In business intelligence everything is trending toward the ability to gain quick insight — analyzing accessible data that allows you to make good decisions immediately. Enter the dashboard, a tool we are seeing more and more organizations utilize.
A dashboard can mean different things to different people, but typically when we define a dashboard in terms of business intelligence it is a group of graphical representations of any information that is important to an enterprise. A dashboard should tell a meaningful story with actionable insight. Its real strength is being able to display similar information in multiple formats — each provoking its own emotional response from the analyst.
There is a lot more to dashboarding than meets the eye. It is not simply a graph or chart, but a customizable visualization tool. This of course comes from a fundamental understanding of the toolset and its capabilities, as a dashboard consists of individual elements existing in pre-developed or managed reports. Having this understanding is a prerequisite for being able to develop effective dashboards, which is why I first guide students into Report Studio training courses.
When we participate on dashboard projects with organizations, we usually start the conversation with data governance and standards. In order to put anything on the dashboard, all of the stakeholders need to be in agreement about what data should be presented. Getting that buy-in from the earliest stages of development will ensure that the dashboard will be effective for enterprise use. In a typical organization there are a multitude of data sources and a multitude of revenue sources, but each stream of data is going to carry its own implications, so you want to make sure the dashboard reflects the most relevant and comprehensive information.
What you are looking for is to develop some key performance indicators or metrics that can provide an immediate health check for the organization — a high-level snapshot that executives, sales or marketing can use. If something looks awry, they then have the capability to view it in more detail and at this point, either act upon it or pass the insight along to an actionable resource.
It is up to the developers to create an environment that provides the most insight. You want a dashboard that is as flexible and dynamic as possible. You want an intuitive interface that allows you to pass filters and change values to view different angles of the data at a moment’s notice. The best principle for design is to keep views of the data as simple as possible.
At the end of the day the dashboard is only going to be as good as the data it reflects. So get the buy-in, create some enterprise standards, and you’re on your way to dashboard success.
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