to be widely adopted throughout an organization. And for that to happen, dashboards need to deliver a delightful user-experience, much like a smartphone does to make it the most heavily-adopted gadget for the masses.
If you implemented a dashboard solution that didn’t get an enthusiastic user-adoption, maybe it’s time to explore an upgrade to a smart dashboard platform. Many companies that adopted dashboard software as a part of a complex BI software implementation are using a technology platform that is potentially more than 10 years old. It’s older than the first flip-phone that you used!
Now compare that technology lifecycle with a smartphone lifecycle – the first generation iPhone was introduced in 2007 and within eight years, it is in its sixth generation. In each of its releases, the iPhone has made quantum improvements to its user experience.
The big question that must be asked – have your corporate dashboards kept up with the speed of innovation and improvement of the user-experience that it takes to reach mass adoption.