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Identifying ROI for Dashboards

by Lyndsay Wise, President, WiseAnalyticsWednesday, November 17, 2010

Recently, WiseAnalytics partnered with Klipfolio Inc. and Dashboard Insight to conduct a survey identifying the ROI achieved by organizations through dashboard use. Traditionally, ROI is measured by looking at savings versus costs, including software, hardware, and time saved.  This survey aims to go farther to identify some of the other factors that contribute to return on investment such as time to implement and whether the solution actually meets the organization’s expectations.  Although not a large sample size (interestingly, an earlier poll run by Klipfolio, indicated that only 56% of decision makers actually evaluate ROI when making BI/Dashboarding decisions), the survey results did merit some interesting insights. These include the company demographics of dashboard adoption, time to implement, the importance of the underlying data, and the use of multiple vendors to in relation to multiple dashboard deployments.

Dashboards for the mid-market

With business intelligence moving downstream, many small and mid-sized companies are looking at analytics as a way to gain broader visibility into their operations.  Dashboards provide the easiest way for SMBs to do so due to the low cost entry point and ease of use of many dashboard solutions. Most survey respondents fall within revenue of 0 to $50 million, showing that smaller companies require the same types of metrics management as their enterprise counterparts.  In general, the market is showing many smaller companies adopting dashboards as a first entry point into BI partially because of the fact that they are less expensive to deploy and to maintain than full BI suites.  Many SMBs require easy access to data and the ability to monitor performance without the development of an internal IT infrastructure or data warehouse. Consequently, SMBs may become the main adopters of dashboards as a BI entry point.

Implementation times

One of the desires of many SMBs is the ability to implement a solution quickly.  Even so, many of the respondents' solutions still took over 6 months to deploy. In many of these cases, it was due to the solution choice, for instance IBM and Microsoft that generally require more integration and infrastructure requirements in order to get the solution up and running. The success of these solutions within small and mid-sized companies is most likely due to the broad reach and brand recognition, which offsets the additional time to implement. In order to select the right solution, organizations need to balance their requirements with the viability of the solution providers and the focus on continued development.

Other dashboards can be implemented within 4 to 6 weeks, depending upon the type of solution. Whether a company has a strong BI infrastructure already in place or is looking at a dashboard for the first time, the ability to implement a solution quickly is becoming a key requirement when organizations are evaluating potential dashboard options.  With technological advancements, more interactivity, and self-service models, dashboards provide a more user-friendly alternative to traditional BI solutions. Consequently, as dashboards become more popular and more mature within organizations, the ability to deploy solutions more quickly will become possible and expected.  

The increasing focus of data management

Almost half of respondents name data consolidation as a driver for dashboard use. In many cases, companies seem to be using dashboards and general metrics management as a way to consolidate information and to develop initial data management practices or processes that lead to better data quality and data consolidation. Organizations are starting to realize that without a strong data infrastructure the ability to effectively manage metrics are limiting.  Although Excel is a useful tool for analysis, the fact remains that there are no proper data quality or management tools to ensure data integrity.  Add to this the fact that many businesses require the consolidation of disparate data sources with no way of centrally integrating data.

In addition, some dashboard projects start with the goal of identifying key performance indicators and then transform into a combined metrics and data management project.  Unfortunately, dashboards will only be successful if the data being analyzed is valid and accurate.  This requires strong data management.

Takeaways

Overall, organizations look at time to implement, increased data management, and ease of use while evaluating the ROI they achieve through the use of dashboards. In some cases this means using one solution provider across the organization, and in other cases, companies look at each business need separately and implement multiple vendor solutions.  To decide which is best, organizations should consider overall costs of implementing multiple solutions, support and maintenance costs, and long-term software and hardware requirements. 

About the Author:

Lyndsay Wise is the president and founder of WiseAnalytics, an independent analyst firm focusing on the areas of business intelligence and business performance management. For more than eight years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. She is a monthly columnist for B-eye-Network, DashboardInsight and writes reviews of leading technologies, products and vendors in business intelligence, business performance management, marketing performance management and customer data integration.

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