Is SAP Design Studio like teenage sex?


You may well have seen this analogy before for the topic of “Big Data”, could the same be said for SAP Design Studio?

I may be barking up the wrong tree but a year or so after its launch SAP Design Studio appears to be making little traction in the dashboard space for SAP in the UK market.  (I base statement on my contact with companies through my day job and engaging with business users through the UK&I SAP User Group and Data Visualisation Special Interest Group.)

To be honest the majority of companies I have spoken to thus far come from the classic BOBJ perspective. Is the real adoption rate different for companies who use SAP BW as their primary datasource instead of the classic BOBJ user community using the universe connectivity?  

Is this observation the same worldwide?

Why aren’t companies adopting SAP Design Studio?

We have seen in the Dashboard statement of direction from SAP that there will be unification between SAP Dashboards (aka Xcelsius) and SAP Design Studio in the future and migration tools to bring Dashboards into Design Studio.  So why aren’t companies adopting SAP Design Studio now at the start the journey rather than holding off?

My musings are:

  • People are holding off as the data visualisation and dashboard space is moving very fast, just look what SAP Lumira has achieved in a similar time frame to Design studio.
  • People aren’t even evaluating Design Studio as unless you are hooked into a SAP User group (UKISUG, ASUG) there is little marketing or education as to the future for dashboards and they just don’t know about its importance.
  • People are evaluating Design Studio and identify it requires a developer with specialist skills with they do not have internally and would need to  engage with a central IT function or consultancy providers
  • People are evaluating Design Studio but it is seen as too complicated to use with its reliance on Java code and Custom Style Sheets (css).
  • People are evaluating Design Studio but it is seen as still too juvenile to adopt as core functionality needed is missing.
  • Users would rather have something on their desk than can build and deliver themselves rather than endure a dashboard project delivered by the IT department
  • You have to ask yourself why  products like Decision Point from Antivia are coming to market? Is SAP Design Studio seen as too difficult for the existing developers in the SAP dashboard space by software companies and they want to offer a alternative solution?

When oh When will Design studio be as easy to use as SAP Dashboards (Xcelsius)?  Is that the right question?  Is that the plan by SAP ? I’m not so sure. 

I would draw a parallel with Dashboards and Design Studio with Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence.

ds Crystal Reports didn’t get easier to develop content in when Web Intelligence was bought to market, it still today does what it does very well and is a core analytic tool for SAP.

However, in my opinion moving from Dashboards (Xcelsius) to Design Studio could be seen as the reverse, the more complex tool is being released to replace the simpler tool.

The diagram below shows my understanding of the content creators for the SAP Analytic tools in BI4.

Screenshot 2014-03-19 10.29.55

There are still lot’s of technologies in the hands of the Business User but we see here that the future technology recommended  to author “Dashboards”  ( “What is a dashboard really” has moved from being one used by Business Users to now an IT function.

Real life feedback

Reaching out to end users who have tried Design Studio gave some interesting feedback. Thanks Alex for the comments below as someone who has tried Design Studio against BW and the Universe.

“What left me very disappointed was the amount of code required to make things happen when stuff like this seems so simple in WEBI for example. Creating a Navigation URL took 6 lines of code! Then what annoyed me even more was the fact that the link only worked if you clicked on the last column of the crosstab?”

“My Boss loved the output I hated the input! Nevertheless I pursued and tried to create more applications with his requirements, I then hit an even bigger stumbling block, line chart, Data retrieval failed. Upon investigation of this by turning on the trace and watching the logs it was limiting the amount of data it could retrieve. I found the answer myself in the documentation saying it is  (universe connectivity) limited to 5000 rows or 50000 cells. I am not trying to show this much data I was trying to show a count of Incidents by Year and Month”

What about business user created dashboard style visualisations?

At this time I see multiple technologies used by business users to deliver a “Dashboard” including:

  • MS Excel
  • Dashboards (Xcelsius)
  • Exploration Views in Explorer
  • Web Intelligence
  • Web Intelligence delivered to the mobile device

What will business users use to create dashboard style visualisations in the mid term?

