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Why Dashboards Today are Terrible

By SiliconIndia   |   Thursday, 30 August 2012, 11:20 Hrs
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Bangalore: Dashboards are a crucial tool for organizations today. They report all the helpful information that is gleaned by data analysis. However are they doing their job successfully? Mark Smith, CEO of Ventana Research states on the company website that he thinks dashboards today are “pathetic”. His basic dislike is towards the fact that the nature of the dashboard hasn’t evolved.



“The early forms of dashboards appeared in the 1980s, but in my honest evaluation, today’s dashboards have not gotten much more intelligent in all those years. The graphics have gotten better, and we can interact with charts in what is commonly called visual discovery so you can drill into and page through data to change its presentation. So some progress has been made, but the basic presentation of a number of charts on the screen has not improved significantly and worse yet neither has the usefulness of the charts”, Smith states. While visualization is important, cleaner and more beautiful looking designs cannot make up for a deficient dashboard.



Although dashboards have become collaborative and elegant, they mostly don’t serve the purpose for which they were designed. The idea that business viewers can take a look at a dashboard and figure out what is important and what it all means is a grave misconception. “Whether you are reading the physical or the digital version of The Wall Street Journal or USA Today, newspapers have survived over the centuries as the main source of what humans read in formats they can comprehend. When is the last time you saw a dashboard that communicated the story of its charts and explained the analytics?” asks Smith. The dashboard must be able to communicate the required information in a manner comprehendible by the end user.



Smith states that there is a need for dashboards that are designed based on the individual’s level of responsibility and that most BI vendors unfortunately don’t provide such an option. They don’t even provide the elementary option of placing a free form text box besides a chart. He suggests adding titles and sub-titles for charts so that the individual knows its purpose. He adds that it may be time to move beyond dashboards as the current models are not giving end users the ability to make sense of the knowledge that they could gain through analytics.


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