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Dashboard Design

Dashboards have been used since the late 1980’s when Executive Information Systems [EISs] were first launched. The difference between these early models and those used by business intelligence solutions today is significant in terms of how the data is presented using more advanced visualisation technology, and the capability to drill down to lower level dashboards and data mining.

Dashboards provide easy insight into large volumes of performance data. Their use is quite popular, not only for the ease of use, but also for the visibility the business gains into areas once shrouded in pages and pages of printed tables. However, there is a tendency to build dashboards for every KPI conceived. This creates in a lot of KPI noise, hiding the critical, relevant data behind many metrics not required at that moment.

Smart dashboard design is essential to the value of the insight it generates. Early attempt to emulate car dashboards using typical odometer type graphics limit the quality of insight gained. This is one of the least meaningful graphics available. It compares with the old pie charts in value.


Dashboard Design Elements

The detail of design must consider:

  • Space available - As dashboards are often now embedded in intelligence portals, space is limited and must be used wisely
  • User Relevance - data presented must be relevant to a particular role, in terms of both KPIs used and latency of data
  • Latency of data – the frequency of data updates must be relevant for the use with real time data needed for operational use, but daily, weekly or monthly data sufficient for executive use.
  • Personalisation - including menus and capabilities, security and software interface
  • Interconnection with other BI tools – dashboards are a great starting interface to connect to ad hoc query, data mining and other more advanced BI tools.
  • Collaboration tools – the ability to share a dashboard view with others in the enterprise, or beyond.
  • Agility - to change the dashboard KPIs as corporate objectives change
  • Value - a dashboard must be more than a nice to have. It must deliver actionable insight into every day decision making

Overall, the dashboard should act as a relevant indicator of performance, with the capability to act further on the signals it provides, by allowing the user to drill down to root cause, and determine a suitable course of action.

Where early dashboards provides insight with action, more recent dashboards act purely as a primary interface to business intelligence held captive in other tools.

So when planning your dashboard, keep the whole picture in mind.

For the latest innovations in Dashboard Design

Next: Examples of Dashboard Design - The Good, Bad and Ugly

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