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General Considerations For Dashboard Deployments

by Lyndsay Wise, President, WiseAnalyticsWednesday, May 05, 2010

Although dashboards may appear to be the answer to all data visibility needs, the reality is that different types of dashboards offer companies differing benefits and ways of accessing and analyzing information.  The way companies interact with dashboards depends upon how they currently use BI.  In general, there tends to be two types of organizations:

  1. Those with internal BI infrastructures looking to optimize current use, increase overall adoption, or expand from reporting and OLAP to include dashboards.
  2. Those looking at BI for the first time and using dashboards as the front-end access to gain deeper insights into the organization’s performance.

For the first group, in many cases, the current BI environment limits the type of solution adopted.  Either organizations choose their current provider or look for a dashboard that integrates easily with what they are already using.  Companies looking to expand their reach should consider the following before making their final solution choice:

Dashboard Purpose

By starting with the business pain, decision makers can limit their dashboard choice to one that meets their specific business requirements.  For example, some companies require operational dashboards to help them manage their call centers, whereas other businesses use dashboards to make sure that overall performance is on track and to flag potential discrepancies in set metrics.

Current IT/BI Environment

What currently exists in-house may affect the organization’s dashboard choice.  Some dashboards integrate easily with many data sources, while others base their platforms on Microsoft integration.  This means that some solutions may not be available to organizations depending upon their current IT environment.  In addition, companies with a mature BI infrastructure may want to continue to expand their current platform because it falls within their comfort zone and current framework, as opposed to evaluating the best alternatives.

Data Sources

Aside from technical environments that may become inhibitors to selection choice, it is important to note that not all dashboards are created equally.  Some enable decision makers to combine disparate data sources within one chart, while others may offer the ability to compare separate data sources on the same dashboard, but not within the same chart, graph or chart.  Consequently, organizations should look at what types of data they are using and whether data from multiple sources have to be combined to gain the desired insights.

Timeliness

When the information is required may change the overall solution choice.  For instance, some dashboards stream data from operational systems regularly to help managers look at information in near real time, whereas other dashboards grab data from the data warehouse and shows aggregates of information to identify sales over time, or to monitor key performance indicators.

End User Interface

The last consideration is the type of people using the dashboard.  Depending on who will be accessing the data, what interactivity requirements they have, and their level of technical savvy, the solution choice will differ.  Luckily, solutions exist for all types of end users.  Some businesses want their employees to develop their own analytics and general dashboards, whereas others require tightly controlled access to information.  Either way, depending on what information people access, how comfortable they are interacting with technology, and changing needs over time, the type of solution will be affected by who is accessing the solution.

The aspects identified above represent a subset of general considerations when looking for the right dashboard for any organization.  However, these areas to consider provide a good first step towards choosing the type of dashboard that best fits the organization’s business requirements.

About the Author

Lyndsay Wise is an industry analyst for business intelligence. For over seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. Lyndsay is the channel expert for BI for the Mid-Market at B-eye-Network and conducts research of leading technologies, products and vendors in business intelligence, marketing performance management, master data management, and unstructured data. She can be reached at lwise@wiseanalytics.com. And please visit Lyndsay's blog at myblog.wiseanalytics.com.


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