Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan
12Sep/110

The Secret Sauce of Engaging BI Dashboards

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Some pieces of music withstand the test of time because the message, lyrics, and melody work together in just the right way. You go back to some songs again and they become your old standbys – something you can rely on. It may seem strange to draw a parallel between music and dashboards, but think about it: a good corporate dashboard can be timeless too. We have customers who have been using the same dashboard for 5 years – it just continues to work for them. They chose the right metrics and display them in charts that clarify the data, and users find the dashboard engaging and useful even after many years, relying on it daily for information and insight. Your dashboard shouldn’t be a one-hit wonder – a souped-up version of a static report. Let’s review 3 ways to take your old BI dashboard and make it an essential tool for users.

Think about the dashboards at your organization. Are they really just one step up from manually-generated reports, built to replace spreadsheets and briefing books for meetings? They probably provide answers to some of your executive team’s questions, but maybe you’ve noticed that they have some major pitfalls, including a limited display of information and infrequent updates, and offer little ability to take analysis deeper or share insights with co-workers easily.

A corporate dashboard needs to be more than eye-candy. Decision-makers need a dashboard that drives performance by delivering the right information in a timely manner.

Dashboard Delivery
Let’s review that word I emphasized just now – delivering. The whole reason to upgrade your dashboards is so they’ll be more widely used, right? Well times have changed and people aren’t just sitting at their desks all day. We use a phrase at arcplan – we say our product is “BI that does take-out and delivery.” We proactively push information to users however they want to receive it. So think about that as a means to wider adoption – delivering data to users directly, on their schedule. Dashboards that have the ability to be scheduled and emailed to users in a variety of formats are almost guaranteed to be seen (and used). I may not have time to log into the corporate BI system every day, but I certainly check my email whether I’m in the office or not. Having my dashboard delivered to me at 9am every day has ensured that I see it daily. Thinking about how your users will consume your dashboard is key in the design process.

New Information
Getting back to the idea that some dashboards are simply a step up from a static report, how would your users see their dashboard if it actually presented new information?

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9Sep/110

Webinar Recording: Dashboard Design Tips & More

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In case you missed our webinar, More Dash Less Bored, here’s the recording to view at your convenience:


https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/404124687

 

We discussed the wealth of chart types available to you and when to use them, as well as the 10 keys to successful dashboards. Toward the end, we showed a demo of arcplan Enterprise best-practice dashboards with features like:

  • On-demand video help
  • Bookmarking (saving reports with your specified filters)
  • Dashboard export options (to PDF, PPT, or Excel)
  • Dashboard delivery (one-time or recurring email delivery of dashboards)

We had a terrific turn-out for this annual event, and we’d like to thank everyone who attended! Looking forward to next year’s already!

6Sep/110

More Dash Less Bored: How to Build Interactive, “Go-To” BI Dashboards

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Join arcplan this Thursday, September 8th at 2pm Eastern for More Dash Less Bored, a free webinar on the latest thinking in dashboard design, with practical tips for creating engaging dashboards that are widely adopted.


Sure, you have a dashboard, but when you have a question about company performance, is it the first place you go for answers? Do your executives still ask you to run custom reports? Has your dashboard lost its relevance in the time since it was built?

Your dashboard needs more dash and less bored. Attend this webinar to find out how to make your dashboard a definitive source of actionable, timely, and relevant information for ALL stakeholders in your company.

We’ll show you some of the latest thinking and best practices in dashboard design as well as dashboards you can emulate. This webinar is designed so that you take away practical information you can use now.

In this webinar, we’ll discuss:

  • The 5 characteristics of successful dashboards
  • Trends in dashboard design
  • Bad dashboards & “chart fouls”
  • How to choose the right chart type for your data
  • How to incorporate best practices into your existing dashboards

Join us to learn how to take your dashboards to the next level.

