Dashboards 101

I have been working in the business intelligence field for about 6 months now and whenever I am at a client site the words “smart impact” come to my mind. These two words are actually acronyms used in the book “Enterprise Dashboards: Design and Best Practices for IT” by Shadan Malik. Even if someone has not read this book and is not familiar what those acronyms stand for, we can still all agree, that those two words are quite meaningful by themselves.

For me, a company that has made a decision to purchase a dashboard software product (independent from which vendor) is “smart” in doing so. It shows that the company’s management has realized that it is way more efficient and transparent, to visually present metrics and KPI’s. Using a “smart” dashboard development tool makes this task easier and faster. Now, even “non-IT” people could be creating dashboards and a broader audience within a company could be reached. Using a web-based dashboard development tool enables a company to incorporate those dashboards into their intranet, allowing everybody easy access to them.

Buying the right dashboards development tool does not automatically mean that one can create “impactful” dashboards. Preparation of the right data and more importantly, having the right data in the correct format is the key here. When working with Excel as a data source, most of the times the data has to be transposed. If the data source is a database, it might be necessary to create so-called “views” in order to have the KPI’s accessible in one “place”.  Another requirement for creating “impactful” dashboards is that the developing tool offers powerful functionalities like drilldowns, pivots, the ability to show dynamically related data and the ability to create/make changes to charts “on the fly”. Having the data prepared and accessible in combination with a “smart” development tool, allows the developer to create “impactful” dashboards for the intended audience.

I can’t say that developing “impactful” dashboards is so easy “that even a caveman can do it”, however, it starts with the selection of a “smart” development tool, the preparation and accessibility of the “KPI’s” and the commitment of the dashboard development team. The success and acceptance of a dashboard implementation depends on all those factors. What I can say though, is once the initial dashboard has been created the “right way” there will be a demand for more!

Aziz Sanal – Technical Consultant, iDashboards

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