Below is clear advice from SAP on what technology they encourage to be used.  


My personal hunch is that business users will still use the core technologies they are used to in the short to medium term and only branch out Design Studio if it gets easier to use.

Is there another option?

Its again early days but I think some companies may well start investigating SAP Lumira storyboards published to the newly released native HANA platform application SAP Lumira Server.   Yes you will need HANA and integration to the BOE Platform is planned but only as a side car.

SAP Lumira Server 1.15 is now Generally Available (GA)!

SAP Lumira Server Frequently Ask Questions

Something to ponder ……

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Microsoft Power Query Connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects Universes – How to get started

It has recently been announced that ” Microsoft and SAP are jointly delivering business intelligence (BI) interoperability in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Power BI for Office 365, and SAP BusinessObjects BI.”    Microsoft Power Query for Excel will seamlessly connect to SAP BusinessObjects BI Universes, ee Excel and Power BI connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects Universes | Power BI for more details

I had a spare hour this morning so wanted to give this connectivity a try out and gain a quick understanding of what this really means to users.

The System Requirements are:

  • Microsoft Power Query preview add-in installed in MSOffice Excel 2010 or Excel 2013, alternatively
  • SAP Business Objects Platform version 4.1 with SP2
  • SAP BI 4.1.2 REST Web Service installed in BI4.1 SP2

I went through the steps that the videos suggested on Excel and Power BI connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects Universes | Power BI, and yep it does take a while as the video suggests.  But...   I believe it’s not necessary to register for the trial and provision Power BI for Office 365 as we will be working in a local addin install in Excel on your laptop.

 Install Microsoft Power Query

1.  Download exe from Excel and Power BI connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects Universes | Power BI

2.  Run the appropriate 32bit or 64bit installer

3.  After installing Power Query, there will be a Power Query ribbon in Excel.


 Connecting to a universe

To connect to an SAP BusinessObjects BI Universe, select From Other Sources in the Power Query ribbon. Navigate to the bottom and select the From SAP BusinessObjects BI Universe data source.

When prompted, enter the URL for the SAP BI 4.1 system you’d like to connect to (e.g.: http://<host>:<port>/biprws).

CARE:  This URL took me a while to get right, you would assume it’s the Host and Port Number you use to access BI Launchpad, alas not.  After a number of failed attempts and a large mug of tea for inspiration I had a moment of inspiration.  The system requirements stated SAP BI 4.1.2 REST Web Service installed in BI4.1 SP2 are needed, this lead to a bit of research, and these are done automatically, which is great.

You can use the Windows installer to add RESTful web services to your custom BI platform deployment. RESTful web services requires an instance of the Web Application Container Server (WACS), which is installed with RESTful web services if it does not already exist. RESTful web services was introduced in BI platform 4.0 to Feature Pack 3. • If your BI platform 4.0 FP3 is a new installation, RESTful Web Services is automatically included in the installation. If you choose custom install, RESTful Web Services is selected in the feature tree by default.  If you are upgrading from 4.0 SP2 to 4.0 FP3, after completing the upgrade, use the Programs and Features Windows Control Panel, Uninstall/Change feature to add the RESTful web service.

But, the REST Web Service installed in BI4.1 SP2 are installed by default using port 6405, so the URL needed to log in is:


 Select the Universe from the other data source droplist



Enter the URL discussed earlier with port 6405


Next Enter your credentials for the service. Use the options in the dialog to view all possible credential types. Choose the credential type supported by your service and enter the necessary credentials. Once connected, you may see some progress information in the dialog.

 After successfully connecting to the service, you will see a list of the available SAP BusinessObjects BI Universes in the Navigator pane. You can drill into the items in the Navigator and select SAP objects to transform.  In my demo system I have a UNX universe accessing data on UK Road Traffic accidents since 2005, this UNX is now visible in the Navigator panel and I can select objects to display in Excel.