Date: Thursday, September 8
Time: 2:00 pm Eastern (New York City time zone)
Presenter: Dwight deVera, Senior Vice President
Register: Click here

In the meantime, check out our video on creating engaging dashboards with arcplan Enterprise:

2Sep/110

arcplan Customer BI Best Practices: Spotlight on DFS

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We have so many best practice customers to spotlight that it’s hard to keep up! This time I’d like to introduce you to Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH (DFS), an air traffic control corporation with 5,600 employees in charge of the safe navigation of about three million flights across German airspace. In addition to managing the control towers of 16 international airports in Germany, DFS is also a global provider of consultancy and training services, and develops, markets, and implements air traffic control, tracking, and navigation systems. It’s for this purpose that DFS implemented arcplan in mid-2009 as a decision-support system for the prioritization of sales projects.

What is DFS doing with arcplan Enterprise that makes their solution one to emulate?

1) Their BI solution answers questions.

It may seem simplistic, but really, isn’t business intelligence, first and foremost, about getting your questions answered? In the case of DFS, their primary question was “How do we proactively and systematically develop the market, rather than wait for potential customers to come to us?” This led to a Market & Competitive Intelligence System (MCIS), created with arcplan Enterprise, where all sales and marketing information is stored. DFS employees can now get the answers to any conceivable question, from “What are the planned investments at this particular airport?” to “How many competitors have installations at this airport?” The answers to these questions help staff to prioritize projects so that the ones with the highest probability of closing are at the top of the list.

2) Their BI comes to them.

You may have heard someone say “sure, your BI does take-out, but does it deliver?” Any BI system can crunch numbers and wait for you to come along and get them (take-out). But not all BI is created equal when it comes to data delivery. DFS’ arcplan solution (in fact, any arcplan solution) allows users to schedule the delivery of reports and dashboards, removing the need to run the application or pull up a URL on your browser. Employees on the go – especially road-warrior sales people – need their BI delivered to them at a certain time. You may want a particular report emailed to you every other day at noon – that’s possible with arcplan, and DFS takes advantage of it.

3) The right KPIs improve decision-making.

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30Aug/110

Look Ahead with Leading Indicators

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Just as you can’t drive to work with your eyes only on the rearview mirror, you can’t drive your business forward by focusing on the past. Yet that’s what you’re doing if you’re relying solely on lagging indicators such as revenue, profit, or Cost of Goods Sold (CoGS) to manage your organization’s performance. These factors are important, but once they’re calculated, it’s too late to impact them. What you need are good leading indicators that allow you to spot trends and see issues before they balloon into real problems.

Leading vs. Lagging Indicators
Leading indicators are early predictors of sales and profit, and in combination with lagging indicators, they give you a holistic view of your company’s performance. Lagging indicators such as revenue, sales, expenses, and inventory turnover help you understand whether or not certain objectives have been met. They can depict trends when periods are compared, but by then, you’re too late to profit from the early discovery of the trend. Lagging indicators are calculated at the end of a period (month, quarter, etc.), so you won’t know whether or not a goal has been met until nearly the end of the period. Even if you run some ad-hoc reports throughout the period, you likely can’t get to the root of a problem in time to impact the outcome. Chances are, things were going wrong long before the lagging indicator on your dashboard turned yellow.

On the other hand, leading indicators pinpoint the source of future problems and help you predict whether or not the target values for your lagging indicators will be met. Leading indicators enable your company to avoid problems and operate more cost-effectively. For example, rather than tracking product returns (a lagging indicator), reporting a 90-day customer complaint trend allows you to fix problems earlier and less expensively. Drilling down into the complaints themselves, you might discover that a particular product has a defect that your quality assurance team didn’t catch. Removing the product from your shelves may save you a lot of trouble in the long-run, reducing complaints (and the negative feelings your customers may be starting to harbor toward you) as well as the cost of returns (returns aren’t free – they cost retailers nearly $14 billion a year).

Tracking receivables turnover (a leading indicator) enables the company to better manage its cash (a lagging indicator).

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