Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Global Dashboard Design Trends for 2014


For a lot of people, business intelligence = dashboards. Since they’re so relied upon to present at-a-glance views of KPIs and to guide decision-making for business leaders, it’s critical that dashboards are well-formatted, easy to read and simple to navigate. Let’s explore the dashboard design trends that resonate with today’s executives.

1) Flat UI will continue to grow
In 2014 clean beats clutter. Users are drawn to crisp, clean interfaces, often with tile-based layouts. Windows 8 was influential in creating this flat design and Apple followed suit with iOS 7. Business leaders can quickly access and interpret data when information is presented in an uncluttered interface.

2) Mobile First

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How Metro/Windows 8 Design is Transforming Mobile BI Apps: Part I


Last year on this blog, our SVP of Global Marketing Tiemo Winterkamp said that 2012 would be the year that mobile design standards emerge. In the same article, he predicted that Microsoft would be back in a big way with a new design language called Metro that would make mobile apps friendlier than ever. He was right on both counts, except that now Metro is called “Windows 8 design” or “Modern UI Design,” rumored to be because of possible infringement on the name of a company called Metro AG. Either way, Windows 8 is influencing mobile interface design well beyond Microsoft products. In fact, it’s transforming the way we design mobile BI apps − for the better.

Why do mobile apps need special design rules? A parallel is how nearly every company has a mobile version of their website. It’s the same content but it adapts to the user’s device, incorporating larger buttons, bigger fonts, etc. This idea is known as Responsive Design (depending on the target device, a completely adapted layout will be launched). Mobile traffic is currently only 10% of all global web traffic, yet we’ve created a set of design standards for experiencing websites on mobile devices. In the same way, mobile BI use is a small percentage of overall business intelligence usage, but it’s growing and it demands to be accommodated.

So why does arcplan advocate the Windows 8 design style for mobile apps?

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Webinar: Effective BI Dashboard & Scorecard Design


**Edit: Click here to view the recording of this event.

What makes a BI dashboard or scorecard “bad?” After 20 years of working with more than 3,200 customers around the globe to create stellar BI applications, I’m certain we know the answer. On Wednesday, September 19th, arcplan’s Senior VP Dwight deVera will dissect real BI application examples that seem okay at first glance but in reality render great data ineffective. We’ll show you how to go beyond basic BI app design to make truly excellent, interactive dashboards and scorecards that facilitate decision-making.
This is our annual review of the latest thinking in BI app design and our most popular webinar – but totally revamped with more examples and practical how-to tips.

In this webinar, we’ll discuss:

  • What should be avoided in modern BI dashboard & scorecard design
  • Characteristics of successful BI applications
  • How Metro Design & Responsive Design principles will affect design standards
  • Tips for designing mobile dashboards
  • The right chart types for your data – why some work and some don’t
  • How to display data so that trends and problems pop

We’ll also leave time for a Q&A session at the end of the webinar.

Click here to view the recording!


Designing Olympic “A” Standard BI Dashboards


With trials for the 2012 Olympic Games in London almost complete, as a diehard trackie, I can’t help but reflect on the amazing standards that athletes must meet or exceed in order to qualify for their respective events. For instance, the “A” standard for the men’s 100 meter event is 10.18 seconds – that’s faster than the time it would take for many of us to boot up our computers. The standard for women’s high jump is 1.95 meters or about 6 feet, 4.7 inches – so an “A” standard athlete could easily clear the height of a very tall person. Olympic hopefuls work diligently to meet (or exceed) these high standards. Likewise, in a quest for excellence, we in the business intelligence world should strive to improve the design of our BI dashboards – the ones that guide our daily decision-making. We should be reviewing their effectiveness at least yearly. To that end, we’ve compiled a simple checklist to guide your dashboards towards the “A” standard.

Whittle them down to only the most relevant and timely information. With all the excitement around big data and the need to analyze vast amounts of information in order to spot trends, it’s easy to be swept away in a deluge of data and be distracted from what really matters. As excited as you (or the users you serve) may be to display all kinds of new information, remember that some data is a distraction rather than relevant to the decision-making process. So be cautious of the information overload that can hinder the effectiveness of your dashboards. Each organization must determine what really matters to decision-makers (this will vary between them) and center dashboards around the metrics most relevant to each department.

Implement appropriate design. When it comes to dashboards, looks do matter. But dashboards aren’t just eye candy. They’ve become a standard point of reference for business managers and executives who need to monitor company operations – often at a glance – in order to make timely decisions. In a 2011 interview with Dashboard Insight, Stephen Few, author of bestselling books on dashboard design and data visualization best practices (and also inventor of the bullet graph), explains…

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Top 5 Criteria for Evaluating Business Intelligence Reporting and Analytics Software


One of the most challenging tasks when planning a new business intelligence project is the selection of the right tools to achieve the best possible return on investment. You will have many decisions to make depending on your company’s needs. This poses many questions such as: Will you need new servers? Will you need to host it in the cloud? Will ETL (Extract-Transform-Load) tools be needed to manipulate data or to combine multiple data sources? Will you need cube technology (usually dubbed OLAP)? What type of reporting tool will you need? All of these questions need to be answered carefully as they affect each other on your way forward.

A criteria-based approach should be used in selecting each software. This approach in evaluating software provides you with a quantitative measurement of quality before you commit to a specific tool. When evaluating business intelligence reporting and analytics software, the following 5 criteria are your top priority, but should not be the only criteria used: flexibility, security, learnability, mobility, and evolveability. Let’s take a deeper look into each of these areas.

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