BI Dashboards: Best Practices and Design Ideas
Based on multiple dashboard design projects I have worked on in past, here are some quick points about deploying ‘dashboard’ like displays for tracking business performance indices (popularly called as ‘Key performance Index’ or KPIs).
As score-carding and performance management initiatives get traction in 2009 through implementations featuring Microsoft Performance Point Server (PPS), the use of scorecard like displays is expected to intensify further.
1. ‘Dashboard’s have become very popular with business managers as they
• Help gain quick insights into data and trends
• Monitor performance indices and track leading as well as lagging indicators
• Convert the business data into a ‘picture’ to easily communicate the story.
• But dashboards mean different things to different people
2. Dashboards v/s Reports
• Dashboards, by the analogy they refer to, should incorporate ‘information display’ and ‘controls to manipulate the information display’.
• Quite often, BI Dashboards are just reports with value added features to filter data, track trends or spot performance deviations.
• That is ok, but it falls short of true potential of Dashboards as a close-loop management tool.
3. Why Dashboards? For business goals.
Business users should have some key, concrete business goals driven by business context.
Some common goals that drive the development of BI Dashboards are
• One view of the (business) world
• Management by exception
• Corporate Performance Management
• Connecting Performance Data (historical data) with Forecasting Data (projections)
• From Data to Decisions to Actions
4. What to Show on Dashboards?
• As few things as you can and need… …And more leading than lagging data!
• Dashboards are not reports. If you show more information than necessary, you are hurting your own efficiency of using this tool.
• Numbers by themselves have no meaning..it is when they are presented in corporative context ( this quarter v/s last quarter) that the true picture emerges
• So, Edward Tufte likes to stress, help them compare!!
5. What to Show on Dashboards?
• Positive and negative performance deviations from plan
• Fastest rising KPIs that were previously in negative territory
• Fastest falling KPIs that were previously in positive territory
• Alerts about things that are out of tune
• Comments and notes about alerts and other deviation indicators to give extra context
• Pace and size of the business trends impacting the business
• Contributing factors behind trends
6. How to Leverage Dashboards?
• Connect forecasting data to historical data. Allow contextual simulations and ‘what-if’ scenarios to allow informed problem solving
• Allow saving of scenarios and sharing of scenarios to foster collaboration around Dashboards
• Allow navigation along business organization entities to get low level insights
• Add ‘controls’, not just the ‘displays’ - thereby allowing the user to modify date ranges and switch perspectives.
7. How to Develop Dashboards?
• Document and refine usage scenarios
• List and prioritize business goals
• Understand and model the relationship between historical and forecasting data
• Understand and factor in inter-relationship between corporate communication practices and this new business decision tool
• Understand the linkages between data tools, decision analysis tools and operational action tools. Feed key performance indicators that really matter - to get a pulse of the business.