Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

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?

Continue reading this post >>


Quick Tips for Using BI to Improve Budgeting & Planning


The end of the fiscal year can often be a stressful time for businesses, which is why you need a sophisticated way of managing critical budgeting and planning processes. If you’re still using Excel and you’re bogged down with dozens (or hundreds) of spreadsheets, think about taking advantage of your company’s BI system to make this budgeting cycle a little less overwhelming. Or maybe it’s time to consider dedicated budgeting software that’s part of your company’s larger business intelligence (BI) strategy.

Maybe you don’t think that BI and planning go hand-in-hand, but trust me – after working with literally hundreds of customers who are using BI to manage their planning – they do. BI allows the finance department to provide timely consolidated budgets and forecasts that leverage data from a variety of sources so you can understand how your business may perform by modeling a range of scenarios.

Here are a few tips to consider when using BI for budgeting and forecasting.

1. Move on from spreadsheets and think about adopting dedicated software as part of a larger BI initiative. Organizations with revenues of $35M or more are typically at a stage when financial planners must deal with a plethora of spreadsheets during budgeting season (not to mention a number of versions of each spreadsheet). This amount of data quickly becomes unwieldy and prone to errors. By integrating dedicated budgeting software into your BI platform, you can perform real-time “what if” predictive modeling and monitor performance against a target to improve performance. Think about all the value you’ll add as a financial planner with up-to-date data – not plans that are outdated as soon as they’re formed.

2. Integrate BI software into existing budgeting processes. If you’re a smaller company, you likely don’t have the time or resources to reinvent the wheel. Use your company’s existing BI tool into your already-defined process. If you don’t currently have a tool, look for software that easily and flexibly integrates with your existing data sources, includes adjustable templates and offers your planners a Web interface for offline planning.

3. Create an organized workflow for your BI collection and analysis process. Logically order your planning tasks and keep an eye on where your team is in the planning cycle. This will help you better monitor, analyze and make tactical adjustments to the budgeting process throughout the year.

4. Collaborate within your organization for increased efficiency.

Continue reading this post >>


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


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:


Business Intelligence Dashboard Best Practices


arcplan DashboardDashboards 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 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.

2) They provide at-a-glance views of performance.

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.

Continue reading this post >>