Sunday, 10 March 2013 00:00

BI Dashboards - the good, the bad, and the ugly

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According to Wikipedia, a Business Intelligence Dash board can be defined as the following: "an easy to read, often single page, real-time user interface, showing a graphical presentation of the current status (snapshot) and historical trends of an organization’s key performance indicators to enable instantaneous and informed decisions to be made at a glance.”

For example, a manufacturing dashboard may show key performance indicators related to productivity such as number of parts manufactured, or number of failed quality inspections per hour. Similarly, a human resources dashboard may show KPIs related to staff recruitment, retention and composition, number of open positions or average cost per recruitment.

With this in mind let’s explore a little deeper and find out what is happening in the world of dashboards and what we can expect in the near future?
Why have dashboards been failing in the past?

By definition a dashboard is supposed to provide an easy to read representation of the business at that exact moment as well as its historical trends. It is not supposed to make business decisions for the company. It is not supposed to make predictions about future growth and or trends. Ultimately is supposed to work for the company’s management to make decisions and not to replace them. Some BI software developers have recently taken it upon themselves to create an application that will auto-pilot a business. They claim that by using complex algorithms the software can make decisions to streamline your business and have it run at optimum efficiency. I don’t subscribe to that thinking. I say keep the management, but provide them with the best information possible so that they can make the best possible decisions. Generally speaking executive managers have obtained their positions by proving their many years of studies and business experiences were all worthwhile.

What has changed over the last 10 years?

Besides the obvious technological advancements in graphics and processing speeds there is a interactive improvement with the advent of being able to drill down into the data and find the source records of the transactions. There has been very little other “useful” improvements. It is common belief that the labelling and structure of the views are too complex and the management teams that view the dashboards do not understand what is being represented and eventually lose trust in the software and revert back to the old traditional methods of data analysis.

What does the future hold for BI dashboards?

It was highlighted recently at the Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2013 that with the increase in the amount of data and the increasing need for proactive management decision making, dashboards have to become intuitive.  What is meant by “intuitive”? They need to show up-to-date data with live tickers if possible and easy to create and to read components for all the divisions. For example: If you are a Finance Manager and you need to manage your company’s cash flow, it would be incredibly helpful if you could have a live ticker of your bank balance showing in real time all the transactions into and out of your account. It would be great to also have a component that lists the top 5 creditors by outstanding amount and then have another component with the top 5 creditors by settlement time. The same can be applied for all the other aspects of the business (HR, Sales, Operations, etc.). Gone are the days of viewing a report/analysis/dashboard showing everything that happened last week/last month/last quarter. That is history, what we need is the present.

It seems the majority of the market is ready for the next generation of dashboard tools. Are you?

Read 4028 times Last modified on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 14:52

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