Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

What’s Wrong with Today’s BI Dashboards


Silos_smBusiness intelligence dashboards are stuck in the past. It may be controversial to say but it’s true – not much has changed over the past few decades when it comes to BI dashboards. Sure, we’ve defined some decent design rules, some guidelines for developing good, traditional dashboards. But a lot of the dashboards I see as VP of Solutions Delivery at arcplan don’t adequately address the needs of today’s executives, who need cross-functional views of KPIs from various departments in order to make good decisions. We aren’t living in a silo’ world; decision makers need regular access to KPIs from finance, marketing, sales, operations and HR to make good decisions. Do you have a dashboard that enables this kind of view?

If not, let’s examine what’s wrong with your BI dashboards:

1. Their silo’d foundation is a hindrance.
In the early years of data warehouse development, data was stored according to functional areas or departments. Finance, Sales, and Operations each had their own data marts and corresponding dashboards for each department. In today’s business environment, dashboards that are silo’d like your data don’t accommodate your needs. With hundreds or even thousands at KPIs in use at your company – and limited time to access and evaluate them all – a silo’d approach to data access is problematic. You need to access important information at a moment’s notice, not waste time logging into individual systems or viewing separate dashboards to get the data you need to make informed decisions. You’ve probably quickly grown weary of this process and you may even be settling for whatever information is most convenient to use, which – needless to say – is usually not the best option. An ideal dashboard solution bridges multiple information sources to give you a holistic view of the organization – one that matches your role and includes only relevant KPIs.

2. There’s a “Where’s Waldo?” element to finding the right KPIs.
Recently I had a meeting with one of arcplan’s customers in the US, who explained that their arcplan system has grown to manage 4,000 KPIs in just 5 years.

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The Future of Dashboards – On-Demand Webinar


View-WebinarYou’re invited to view arcplan’s latest webinar – 30 minutes that will change the way you think about dashboards.

The Future of Dashboards
Speaker: Dwight deVera, SVP of Professional Services at arcplan

There’s something wrong with dashboards – they’re stuck in the past. They’re designed for functional areas or departments, but as a modern decision-maker, you might need to view cross-functional KPIs from finance, sales, operations, marketing, and HR to make good decisions. So how do you reconcile the dashboards you have with the views you actually need to be effective?

In this webinar, we demonstrate:

  • Why dashboards need to reflect the matrix-style way decision-makers are working today
  • The “31 flavors problem” and how dashboard users can distinguish the signal from the noise when it comes to thousands of potential KPIs
  • How our internet-fueled, “zero attention span” lives must influence dashboard design
  • A simple way to make dashboards more effective by empowering users to develop their own “Pinterest-style” dashboards

It’s time to rethink what dashboards should be. Peek into the future with us in this webinar!

View it now >>


Dashboard Lessons from “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”


5thgraderAdvice for using business intelligence to keep winning

I like to channel surf, and one day I got sucked into the game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” I never watched it when it originally aired, but now I’m addicted! The show is set up like a school quiz, with contestants earning money when they answer questions correctly. The kicker is that the questions are based on things we learn in elementary school…things that are quickly forgotten since they’re not tested in everyday life. Once I really got into the show, I realized there are business intelligence lessons to be learned from it.

On stage with the contestant are a few 5th grade students who can help if the person chooses to “cheat” as they pursue the $1,000,000 prize. Let’s examine how each of the available cheats tells us something about BI dashboards.

Peeking is encouraged. If a contestant is unable to answer a question on their own, a “peek” allows them to glance at a 5th grader’s answer and decide whether or not they would like to use it. How does that relate to BI you wonder? Think about the predictive nature of BI – it allows you to peek into what may happen in the future so you can take corrective action today. Especially valuable for businesses whose markets are volatile and sales growth may change from one quarter to the next, or for businesses whose production costs fluctuate depending on circumstances – predictive analytics, what-if scenarios, and break-even analysis eliminate some of the randomness from your decision-making. Luckily with solutions like arcplan, it’s easy to add predictive elements like regression analysis and Monte Carlo simulation to your dashboards. So really, peeking on “5th Grader” isn’t that different from modern BI.

Copying is expected.

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10 Keys to BI Dashboard Success: Part II


In my last post, I gave you 5 tips for taking your dashboards from “standard” to “world-class.” Today, I present 5 more tips that will help your dashboards become truly useful, essential daily viewing material.

Your BI dashboards should be:

6) Diverse. Incorporating data from your various in-house sources and from the cloud enhances your dashboard. Combining data to produce mashups – like retail locations with financials over Google Maps – can make your dashboard indispensable.

7) Dynamic. Static dashboards rely on historical data, neglect your organization’s present performance and set you up for failure, warns Forrester Research. Successful dashboards are dynamic and reflect the real-time changes of your business’ performance. They also offer ad-hoc capability so users can manipulate variables for further analysis and drill-down functionality so users can find root causes. See what I mean by downloading arcplan’s free trial. It features an ad-hoc tab integrated into the dashboard application.

8) Attractive. Users appreciate and are more likely to adopt a dashboard that has style and substance. What makes a dashboard attractive?

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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!