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Product Review: Why Choose Dundas Dashboard?

by Lyndsay Wise, President, WiseAnalyticsWednesday, February 22, 2012

Introduction

This product review aims to provide businesses with an understanding of Dundas Dashboard, its capabilities and where it fits in the BI and dashboard market landscape. It also sets out recommendations for decision makers to help short list Dundas Dashboard by discussing how it best meets the business and technical requirements of their organizations. Some of the factors explored include:

  • What business questions/pains does the product address?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What is the viability of the offering based on the company and product roadmap?
  • What are the general features and functions provided and how do these compare to market demands?

Product Review Methodology

The product review is based on in-depth interviews and product demonstrations with Dundas to identify technology and positioning. It evaluates the software and provides a report card that highlights the general features that should be available to enable broader end-user autonomy.

This review is broken down into categories and each category is given a rating of 0 (not supported), 1 (partially supported) or 2 (supported). Categories that cannot be ranked contain comments to provide greater detail.

Company and Product Overview

Dundas Data Visualization provides data visualization solutions. The company provides chart, gauge and map components for .NET, SharePoint and Reporting Services, which Microsoft purchased in 2009 and are now part of SSRS and the .NET 4.0 framework. After the sale, Dundas launched a new flagship product, Dundas Dashboard, with the goal of meeting the broader market needs of an easy-to-use dashboard development platform. It focuses on ease of use for data and business analysts, flexibility for technologists, quick deployment times, and collaborative capabilities to broaden the value of analytics

One of the benefits of Dundas Dashboard is that it provides a wizard-like feel by giving users options to load data, prepare data views, and create performance and analytical dashboards. Instead of requiring IT developers to create initial dashboard interfaces, an end user who understands where data resides and how tables interrelate can develop their own dashboards from scratch.

The general steps required are as follows:

  • Loading data: connect, load, and read multiple data sources and OLAP cubes with data connectors to key data sources including SAP, Oracle, flat files, etc.;
  • Metrics design: create metrics (KPIs (key performance indicators) and Datasets) for analysis; and
  • Dashboard design: create interactive dashboards from the KPIs defined in the previous step.

After completing these steps, dashboards can be shared and published for online access.

Marketing Positioning

Dundas Dashboard is positioned as a BI presentation solution allowing users to develop dashboards, scorecards, and reports. It gives technical users a dashboard development platform with support for OLAP analytics and a wide variety of data sources. For organizations that develop dashboards in-house, Dundas Dashboard divides the work between several user groups:

  • Data Analysts transform raw data into business metrics;
  • Business Analysts build customized dashboards from business metrics; and
  • Developers extend the product through custom add-ons and develop business metrics and dashboards (includes both the Data Analyst and Business Analyst roles).

Dundas Dashboard is a horizontal-oriented dashboard development platform with the ability to provide targeted solutions, but without pre-defined metrics based on vertical market requirements. Moving forward, Dundas aims to increase self-service capabilities for business and data analysts and add to the functionality already provided. For instance, Dundas already offers annotations within its dashboards but in the future, this capability should enable broader overall collaboration.

Dundas Data Visualization fits within the broader Business Intelligence market in the following ways:

  • It operates in a Microsoft IT environment. Dundas Dashboard requires a Windows server environment for installation. However, it can consume data from many different sources and the dashboards can be delivered to any web browser; and
  • It offers both analytical and performance dashboards: Dundas Dashboard serves the needs of both the analytical and performance aspects of BI presentation. Performance dashboards can provide analytical as well as tactical or strategic analysis of an organization’s performance, whereas analytical dashboards provide analysis using OLAP technologies. Businesses that want a complete presentation layer BI solution should make sure that the software includes both analytics and performance analysis functionality.

Product Review

The results of the product review are provided in the chart below, followed by a more detailed analysis of the benefits, challenges, and consumer recommendations.

Report Card

Scoring Legend: 0 (not supported), 1 (partially supported) or 2 (supported)

Product Type   Description Comments/Score
Dashboards
  Dashboard Use
  Drill through to source data 2
End user customization (ability to create and manipulate visualizations) 2
New dashboard creation 2
Add new charts/graphs to current dashboard 2
Resize dashboard components 2
Event driven alerts 2
Email alerts 2
Ability to use dashboards offline 2
Automatic refresh/data updates 2 - live connection
Ease of use 1 – based on skill set
Export to PPT 2 - with add-on
Export to PDF 2 - with add-on
Comments/annotations 2
Export to Excel 2
Apply Formulas 2 – only for advanced users
Dashboard Design and features
  Drag and drop environment 2
Ability to integrate multiple data sources 2 – based on skill set
Number of steps required to load initial data source 3 to 5 steps
Number of steps required to load subsequent data sources 3 to 5 steps
Number of steps required to join data 3 to 5 steps
Query language used SQL
Wizard driven dashboard development environment 2
Restricted access based on security levels 2
Amount of time for new user to learn system Tutorials provide quick time to value
Visualizations and User controls to use 2
Number of steps to add common user interactivity (brushing, drill-down, filtering) 3 to 5 steps
Level of customization for the look and feel of a dashboard 1 – not intuitive to business users
Target audience
  Self-service 1 – as a consumer
Super user 2
Executive 1 – as a consumer
Data Analyst 2
Software Developer 2
Type of dashboard
  Operational 2
Analytic 2
Performance Monitoring (I.e. no interactivity) 2
Reports
  Design
  Wizard driven design 2
Drag and drop environment 2
Number of steps required to create report 3 to 5 steps
Ability to integrate/join multiple data sets 2
Event based delivery 2
Comments 2
Consumption
  Drill down/through capabilities 2
Ability to share content 2
Customizable 1
Export to Excel 2
Print options 2
Export to PDF 2
Analytics
  Built-in features
  Predictive analytics 1 - 50 formulas and 3rd party integration
Trends identification 2
Social network analysis 1 - 3rd party add-on
Web analytics 2
Clustering 2
Cause and effect 2
Statistical modelling 1
Auto-discovery of data relationships 1 – within tables

Product Viability

Evaluating features and functions does not provide a full picture of product viability, which requires a broader view of ease of use, scalability, and general value. This section breaks down each of these aspects to identify whether the features identified above translate into viability for organizations looking for a strong IT infrastructure and front-end application.

