What is a Dashboard really ?

I recently presented at the UK&I SAP User group Data Visualisation SIG (sapusers.org) on the topic of “What is a dashboard really, and how to select the right SAP tool for the job” and I wanted to share the content to a wider audience.

What is a dashboard Really ??

I believe that when individuals use the term “dashboard” they can very often have different ideas and interpretations as to what they mean.   In my experience these opinions can be as wide apart as a one pager with a few Key Performance indicators (KPI’s) to what you could call a fully featured Enterprise BI Application with Drill, Slice & Dice and Printing

What’s your definition of what a Dashboard Really Is ?

Wikipedia:

  • “An easy to read, often single page, real-time user interface, showing a graphical presentation of the current status (snapshot) and historical trends of an organization’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to enable instantaneous and informed decisions to be made at a glance.“

Dictonary.com

  •  document presenting the most significant information about a subject on a single page

SAP

I recently saw this interpretation at an event I attended …   A DASHBOARD is…

  • A visual display of…
    • Information for strategic decisions down to operational for daily decisions
    • Multiple dashboards can be linked based role to provide a storyline
  • Created for the purpose of…
    • Alignment of organization to objectives
    • Monitoring of KPIs
    • Decision making and actions to improve business results

What definition does your company agree on ?

Why not try the twitter approach and define a dashboard in less then 140 Characters.  This can be harder than you think but the academic view from the author Stephen Few (perceptualedge.com) is only 34 words but 163 characters

A visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives that have been consolidated on a single computer screen so it can be monitored and understood at a glance.

For those of you that know me personally will have heard me refer to myself as a “ Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me.”  (A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh ) so I have tried to simplify this further

A display of “Grids and Graphs” that have been attractively displayed so they can be read and action identified in seconds.

By way of explanation I mean the following when I say “Grids and Graphs”

What is Right tool for “Grids and Graphs”

In the PPT presentation at the end of this blog I have screenshot lot’s of different dashboard style visualisations that were created and presented using SAP Business Analytic tevhnologies including Web intelligence, Explorer, Exploration Views, Design Studio (Zen) and Mobile BI.

You could say each of the visualisation examples meet my simplistic dashboard definition.  So how many tools does SAP BusinessObjects offer that can deliver a “Dashboard”  I counted at least 5, but if we include the SAP BW technologies we can increase that number even more

What to do when you are asked for a dashboard

In a previous blog I shared my thoughts on Kicking off a Dashboard Project and I have summarised a few of them here

  • Always Ask WHY a dashboard is needed
    • Keep asking Why, Why, Why, Why, Why until you drill down to the real requirement
    • The key point for me is always ask what ACTION are they going to take as a result of using the dashboard
  • Always Ask for “Mission Statement”
    • A dashboard to XXXXX
    • Then start asking around the following areas, as it will drive out the most appropriate technology to deliver the defined dashboard.

So my take away thought is ..

When thinking about Dashboards don’t limit yourself to the SAP product called Dashboards

What Is A Dashboard Really : Link to presentation

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8 thoughts on “What is a Dashboard really ?

  1. Hi Andrew, although this is a issue to talk about longer, let me tell you my experiences briefly,as person who has worked with Cognos,BO, CR,RoamBI,Qlikview, Panapticon etc. We all call dashboard but we all have different roles, expectations. From my perspective, dashboard needs vary person to person;therefore, this descriptions will change constantly despite academic definitions..

    • Hi Muzaffer,

      Agree completely. I feel this supports my point that when someone asks for a dashboard we really need to question Why, What Action will it drive, What Device will you consume it on etc etc etc

      I would also jokingly say we need to remove the word dashboard from the dictionary as it adds confusion in so many conversations 🙂

  2. Good post. Amusing to me to see that I have a couple of dashboards in there. Also reminds me that I need to spend some more time on Exploration Views… your examples look great!

  3. Again a good read Andrew.

    The discussion about the definition keeps coming back. The outcome doesn\’t really matters since there seem to be enough professionals with a good view and valuable experience. As long as these views and the experiences continue to be shared with the community, the definition will slowly start to become a less interesting discussion.

    For example, we all know what a car is, but what\’s the exact definition? As long as you\’ve got an experienced team of proffesionals, you\’ll be working in the right direction. I think that\’s the main point, having people in your team who have studied the principles of dashboarding.

    Cheers
    – Pieter

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