Business Intelligence Dashboards
A business intelligence dashboard is a data visualization tool that displays the current status of metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) for an enterprise. Dashboards consolidate and arrange numbers, metrics and sometimes performance scorecards on a single screen.
They may be tailored for a specific role and display metrics targeted for a single point of view or department. The essential features of a BI dashboard product include a customizable interface and the ability to pull real-time data from multiple sources. BI dashboards can also be created through other business applications, such as Excel. Business intelligence dashboards are sometimes referred to as enterprise dashboards. (source: techbusinessanalytics)
The Really Good
There are two pieces that have to come together to create a “Really Good” BI Dashboard. Information and Design. The information is what the dashboard is for, what needs to be conveyed in order for the user to make the correct decisions. The design helps to ensure that the information is well received and does not muddy the message of information. Both of these elements must work together. No amount or quality of information will be useful with a incredibly bad design. The opposite is also true, no quality design can make bad information useful.
Example: United States Education Dashboard
The United States Education Dashboard is a great example of what can be done with a good dashboard. The first thing that comes to mind is the simplicity of the initial page but you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you start clicking on the charts, Details, State Comparison and More Info links under each measurement. In the columns you see the Latest Percent and Change from previous period, clear, consistent and effective. The layout is straightforward and uses about 4-5 main colors which is visually welcoming and invites you to explore more.
The Incredibly Bad
The incredibly bad can immediately be noticed by just looking at the two pieces we mentioned above. Is the information confusing, irrelevant, or incorrect? Again, no amount of great design will help bad data. Does the design make you scratch your head? Do you wonder what is trying to be said in the data? A good dashboard should be so clear that you shouldn’t have to question what is being presented. Incredibly bad dashboards are those where the data and the design are not working together. Either there is really bad and irrelevant data or the design does not help the user understand the data.
Example: Geckoboard Dashboard
There is so much going on in this dashboard that it is easy to say that there are multiple issues. The first is that there is two much on this dashboard, it either needs to be consolidated a bit or split into a couple different screens. The color/font section is poor in that there are multiple font sizes and the smaller they are the darker and unreadable they are. Why have the information there if its not important enough to be readable.The overall layout is a bit sporadic and doesn’t help convey a message. Remember things need to be clear and straightforward.
The god-awful Ugly
The god-awful ugly has nothing going for it. The visual aspects don’t communicate a message that is intended. The colors, layout, font are all poorly chosen. The data has no relevancy as well.
Example: Car Dashboard Look-a-like
Just because its called a dashboard doesn’t mean it is supposed to look like one! The colors are poorly chosen, the font & bars are not big enough to be seen and be clear, and the traffic light? Sorry…no. The dashboard doesn’t make it easy to determine what is trying to be communicated.
How to avoid the Bad and Ugly
This is actually a lot easier than most experts will want to admit. Buy following these small rules you will set yourself far above the pack in designing popular, effective BI Dashboards. As you should have learned by now there are simply two main concepts of good BI dashboards: Design (Visual) and Information (Content). This is not to say the other aspects like how fast the dashboard runs, or how its implemented in an organization doesn’t matter but if it doesn’t have a good design or valid, meaningful data, its going nowhere. To ensure that your dashboard gets the credit it deserves, make sure to ask these questions:
1. Is the information being communicated clear and incredibly easy to understand?
2. Does the dashboard use a good color palette that is easy on the eyes but still distinguishes the graph/chart from the others?
3. Is the overall layout not to crowded but not to dispersed and not just haphazardly thrown on the page?
4. If you give the dashboard to someone with no ‘contextual’ experience on the information, would they easily be able to understand what its saying?
With these four main questions you should be able to realize whether a dashboard is going to be an effective use of displaying useful information.
Joshua is working to become a Data Scientist with focus on Analytics, Big Data, Machine Learning, and Statistics. His passion for Data and Information are second to none. He is a certified IBM Cognos Expert with more than 10 years experience in Business Intelligence & Data Warehousing, Analtyics, IT Management, Software Engineering and Supply Chain Performance Management with Fortune 500 companies. He has specializations in Analytics, Mobile Reporting, Performance Management, and Business Analysis.
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