Click on LOAD DATA and you now have Data from your trusted universe inside Excel very simply


 My conclusion

This was a quick technical how to get started with Microsoft Power Query and connecting to SAP BusinessObjects Universes.

But, just stop and think …… Live Office from SAP has been around for more years than I care to mention, I believe it came out of SAP Labs originally and is the current primary way to access universe data within the MSOffice suite of products.  Live Office offers integration of both new queries and report parts from Crystal and Web Intelligence into Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Outlook, this new integration with Power Query is understandably limited to Excel but is also limited to new queries only. Some way to go to have parity of functionality if that is the vision from SAP and Microsoft.

I am left with this question in my mind ..  Could this be a replacement to Live Office going forward?   I personally think not, but I see this as a great complementary use of technologies.

What do you think ?

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Validating the BBC’s statement that “England has had the wettest January since records began in 1766”

Working at home with the rain pounding on the window and iTunes shuffle brings up Storm by Vanessa Mae, random, coincidental or inspirational?  Well for me it brought together an article I have read about in the UK news about the weather we are experiencing this winter and a tweet by @steverumsby this morning.

bbc news


So the hunt was on to find UK rainfall statistics for as many years as I can.   Thankfully the UK Met Office has a fairly open view to data and historical climate data was easy to find.

The data download looks fine to identify spot numbers but I needed a way to easily visualise it in a way to validate the statement in the BBC article that “England has had the wettest January since records began in 1766”

data 1

Firstly I did a bit of “Quick Analysis” using MSOffice 2013

Quick Analysis

Click to enlarge

HHmmm   The red dot which identifies the High point is not on the last record, 2014.  So is the BBC wrong ?

Alas no, the dataset is for the whole of the UK and not just for England.  Try again….

data 2

Click to enlarge

Yep the high point for Jan is in 2014, so in this data set Jan 2014 has the highest rain fall since 1910.

Now  to analyse this further as this data brought on loads of other ideas and hunches to validate on the wider UK dataset. I wanted to use SAP Lumira but the shape of the data as a crosstab (pivot) table wouldn’t work well in SAP Lumira so I needed to flatten it into a columnar format.  Easy you’d think, alas no, well not for me anyway.

I resorted to google and found a small piece of VBA to do a large portion of the work.

The VBA on transpose crosstab table to list:

Sub ConvertTableToList() 
Const TEST_COLUMN As String = “A” 
Dim i As Long, j As Long
Dim iLastRow As Long
Dim iLastCol As Long
Application.ScreenUpdating = False
With ActiveSheet
iLastRow = .Cells(.Rows.Count, TEST_COLUMN).End(xlUp).Row
For i = iLastRow To 2 Step -1
iLastCol = .Cells(i, .Columns.Count).End(xlToLeft).Column
For j = iLastCol To 3 Step -1
.Rows(i + 1).Insert
.Cells(i + 1, 2).Value = .Cells(i, j).Value
.Cells(i, j).Value = “”
Next j
Next i
End With
Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub

With a little more effort in Excel I now had a good data table to be used.

lumira data

After importing the data into SAP Lumira, I simply plotted the Year and Monthly rainfall figures.

Data Quality

Spot the data quality issue?  

Whilst working in excel I had labelled the year 1923 against the records for 1923 and 1924.  A great example of why visualising data draws out things you’d miss in a 1250 row table. After fixing the data in Excel it was easy to refresh the visualisation in SAP Lumira.

Adding on the predictive calculations really didn’t give much hope for lower rainfall for the next 10 years…


You can download the SAP Lumira File here:

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Recreating the author Andy Kirks data visualisations using SAP Lumira

Last night I was fortunate enough to attend a class presented by the author Andy Kirk which was a super speedy whistle stop tour through lots of content from his recent book “Data Visualisation – a successful design process”. It was an unplanned event for me as I responded to a tweet saying there was 1 ticket left and as the event was taking place just 10 mins walk from my companies London office i jumped at the chance.



It was a great class not only for those to whom the craft of Data Visualisation was new to them but also had some great nuggets for those wanting to optimize their design approach.

