Dashboards are for Action, Not Information!
Given how much has been said about Business Intelligence over the years, it is hard to imagine that someone could, within the 140 character constraint, use a single post on Twitter (I still can’t quite bring myself to say “tweet”) to impart real wisdom about BI, but a few weeks ago I saw something from Gartner analyst Andreas Bitterer which did exactly that. He wrote :
Ironically, the timestamp on the post was April 1st, but I very much hope that this was not meant as an April fool because it cuts right to the heart of what effective BI is all about.
Business is not about knowing, it is about doing.
A good business intelligence system should reflect this. Unfortunately, there is a large part of human nature which is reassured simply by knowing. This tends to spawn BI systems which help people feel that they are in control, rather than do anything useful to actually drive the organization forward.
So for EVERY report, spreadsheet, dashboard, query, visualization, or whatever other form your BI takes, I would encourage you to make sure that there is a clear line of sight from the information you are delivering, to an action someone is going to take to move your organization forward. If you can’t make this connection, I would question the business value being delivered.
This is particularly true in the world of dashboards.
Dashboards are too often limited to simply giving an overview of the current situation.
It helps people to know what is happening, but offers nothing to help them drive action. This misses a huge opportunity, as a well-designed dashboard should provide interactivity to allow its users to drill into the data to help them decide what to do next.
A sales dashboard that only indicates you are on track for the quarter is of very-limited value, one which simply tells you that you are behind plan is not much better, but one which allows you to find out, based on past evidence, which customers in which region are most likely to buy which products is a huge step forward. Now it is much easier to take immediate and effective action (regardless of whether you are behind plan or not).
So, if your dashboards are simply single-screen windows onto the current state of play, perhaps you should consider adding a little well thought out interactivity to better direct end-user activity.
Donald MacCormick is the Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Antivia, an SAP® software solution partner, and creator of XWIS the Xcelsius-to-SAP BusinessObjects connectivity solution. In past years, he was a long term member of BusinessObjects and Crystal, and part of the team that brought Xcelsius into the BusinessObjects portfolio.