In my last post, I ruminated on the problems that plague business intelligence dashboards. Traditional dashboards simply haven't evolved as quickly as modern businesses, where decisions are made by many levels of management and need to be informed by various areas of the business – finance, marketing, sales, operations and more. If your dashboard is confined to your department's metrics alone, it's doing you a disservice. Dashboards of the future will require cross-functional views of KPIs to really be effective. And they'll embed more self-service options than ever. The good news is that future-proofing your dashboards is possible. Here's how:
1) Make your dashboards searchable.
Key performance indicators are essential for monitoring business performance. Last time, I talked about how "KPI overload" – common in so many businesses I've worked with – can cloud business insight. However in some cases, having hundreds of KPIs may actually be necessary for understanding and managing your performance. If you need KPIs from many parts of the business in order to make good decisions, it can become a complex task to find the information you need. So consider making your dashboards search-enabled so that users can easily find the metrics they're looking for. Searching is how users find information; "Google" is a verb for a reason. So why should your BI system be any different?
2) Make your dashboards personalized.
Dashboards serve as a point of reference for business leaders, many times per day or at least a few times per week. Either way, your dashboard should be one of the things you look at the most in a given week (besides your husband, wife, or kids of course). From a personalization perspective, there's something we can learn from a social medial platform like Pinterest. (I am not admitting that I use Pinterest!) A dashboard with a personalized interface allows users to subscribe to the content that pertains to their decision-making, without having to ferret through a maze of other information…essentially to "pin" charts and tables to a personal pinboard for faster access on a regular basis. This type of thing is a huge leap forward for self-service BI – allowing users themselves to extract the data that's important to them from existing dashboards and save it on their own personal dashboard. It also enables metrics to be pinned and unpinned as they grow and lessen in importance. Once a KPI no longer becomes "key" to you, you can simply unsubscribe to it and it goes away, without the need to completely restructure your whole dashboard.
3) Make your dashboards prioritized.
Dashboards are most efficient when they can separate the signal from the noise. In the midst of hundreds and possibly thousands of KPIs, how can you leverage "the wisdom of the crowd" to prioritize content so that the most useful and relevant information is brought to the forefront? Imagine if your organization was able to rate and comment on reports and dashboards. The rating, good or bad, would give you an idea of whether you'd find a particular piece of business intelligence useful or not. Think of user ratings on e-commerce sites like Amazon.com. Most people evaluate the reliability of a product based on user ratings and comments. The same concept applied to BI can help decision makers determine whether a certain dashboard will be useful or not.
4) Make your dashboards adaptive.
Today's decision-makers are mobile, checking their BI dashboards increasingly on their tablets and smartphones – devices of varying screen sizes, resolutions, and orientations (landscape, portrait). Making your dashboards adaptive – that is, using the Responsive Design concept – ensures that the same application is usable on all kinds of devices. Responsive Design means your develop a dashboard once and enable it to automatically conform to the size and layout that works best for the end user's device. It allows users to freely switch devices throughout the day depending on their circumstances and location and be able to effectively use the dashboards you've spent so much time future-proofing.
Dashboards of the future meet the calls for more interaction, usability, efficiency, and self-service. These four ideas are what I'm seeing arcplan's customer base getting excited about. Who wouldn't be thrilled about benefits like decreased time-to-decision, increased ROI, and better, more pervasive use of BI?
It's great to talk about these futuristic ideas, but how do you implement these changes? Eighteen months ago we released arcplan Engage. While trying to innovate the as-yet-non-existent collaborative BI space, we found that our solution also revolutionized dashboards by making them searchable, prioritized and personalized. This fall, the next version of our BI platform is coming out and has elements of arcplan Engage (currently a stand-alone solution) and Responsive Design embedded as its core concept. With arcplan, all your bases are covered.