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Using an Interactive Map as a Dashboard
Enhance your dashboard utility and provide additional insights

by Scott Caulk, Product Manager, www.idvsolutions.comMonday, August 25, 2008

Written by Scott Caulk

Decision makers love dashboards.  Visual displays of key organizational data that can be ingested in just a few minutes or seconds are critical for rapid decision making and understanding where to invest precious time.  Maps are often key components within dashboards, and users are almost always drawn to the map within a dashboard right away.  Included as just a portlet or Web part, a map usually serves as only one small part of the dashboard, often as an afterthought or “nice to have” feature.  However, many decision makers are discovering the power of using a map as the central focus of dashboards and other data visualizations, serving as both a control for the other data components and a launching pad into greater depth and fine grain detail.  We at IDV Solutions have identified at least six very good reasons to elevate the map as the key component to a dashboard.

1. Maps provide a common context for uniting disparate data.

Dashboards tend to unite and aggregate data from disparate sources, giving context and meaning to information that was previously separated, even though related.  This activity calls out for a map since location makes for a superior common context for uniting disparate information.  Upwards of 90% of data within an organization has a location component associated with it, making geography the key organizing principle for most content.  Many dashboards focus on organizing by category or hierarchy, but miss out on the intelligence found in location.  A map gives greater meaning to category and hierarchy and can drive other display components that focus on these aspects.

Map and Gauge Components in a Digital Dashboard
Fig. 1:  Here alerts are consolidated and presented to the user along with a typical gauge display.  Data for this view is being pulled from multiple enterprise data stores, a SharePoint portal, and various Web feeds.

2. Maps provide a visual platform for driving other dashboard components

Dashboards built as rich internet applications (RIA) empower users to interact with data and easily drill down into underlying details.  Using a map as the primary interface of the RIA gives the user a very familiar and engaging environment to drive the experience.  The map can also be used to direct the content that appears in other components of the dashboard.

Interactive Map Control in a Digital Dashboard
Fig. 2:  Here assets are conditionally formatted to quickly convey status to the dashboard user.  A specific drilling platform with a rating of “poor” has been selected, where that platform appears in a chart has been highlighted, and more details about that platform are presented in other page components.

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