Ease of use

With self-service a key trend in today’s market, there is much discussion surrounding ease of use. To fully deliver self-service capabilities, solutions need to be accessible at a broad level in two ways. First, they must enable interaction across interfaces regardless of technical capabilities. Second, they must let users become autonomous creators of analytics to suit their individual roles and responsibilities.

With respect to Dundas Dashboard capabilities specifically, the first relates to consumers of dashboards once they have already been created. The second is based on super users (i.e. business analysts and data analysts) who understand the data. For these users, there is an assumed understanding of data sources, structures, joins, and calculation creation. For organizations looking for ease of use in design that targets a wider variety of business users, this may be a limitation. However, for companies with a large number of consumers that want to take dashboard design and creation out of the hands of IT developers, Dundas offerings are a good fit.

Analytics

Dundas dashboard design and flexibility extends to its analytics capabilities. Dundas offers the ability to create metrics within its dashboard creation environment. End users can also add new metrics by using pre-built formulas or integrate targeted analytics from libraries or third-party offerings. This gives end users a lot of opportunities to customize their presentation layer design and use. In general, organizations can apply sales and marketing analytics out of the box and add other types of analytics requiring more customization, like risk and fraud identification, to deliver to analysts.

Scalability and Extensibility

Dundas Dashboard provides the ability to expand use by adding new data sources, providing flexibility in design, and enabling broader deployments. It also allows organizations to add data sources, metrics, virtual tables, OLAP analysis, etc. Current connectors include Microsoft Access, dBase, FoxPro, MySQL, ODBC, Oracle, SAP MaxDB, Microsoft SQLServer, and Teradata. OLAP connectivity also includes SSAS, SAP BW, and PowerPivot, with the ability to connect directly to flat files and SharePoint. Organizations can also add their own data visualizations and new data sources as well. This includes the creation of data connectors to expand the reach of their analytics visibility to expand the types of dashboards and analyses created.

Overall value

Dundas has maintained a strong presence in the dashboard industry. Based on its current presence and offerings, it is safe to say that its solutions represent an appealing approach to dashboard adoption for organizations. Although its consumer dashboard product is relatively new in relation to the organization, Dundas’ focus on this aspect will create more opportunity for business-driven customer-facing applications.

Product Benefits

Here are some general benefits of the product that also show how Dundas stands out from the crowd. Although some competitive offerings exist, they do not provide this combination of features that include entry points into true collaboration within dashboards themselves. Here are some of the business benefits:

  • Wizard-driven approach and access to tutorials makes the solution easy to learn and use.
  • It is flexible in design and analytics use.
  • In-depth technical skills are not required unless extending the solution.
  • Easy-to-design dashboards integrate with many components and design features.
  • Business analysts and non-technical end users can customize metrics.
  • Customizable alerts based on events and pre-defined factors.

In addition to business benefits, some of the technical benefits of Dundas Dashboard include:

  • Its scripting language enables the creation of high levels of interactivity as long as knowledge of C# exists.
  • It offers the ability to expand solutions, analytics, data connections, etc.
  • It provides an easy-to-use drag and drop development environment.

Product Challenges

Some of the challenges are as follows:

  • Unlike the industry trend toward focusing on self-service for all users, Dundas relegates access to those with super-user capabilities. As the market continues to mature, business users will continue to demand broader access to autonomous dashboard use.
  • Wizard-driven approach requires multiple steps and returning to previous steps to make changes.
  • Not all steps are intuitive to end users (e.g. checking in changes or tables; Creating them is not enough).
  • Installation of Dundas Dashboard requires a Windows web server.

Recommendations for Potential Buyers

When looking at features and product capabilities, Dundas rates high. It provides key industry functionality out of the box and enables easy creation of customized metrics and dashboards, whether analytical or performance oriented. Organizations that should consider Dundas Data Visualization as part of their vendor evaluation have these attributes;

  • They have a Microsoft Windows web server to install Dundas Dashboard;

Dashboard Insight Editor’s Note: However, development and viewing of dashboards only requires a web browser.

  • They have super users in the form of data analysts or business analysts that will be able to develop and design dashboards for the business users they represent; and
  • They have business analysts who understand how data interrelates and how to translate business requirements into required calculations and visualizations.

The first attribute is the key factor for organizations looking for BI presentation layer and dashboard solutions and considering Dundas. Successful implementation is not possible absent a Microsoft Windows web server.

For organizations that do have a Windows web server, as long as they have a number of advanced users to manage dashboard development and interactivity, the solution can be deployed widely across the company to meet various business needs.

Dundas provides a strong offering to the market through its flexibility and extensibility, and gives organizations the ability to build and design solutions that meet their business requirements, regardless of vertical market.

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