As part of the class there were practical activities and one of note was to explore a data set on obesity trends from theWorld Health Authority.  Delegates were asked to look at the dataset in excel and identify data variables and ranges, ways they might transform the data and crucially identify some possible data questions and interrogations.  Andy then shared his answers and his data visualisations with the class.   This activity got me thinking ….


Could I use SAP Lumira to undertake these tasks and recreate the data visualisations ?

Andy kindly shared the dataset with all the delegates and on my train journey home I started to play.  I acquired the data set into SAP Lumira which was only 11,580 rows and 14 columns.  Not a large dataset by any means but packed with insights to be drawn out.   I then set out to reproduce each of the visualisations discussed in the class using SAP Lumira.


Visualisation 1


Andy Kirk




SAP Limura

Not too difficult but I had to reduce the number of data items shown to the top 50 to allow me so see and therefore select (highlight) the USA ans UK



Visualisation 2


Andy Kirk




SAP Lumira





Visualisation 3


Andy Kirk





SAP Lumira


Now this was the toughest one in the set as SAP Lumira doesn’t have this chart component type in it’s library (an opportunity for an enterprising developer using the SDK maybe).  So I worked through a number of different ideas but sadly had to pivot the data outside of SAP Lumira in Excel and add multiple data sets to structure the data in a shape to drive the visualisations I had in mind. This method worked easily and I will repeat this approach in the future.




Not as easy to read as the original




You know I just love Pie charts !!  This kind of works but the scale doesn’t expose the differences well enough.



My thinking turned a corner …   In Andy’s visualisation you are comparing the gap between the BMI in each gender by region, you could call this the variancebetween the gender scores.  So I set to work on showing the variance between the gender as an absolute number and then plotting how it changes by Region and between 1980 and 2009.


You can easily see the changes in the variance for example in Africa between 1980 and 2009 has widened by nearly 1 full point.  This approach worked but it masked the gender split.


Then again my thinking moved on to using a Radar Chart which I think is the clearest and closest to the original representation by Andy Kirk.






Visualisations 4 & 5


Andy Kirk





SAP Lumira





5 viz.JPG

These seams to be a “bug” in Asc and Desc sorts in SP13 but the visualisation are pretty much there.



Visualisations 6 & 7


Andy Kirk




SAP Lumira






Visualisation 8


Andy Kirk




SAP Lumira


Now this didn’t look tough until you think about the volume of data points plotted.  193 countries x 30 years = 5790 in a 6 zone trellis chart.  Sadly SAP Lumira couldn’t render the chart.




BUT …..   If you can build one for one region then there is further possibility:




Use the new COMPOSE feature to build a storyboard with all 5 regions displayed.






It took me about 3 hours to prepare, explore the data and build all the visualisations and I’m really happy with the results.  With more time refining the titles, colours etc. I think SAP lumira could really step up to the mark in delivering high quality Data Visualisations.




Content reproduced with the kind permission of Andy Kirk, visualisation blogger, designer, consultant, author, teacher, trainer and speaker


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SAP Lumira SP12 – Quick peek at some new features

Late today (2/10/2013) SP12 of SAP Lumira became available for download.  I have been expectingly awaiting this release to look closer at the new “Compose” feature to build interactive storyboards as the area of Data Visualisation and in particular Dashboard Design interests me greatly and I often speak publicly on this topic and example is “What is a dashboard really”

 I’ll start with my observations and then walk through what I did….

 Conclusion ..

I think storyboards are a great enhancement to Lumira the same way the Exploration Views enhance the use of Explorer.  There is still work to be done on sharing the storyboards to other people as both static and interactive applications but what a great step forward for Lumira.  The public facing roadmap suggests you will be able to house, secure and access SAP Lumira visualisation from within the SAP Business Objects Platform (BI Launchpad), think of the possibilities this offers and how end users can engage, interact and gain insight from information assets.

