Dashboards are like snowflakes: I don’t think I’ve ever seen two enterprises with identical dashboard designs. Which isn’t a bad thing. Dashboards should be tailored to your organization’s identity and the way your employees work. We have a client in the auto industry whose dashboards look like the, well, dashboard of a car – full of speedometers and gauges. We have other clients who like to deploy their BI dashboards in SharePoint because that’s where they house all of their corporate information. But the business intelligence dashboards our clients create have a few things in common that I consider best practices:
1) They incorporate data from more than 1 source.
I’m betting that not all of your data sits in the same location. You’ll only get a holistic view of your organization’s performance if you’re integrating data from various sources. Whether it’s ERP + sales data, or marketing data + finance data, or Essbase data + SQL Server data, your dashboards need to support fast, easy integration of your various data sources.
Best practice BI dashboards pull data from internal and external sources (when necessary) to create entirely new views of performance. We have clients integrating data from Standard & Poor’s with their accounts receivable information to match up delinquent clients with their S&P credit rating. We have insurance companies putting claims data on top of Google Maps. And we work with several enterprises that are integrating product revenues from their financial system with Salesforce.com customer data. These are examples of mashups – web applications that make existing data more useful – and they’re extremely helpful on performance dashboards, even if only for quarter-long tactical analysis.
Dashboards are for busy people who can’t dig deep every day to spot issues. Your dashboard might benefit from incorporating stoplight indicators that tell users if data is entering into dangerous territory without having to drill down. In arcplan, thresholds can be set separately for each KPI – meaning you set when the light shows up green, yellow, and red, giving users a quick visual cue that focuses them on the areas that need attention.
“Cloud computing” is a term that’s thrown around a lot today, but it simply means accessing your data and applications without on-site infrastructure, i.e. in the cloud. Data processing, storage and backup, maintenance, administration and even troubleshooting are all taken care of by the service provider.
Some of us (like me) were skeptical when everything started being labeled as “cloud.” The thought of not having a trusted IT department maintain control of data and hardware was a little unsettling at first. But after considering the pros and cons of cloud computing (and also realizing that I use cloud services like Gmail and Salesforce.com every day without hesitation), the advantages became clear, even for business intelligence.
Implementing BI in the cloud is a dilemma for a lot of organizations we work with. They’re (rightly) concerned about data security, hardware failure, and anything that could take their reports offline, slow employees’ decision-making process, or expose valuable information to the wrong people. Those are all concerns that have been and continue to be addressed by cloud providers. Certainly data security and back-ups have become paramount to vendors offering cloud services. But as we hear less and less about massive cloud failures in the news and executives and IT managers get more comfortable with the cloud, we’ve seen a shift toward the cloud becoming acceptable for business intelligence deployments. Here’s why:
The cloud offers access to data, applications and other resources without the need for program installation. This equals major convenience when doing work on a portable device like a laptop, tablet PC or smartphone. Not only are your devices free from the clutter of numerous installs (which facilitates effective use of resources), but your company’s IT team isn’t bogged down with installing, reinstalling, and troubleshooting numerous devices for each employee. And since many of us work remotely occasionally, if not exclusively, a lightweight approach to accessing data is truly beneficial.