Article co-written by Ketaki Pange and Hugh Owen of MicroStrategy
In the late 1970s, basic dashboards − more popularly known as Executive Information Systems − condensed different business metrics and reports into a single window to be displayed on a screen or on paper. Although conceptually ahead of their time, these dashboards were mortally anchored by a number of flaws and limitations. Built on poor foundations, the static nature of these dashboards denied users the capability to interact and explore outwards from the dashboard or, for that matter, even within the dashboard. They provided a myopic view of the business and, as such, failed executives and organizations in providing a valuable decision making tool.
Interactive dashboards addressed these shortcomings and bridged the chasm between basic dashboards and the ever-growing needs of users. Combining state-of-the-art data visualization and interactivity with a business intelligence (BI) platform, this new method of information consumption redefined how organizations deliver business insights to their employees, customers, and business partners. With their attractive, easy-to-comprehend visual display, highly scalable foundation, and embedded interactivity, these dashboards combine different views of enterprise data, with each view acting as an analytical lens to return rich business insight. Extremely easy-to-use, interactive dashboards have further expanded the influence of BI to new information users within organizations, enabling a higher number of people to make well-informed and better business decisions.
GROWING BUSINESS INFORMATION NEEDS
Even as information workers have been served by more dashboards, and more data within dashboards, the growth in utilization of dashboards is still suboptimal. Traditional BI and interactive dashboard growth has been in support of managers, analysts, and information workers but the majority of an organization’s workforce may still have their business information needs unmet. This workforce constitutes groups of people performing similar operational job functions, such as sales personnel, customer service reps, line workers, store managers, field engineers, claims managers, educators, and technicians. Typically characterized as the organization’s foot soldiers and entrusted with making immediate decisions that have a rippling effect on the company as a whole, these operational workers encounter a number of roadblocks to access the information they need to make informed and efficient decisions.
Operational workers typically have limited access to computer systems and/or do not have enough time to ‘hunt’ for data that is relevant to their line of work. Served with hundreds of pages of operational reports, this population is expected to read through this overwhelming pile of data to make sense of the information that is relevant to them. Although operational reports are richly informative, they are static and overwhelming. Users have no easy way to compare and analyze across pages or across reports. As expected, these dense reports are often unread and underutilized. On the other hand, scorecards and dashboards cater more so to executive level consumers and are not entirely personalized for this operational workforce. Thus, most questions remain unanswered and there remains a need for more filtered information, more actionable insight.
The next generation of dashboard technology aims to answer these questions and make the use of dashboards pervasive throughout the organization, catering to grassroots-level operational workers. These dashboards provide users with specific and insightful information helping them answer today’s and tomorrow’s business questions.