One more thing …   The new HTML5 UI is a bold move in my opinion, not that it’s the wrong choice of technology, but itreally changes the UI experience for a user from the earlier versions.  The workflow has changed on many of the everyday activities, not un-intuitively, but it certainly made me stop and think a few times. An example is the semantic enrichment of data is not as obvious, and creating geographic hierarchies feels different but get’s the same results in the end. Another example is .. you no longer do a “Top 10″ on the measure, but the Dimension!

I defiantly need to play more with SP12 as with only an hour so far it honestly feels very new in the UI and Workflow but the future possibilities are an encouraging.

How to:

 Data Acquired




Visualisation built





Remember to click on + to get a blank before you save, otherwise you’ll overwrite the previously saved image.



 The end result



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To UNV or to UNX that is the question ….

I’ll start by saying this is my understanding of the current technical connectivity but please leave a comment if this is wrong and I’ll amend accordingly.

The question of exploiting the ease of use provided by Explorer over SAP BW data has been asked of me a number of times of late.   My honest opinion is that most responses that would be given to architecting a solution for this  would be using a SAP BI4 UNX universe created in the Information Design Tool (IDT) connecting directly to an InfoCube.

As the UNX would point directly to an InfoCube, and not a BEx query, there are limitations that are well documented  including:

  • calculated key figures
  • restricted key figures
  • custom structures
  • variables

So after investigating further and working with my Professional Services Team the idea came about that why not use an “Old Skool” UNV universe created in the Universe Designer tool in SAP BI4 that points directly to a SAP BW BEx query. This would mitigate these limitations and exploit the investment many organisations already have in BEx.

Technically this appears this is a viable solution … but…

The UNX style universe is new in SAP BI4 and there is a migration tool to port “Old Skool” UNV universes to this format, and you could say there is encouragement to do so.  So if you were to build out a technical solution using this approach what are the risks ?

  • Is the UNV universe considered a “Legacy” format ?
  • Is there any commitment from SAP to support the UNV universe format going forward in SAP BI 4.x going forward and into 5.x in shall we say a few years from now ?

I have no answers to these questions but hopefully it is food for thought for any Solution Architect.

Finally, to muddy the waters further, in BI4-1 Explorer supports both UNV and UNX universes ( but you can also achieve this in XI3 with a little command line switch).  But Live office still only supports the UNV universe format and I have not seen any product roadmap slides from SAP to say UNX support is on the horizon.

So let’s go back to my initial question, To UNV or to UNX that is the question ….

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SAP Lumira cloud on the iPad with Mobile BI Version 5

Mobile BI V5 dropped into the apple store today and I couldn’t wait to test it against my BI4.1 ramp up environment but also connecting to Lumira Cloud.

The connection set up for SAP Lumira in the Mobile BI app is simple and just needs a username and password… easy as that.




I had previously uploaded a data set about the Olympics and the medals won since the year 2000 and it’s there waiting for me …




The user experience in Lumira Cloud on the iPad is pretty much the same as the web experience as I see it today.  Creating a simple correlation chart was just a few taps and I could see the relationship between the Gold medals won by TEAM GB and their total medal winnings against all the other countries who take part in the olympics.






And to prove there are no “Smoke and Mirror tactics” here is my desk set up to grab these screenshots…



And one more thing …


When looking at Lumira cloud via a web browser I was curious about a dropbox …




Can I really upload a PPT file into SAP Lumira which is ultimately SAP HANA Cloud ?






Could you say SAP Lumira cloud is my new “SAP BI Dropbox”  ..  hhhmm  got me thinking !



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A Hobbits Tale … My journey in dashboards: From Flashy to Few and back again …

I’m trying to weave two paths in this blog post.. 

My personal journey in data visualisation (and in particular designing dashboards) and how this aligns to my experiences in dashboard projects.

What is a journey?


To me a journey is travelling from one point to another with endless possibilities in between.  Sometimes it’s easy, other times hard and often muddy along the way.

