Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan
28Feb/120

Guided Ad-Hoc: It’s Not an Oxymoron

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Limiting the ad-hoc experience may be best for most business users.

Last time, I wrote about how the concept of self-service is driving ad-hoc adoption and presented the kinds of skills users need in order to effectively take advantage of ad-hoc reporting tools. The conclusion was that even though self-service is great for the power users in your organization, it should not be seen a silver bullet for regular business users. Sure, business users want to be able to answer business questions on the fly, but most ad-hoc reporting tools are going to be too advanced for them. So what can you offer them?

Most people need a guided ad-hoc experience or straight-up guided analytics, i.e. dashboards and scorecards. Guided analytics are suitable for most business users, especially executives and managers, and can contain an ad-hoc component that allows for some on-the-fly report creation. To the right, you can see an example of a dashboard solution whose final tab is ad-hoc.

The other option is to offer “guided ad-hoc” to users, meaning that there is some structure to the process; you have the flexibility to generate your own reports within certain parameters. For example, a guided ad-hoc tool may allow the user to build a report from a list of predetermined columns and rows. This way, the user has a solid foundation for creating their report along with complete flexibility for generating the answers they need.

Whether you choose to implement a guided ad-hoc tool or a guided analytic application with an ad-hoc component, features that are essential include familiar controls like undo and redo buttons. Drill-down, filters, and charts are features users expect. Business users may also want to share reports with their peers or decision-makers, so the ability to create a PDF, export the document to excel, or simply print are useful features as well.

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22Sep/110

Clues That Your BI Dashboard Has Gone Bad

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You don’t have to look at the expiration on your milk carton to know that it has soured – it usually gives you some pretty strong clues, like smell, discoloration, or a strange consistency. In the same way, you probably have an idea that your BI dashboard has gone bad – clutter and unreadable graphs are sure signs that it’s time for a refresh. Other clues are less obvious, like maybe your role has changed but your dashboard hasn’t changed along with it. Let’s dive into these clues and see if you can relate to any of them:

1. Your dashboard is too busy. The biggest limitation of dashboards is the physical size of your screen. When your dashboard was created, did it take this into account? Are all of your metrics on one screen, which forces you to do a whole lot of scrolling? A dashboard should not require the user to scroll left, right, up or down to see the entire screen. Try a creative way of accessing additional information, like implementing tabs or hierarchies to drill down into more detailed information.

2. Flashing lights and pretty pictures. Does your dashboard look like a fireworks display on the 4th of July? Certainly your dashboard needs to be attractive, but you can display a whole lot of nothing through the inappropriate use of graphs and graphics. Dashboards should be analytical tools, not just pretty pictures. They need to provide business value, which can be achieved through simple charts (read: not 3D) and appropriate animation, keeping the flash to a minimum. Here’s a tip: if you’re using stoplight indicators, think about making stoplight symbols a standard in your organization. That way, employees who are colorblind can still get value from your indicators.

3. Lack of a role-based view.

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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:

22Aug/110

Dashboard Charts & Graphs: Which Is Right For Your Data?

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Decision-makers depend on insightful charts and graphs to help them make fast, accurate decisions. “Insightful” charts and graphs are easy to read and understand and are the right design for your data. The wrong chart type can throw everything off and make your dashboard unusable. For example, while pie charts are most often used to display the share or percentage of a total, they’re not good for comparing the relationship between two variables – a scatter chart is better for that. While bar charts are good for comparison, if you want to compare many categories of data over time, go with a line chart.

Are you tasked with creating the dashboards that are used every day at your organization? As dashboard experts, let’s take a look at a few practical examples of why certain charts are better suited to display certain types of data versus others. If you find this article useful, be sure to view our webinar recording Scorecard & Dashboard Development: A Detailed How-To, where you’ll get more practical tips to create interactive, “go-to” dashboards.

Bullet Graphs vs. Bar Charts

Sales data for the year may be best displayed on a bullet graph. This type of graph displays a fair amount of data in a small space, compares measures to enrich its meaning, and is generally a simple, uncluttered visual representation of data. With a bullet graph, the budgeted sales amount for the year is represented by the entire length of the bar; the actual value is represented by the thin bar in the forefront (blue on the sales bullet graph). The shaded grey areas (in our image) represent the values “poor,” “satisfactory,” and “good.” In our image, the sales data is satisfactory, approaching good. Stacking bullet graphs allows the user to compare values with ease – here, sales vs. costs. A bullet graph would even work well as a desktop widget since it can showcase an important KPI in a simple, space-efficient format.

Would a bar chart work for this same data?
A bullet chart is actually a variation of a bar chart. Even though bar charts are useful for comparing data as well, for our sales example, it may not be your best option. With a bar chart, you’d need to have 2 columns per month – one for actual and one for the target/budgeted amount. Alternatively, you could use a stacked bar chart, but that is basically what we have here with the bullet graph, only with even more data than a stacked bar chart typically offers. Because it would be difficult to track your progress over time, a standard bar chart isn’t the most efficient chart type for sales actual vs. budget data.

Candlestick Charts vs. Bubble Charts

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