Dashboards have been used since the late 1980’s when Executive
Information Systems [EISs] were first launched. The difference between
these early models and those used by business intelligence solutions
today is significant in terms of how the data is presented using
more advanced visualisation technology, and the capability to drill
down to lower level dashboards and data mining.
Dashboards provide easy insight into large volumes of performance
data. Their use is quite popular, not only for the ease of use,
but also for the visibility the business gains into areas once shrouded
in pages and pages of printed tables. However, there is a tendency
to build dashboards for every KPI conceived. This creates in a lot
of KPI noise, hiding the critical, relevant data behind many metrics
not required at that moment.
Smart dashboard design is essential to the value of the insight
it generates. Early attempt to emulate car dashboards using typical
odometer type graphics limit the quality of insight gained. This
is one of the least meaningful graphics available. It compares with
the old pie charts in value.
Dashboard Design Elements
The detail of design must consider:
- Space available - As dashboards are often
now embedded in intelligence portals, space is limited and must
be used wisely
- User Relevance - data presented must be relevant
to a particular role, in terms of both KPIs used and latency of
- Latency of data – the frequency of data
updates must be relevant for the use with real time data needed
for operational use, but daily, weekly or monthly data sufficient
for executive use.
- Personalisation - including menus and capabilities,
security and software interface
- Interconnection with other BI tools –
dashboards are a great starting interface to connect to ad hoc
query, data mining and other more advanced BI tools.
- Collaboration tools – the ability to
share a dashboard view with others in the enterprise, or beyond.
- Agility - to change the dashboard KPIs as corporate
- Value - a dashboard must be more than a nice
to have. It must deliver actionable insight into every day decision
Overall, the dashboard should act as a relevant indicator of performance,
with the capability to act further on the signals it provides, by
allowing the user to drill down to root cause, and determine a suitable
course of action.
Where early dashboards provides insight with action, more recent
dashboards act purely as a primary interface to business intelligence
held captive in other tools.
So when planning your dashboard, keep the whole picture in mind.
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