My dashboard journey started when I built my first one for a customer using what was then called Xcelsius.  Like a lot of people who start working in a new technology area I started reading books, blogs and frequented Twitter. I swallowed the academic view of “What is a dashboard?” hook line and sinker and was (and you could say I still am) heavily influenced by the work of Stephen Few.  I even spent 3 days with Mr Few when he delivered a training course in London where he critiqued one of my dashboard designs in public forum, but that’s another story.



Over the last few years I have been involved in a number of dashboard projects and as part of them facilitated design workshops.  I would normally kick these design workshops off with a data visualisation best practice session to align (you could say influence) the iterative design process.  This often put me on a crossroads … Do you follow the world’s view of a dashboard which is often influenced by the popular media, bold and attention grabbing. Or do you follow the academic view which I would summarise as information rich but visually poor.  I always found this a balancing act full of compromises and yes, I have designed dashboards with pie charts on them in the past!

My personal journey has taken me from back in 2010 when I commented the following:


At that point in time I truly couldn’t comprehend why a software vendor would add an exploded 3D pie chart to their chart library.  Did I miss something at that time? Maybe.

A few days ago I posted this.


 What changed?

I have been on a journey getting muddy boots along the way.

Fast forward to today

In the three years between these Twitter posts there has been significant innovation and advancement in and how we all interact with technology.  The world of Twitter, Facebook and iPhone apps have become mainstream.

Has our method of acquiring and consuming information changed as well during that time?

How would you find out the weather forecast for tomorrow?

  • Do you ask Siri “Will I need my umbrella tomorrow?”
  • Read the morning newspaper
  • Watch the TV forecast
  • Listen to a radio
  • Use an app on your smartphone

What do you do ?

For those of you who have heard me speak at the UKI SAP User Group data visualisation SIG or at conferences you may well have heard me suggest the following.

“The first dashboard you build and release to users will change over time.  Your data visualisation skills will develop and users will, over time, ask for more actionable information in the precious space (real estate) available to them”.

I often see this happen not only during the development iterations of a dashboard but it can also be true as users engage with the same dashboard daily, weekly, monthly.

What is the journey of man creating “ART”?




I am no art critic but our appreciation of art has changed from the earliest of times to now.  You could also say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this often differs in cultures and sub cultures.

 SAP’s Dashboard Journey (an outsiders view)


Circa 2004


Circa 2008



 An example of a real Dashboard Journey

A customer, fellow SAP user group SIG chair and friend of mine has allowed me to share elements of the dashboard journey at his organisation, which still isn’t completed as I see drafts of new versions each time we meet to chat over.




This is a great example of where I have commented above “The first dashboard you build and release to users will change over time.  Your data visualisation skills will develop and users will over time ask for more actionable information in the precious space (real estate) available to them”.

What does your Dashboard Journey look like?


 In closing

I have read two great quotes in the past few months:

  •  Mico Yuk “Make ‘User Adoption’ your ONLY KPI to Measure BI Success”
  • Donald MacCormick “To put it more bluntly, employing the mantra “adoption trumps visual efficiency” will see you gain much, much more than you lose.”

I agree with the sentiment of both these quotes but I would also suggest that adding best practice data visualisation techniques into dashboards is a worthwhile leg to the journey.

My dashboard journey has now taken me to the point where I agree that you should start with the focus on adoption by making the dashboard “sticky” and encouraging users to return.  But I would go on and suggest that after this stage the journey should continue.

Take away

In delivering easy to consume, information rich, actionable insights maximising the use of the real estate available on the consumption device you stand the greatest chance of adoption by the “floating” users.

Finally, a real life example…  When building a dashboard for a Proof of Concept last year I was asked to include the XGlobe from Antivia on a second tab in the dashboard. “Why?” I asked. “It’s cool, the users will love it!”

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Personal Documents on the iPad using the SAP Mobile BI App

I was chatting with a customer and old friend from the Business Objects User Group , Simon Trill, and he mentioned in his review of BI4 and specifically using WebIntelligence reports on the iPad he was able to do simple security of mobile content using a personal category.

So if you want users to be able to display a WebIntelligence that they hold in their “Personal Documents” or what’s now known as “My Favourites” on an iPad through the SAP BI app then simply create a personal category called “Mobile” as you would do in “Corporate Documents” “Public Folders”, and assign the report to that category.  Simple as that !

