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Jyoti Kulkarni

"Intelligent Information Design For Effective Dashboards "

Jyoti Kulkarni
Senior Consultant
Jyoti is an experienced Business Consultant offering 7+ years of success leading all phases of diverse technology projects. She is  working on various bids from legacy modernization to DWBI technical and functional roles.

Any business taken under consideration runs on a faster clock and produces data which talks. All the stakeholders of business want to listen to the data to make meaning of it. Business Intelligence serves its purpose for stake holders by turning the business data into meaningful information which the stakeholders could make sense out of it. However the meaningful information needed by the stakeholders across the organization differs from the level they stand in the organizational hierarchy.

A bird’s eye view of the current status of the business is what is always required by the Management. A summarized, detailed and crisp look into data for monitoring purpose is the need of the hour; and maybe to a certain extent data would be utilized for analytical purposes. It would help the management to look more into visuals than into numbers, more into indicators than into results; which would assist them to analyze where they are standing currently in the marathon to achieve the goals and objectives. A step further management would zoom-in to certain data points to get further specific details of a particular process, product or financials. The best tool available in the contemporary market which answers these requirements is a ‘Dashboard’. The dashboards could provide the needed details not only at the management level, but also at the lower manager and team lead level.

Dashboards ought to be an integral part of any BI implementation. Effective Dashboards require intelligent design. And this intelligence requires the capability to think through in the direction of management to align their thoughts onto a dashboard.

Role of Dashboards in Decision Making

A Dashboard encompasses some of the most well-engineered and powerful information processing components available. More and more advanced technology facilitates a typical dashboard to tailor with various metrics represented in graphical format, a well defined score-card with visual indicators and a gauge depicting the KPIs.

A good dashboard answers the questions like ‘what is happening to my month-to-date revenue, is it dipping or increasing?’; ‘Is our pipeline better or worse than this time last year?’; ‘Are we delaying in paying our receivables?’. All the key business data is brought together in an easy to read format and confer a graphical interface, which could be customised to suit the specific requirements.

Thus the dashboard method of monitoring the status of process and achievements along with zoom-in review of details makes a business efficient. An efficient business can quickly respond to the current issues and opportunities, allowing it to operate more efficiently and service the clients in the best possible way.

Components of Dashboard

Dashboards provide an intelligent personalized view of enterprise and external information usually in one page or several pages. These pages can display anything that one can access or open in web browser and could include the following:

•    Analysis Results (graphs, charts, gauges, tables and head maps)
•    Alerts and Prioritized Task List (by importance for agents or vendors or users)
•    Images
•    Text
•    Embedded Content (links or documents)

These components increase the business insight there by providing appropriate links to drill-down into details wherever needed. This gives the ability to see  details behind  summary information if required. In addition to seeing the details, the business will have a significant opportunity to see trends occurring.

Types of Dashboards

The layout might be same while information levels would differ from Dashboard to Dashboard, which depends mainly on the kind of user who reads it. Usually one could find three various kinds of dashboard, which are always aligned as per the organization hierarchy:

•    Strategic -    higher management – with a bigger scope – aligns organizational strategic goals
•    Tactical – managers – with a limited scope – measures progression of projects and departments
•    Operational – business users – with a very limited scope – monitor and analyze organizational activities

Strategic dashboards

Strategic dashboards are being used to monitor enterprise-wide progress in achieving pre-defined strategic goals. Common strategic goals are followed with a watch on identified KPIs and drive down to lower levels of company’s hierarchy. Thereupon, strategic dashboards are often connected directly with the balanced score card methodology invented by David Norton and Robert Kaplan. Strategic dashboards provide exceptionally wide functionalities which are achieved through increased data aggregation and effective graphic design. Some of the examples of strategic dashboards are:

Strategic Dashboard for Workforce Management Organization :

•    Managing resource and its cost on a daily basis is one of the strategic objectives here.
•    The dashboard displays roll-up summary of various details associated with KPIs in separate dashboard pages dedicated to Finance, Resource etc.
•    A score card displays the resource – cost association on daily, monthly and yearly basis.

Tactical Dashboard

A dashboard which is particularly dedicated to a department or project in an organization and which highlights  the performance and other areas of concern in the particular department or project are known as Tactical Dashboards. it assists a manager to take an effective action to forestall less-than-optimal performance. Unlike a strategic dashboard, a tactical dashboard would have more detailed information such as tracing the trends in relation to the company’s goals and initiatives. Management would also get benefited with this kind of dashboards and management would possibly control the market reactions to company’s actions. A common thing in tactical dashboards apart from the fact that they have lot of metrics is that they are measured against pre-set goals.

Features of  tactical dashboards for Sales Overview in any organization:

•    Managing cost, sales and revenue on a daily, monthly and yearly basis is one of the strategic objectives here.
•    The dashboard displays roll-up summary of various data with KPIs .
•    A score card displays the revenue achievement –  Targeted revenue and achieved revenue for that financial year.

Operational Dashboard

Operational dashboards are being used at operational level in a department by its employees. It is hardly ever used by executives. If used by an individual user, they can provide much detailed insight. They facilitate the detailed analysis for users and also help set up a particular process. The following dashboard gives an example of an Automobile manufacturer at the operational level.

The type of dashboard to be designed depends on one’s needs and also the person’s level in the organization. One needs to understand what information is to be monitored to meet the professional objectives at personal level, team level and then at the organizational level. This would help to define a right dashboard. The following sequence in the flow chart could be used to identify a right dashboard for business usage:

Designing the Dashboard

Dashboards are designed to support key analytic workflows that support a complete process from insight to action. The entire workflow should enable users to gain insight into a problem. The three easy steps one could follow in designing the dashboard would be :

•    Plan the Dashboard – Consider the type of information you want to be displayed and the best way to display it
•    Create Dashboard Components – Create the dashboard elements and publish them through the selected tool. Create the sources, dashboard pages, reports and scorecards.
•    Deploy the Dashboard -  Preview the dashboard, make the required adjustments and deploy it to the users with the selected tool.

The point to be noted while designing a dashboard is to make it suitable for different roles. Also identify the required drill-downs which are usually needed in strategic dashboards and tactical dashboards. The pages available in the strategic dashboards are usually lesser compared to the operational and tactical. Considering these points would bring a very good plan of the dashboard.

Future of Dashboards

 ‘Mobility’ is the need of today’s world and technology needs to make everything mobile. All the vendors in the market landscape need to put significant energy into listening to customers and the thoughts/needs of analysts and partners to gain a clear understanding of what the customers’ expectations are. This would help in bringing the evolving customer expectations to dashboarding solutions.

The users interested in dashboarding solutions usually rely more and more on having the information at their fingertips anywhere, anytime. Having the timely and accurate information would enable effective better and faster decision. There would be a greater demand for professionally authored dashboards which can fulfill high mobility expectations. Thus mobile dashboards could assist in future by driving the sales and field service to better decision making on the road of improving company profitability.