Dashboard Insight recently spoke with Alexander Chiang about why Dundas created a consulting branch, the advantages of having a custom digital dashboard solution and the benefits of being a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.
Dashboard Insight: Tell us about the history of Dundas Data Visualization Consulting.
Alexander Chiang: Back in 2000, when Dundas focused on the charting component market, a lot of momentum was built in the data visualization space. Some clients were asking for assistance in using our products when creating dashboards. In 2006, Dundas decided to officially open a consulting division dedicated to building custom dashboard solutions. We wanted to leverage our industry-leading data visualization components, which include Dundas Chart, Dundas Gauge and Dundas Map.
DI: Where do you sit on the BI stack?
AC: Dundas Consulting focuses mainly on the presentation layer of the BI stack; i.e., we provide solutions for how the user interacts with the data and how it is displayed to them. Over the years though, we have found it is important to understand the data warehouse aspect of the stack and thus, we have many trained professionals addressing the bridge between the data and the presentation layer.
DI: What are the main advantages of having a custom dashboard solution?
AC: The main advantage of having a custom dashboard solution created is the ability to have a dashboard that fits the exact needs of you and your users. In other words, it's hard for an out-of-the box solution to cover all your requirements, whereas a custom solution can address all your critical and non-critical business requirements. In some cases, a custom solution is more cost effective than the turnkey solutions provided by large players in the BI industry. In the end, Dundas always recommends clients do their own due diligence when evaluating solutions - and when asked, Dundas provides guidance in the technical requirements needed to fulfill their business requirements.
DI: What platforms do you generally make use of to build custom dashboards for your clients?
AC: We are a 100% Microsoft shop, in fact, we are a Gold Certified Partner. Thus, we have the following delivery platforms available to us: ASP.NET (web applications), WinForms (desktop applications), SharePoint and Reporting Services. Depending on the needs of the client, we choose a delivery platform accordingly. This is a topic in itself, so we will not go into details about the differences between platforms. Generally speaking, we tend to use ASP.NET to deliver a custom dashboard solution; we find it is the most flexible and lightweight platform to work with.
DI: Have you seen an increase in clients requesting Silverlight dashboard solutions?
AC: We have consulted on a couple of Silverlight dashboard solutions and we believe there will be an upward trend throughout the next couple of years.
DI: Dundas Data Visualization Consulting produces a lot of white papers and best-practices documents, are you working on any new articles right now?
AC: Yes, we’ve just created a new article called “Creating Dashboards: The Players and Collaboration You Need for a Successful Project.” It is featured in the March 31, 2009 issue of Business Intelligence Journal.
Alexander Chiang leads the Consulting Services Department for Dundas Data Visualization Inc. He has advised a variety of Fortune 100 companies on the technology platforms and tools that best fit their dashboard requirements. His many years of user interface design and his expertise in data visualization techniques have enabled him to facilitate effective software solutions for the broader BI community.