Screenshot_09_05_2013_15_38I created a simple report called “Sales by State” and added it to a newly created “Mobile” personal category.  As you can see in the screenshot below the report from the personal category is there but also the content in the corporate “Mobile” category is also still visible.


I haven’t done any extensive testing but this approach may be of interest to someone to build upon further.

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Question to the SAP Usergroup UK – Data Visualisation SIG … Does the academic view of a dashboard really deliver actionable insight?

At the recent SAP User group UK – Data Visualisation SIG I ran a hands on session based directly on the Stephen Few Dashboard Design Competition of late 2012  which was set to  “showcase for the current state of expert dashboard design”  (Full guidance, rules and specifications  of this competition can be found at

My objective of this hands on session was to get the SIG attendees discussing a real life scenario in small groups and come up with an initial dashboard design in under one hour.  I’m sure anyone who made an entry into the real competition (including myself) spent many more hours on their submission but I felt confident the attendees could encapsulate their thoughts in sketches, some being more legible than others, in a very short amount of time.

I was asked by Lars Schubert @graphomate via twitter to share the results, so here goes …

IMG_0512 IMG_0513 IMG_0514 IMG_0515 IMG_0517

How do the SIG’s sketches compare to the Competition Winners and Losers ?

My official entry

Andrew Fox Entry

The winner


The Runner Up


Stephen Few’s own solution


Observations from the designs

  • Hopefully, you can see there is a lot of similarity in the designs,
    • Data grids
      • Common theme not easily readable in the photographs were Top 5 / Bottom 5 style visualisations to help drive the teacher in the scenario to the pupils that need attention that particular day/lesson
  • Various types of  graphs from Bar Charts, Sparklines and even a 3D Radar Chart
  • Minimal text or commentary
  • Distinct regions to  group comparable components and data areas
  • In the majority of cases interactivity was definitely part of the design
    • “When you click here ….. ”

Group discussion

  • Each sketch was explained to the whole group by the author and in the majority of cases it was said that the brief was not sufficient in the “real world” and they would have liked user engagement to gain greater understanding of the requirements.
  • Honestly there was audible gasps when the competition winning design and Stephen Few’s own design were shown to the group.  Both were so very far away from anything the attendees had designed themselves.  Not one person in the room had remotely considered a layout that principally had one row per class member in a sorted list.
  • There was another audiable reaction when the competitions “Runner Up” was shown, an attendee said out loud, “That’s Better”.   Certainly a very emotional reaction, but the bigger question is WHY did was the “Runner Up” considered better then the Winner ?   A topic for the next SIG meeting I feel!
  • It was generally felt that both the competition winner and Stephen Few’s design had a place in a dashboard solution but they would be 2 to 3 levels down a drill path. It was widely agreed they both were missing a summary to clearly give the teacher in the scenario instruction not only of who they needed to focus on that day, but through predictive business rules indicate who is also at risk of  falling behind in the focus areas

And one more thing …

Unbeknownst to me one of the Data Visualisation SIG attendees had spent a day attending a Stephen Few course on Table and Graph design in London a few days prior to this SIG.  He had mentioned to Stephen that we were going to be using his competition as a hands on session and even offered for him to attend, Stephen declined explaining he was leaving the country before the day.  PHEWWWWW

However, in their discussion my name was mentioned and over their lunch break Stephen dug out my entry and gave an impromptu critique of my design. The overriding theme I believe was that my design was “cluttered” and needed the teacher in the scenario to look around the dashboard to get a complete picture of a student.  I have blogged about the thinking behind my design previously so I won’t explain my thinking again, if you’re interested take a look here

It turns out in the discussion between Stephen and the SIG attendee it was mentioned that the competition scenario was based on a real use case and is was suggested that the teacher was a friend of Stephens and had asked for a one line per child design.  If this is true then it would have been great if this was in outlined in the scenario briefing document, Ho Hummm

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