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What are Data Dashboards?

Posted May 26, 2009 8:00 AM by George

Stephen Few is an expert in "visual business intelligence" whose clients include leading technology companies such as Cisco Systems, Scientific Atlanta, and Siemens. On his web site, the California-based consultant worries that "we are overwhelmed by information, not because there is too much, but because we don't know how to tame it".

As businesses increase their ability to "collect and warehouse" this information, "our ability to make sense and communicate it remains inert", Few explains. One solution is to create a dashboard – "a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives; consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance."

What is a Data Dashboard?

Dashboards are a way to communicate the information resulting from data analysis. That is to say, dashboards are a form of business intelligence. According to the Gartner Group, a consultancy which describes itself as "the world's leading information technology research and advisory company", business intelligence is as "an interactive process for exploring and analyzing structured, domain-specific information...to discern business trends or patterns thereby deriving insights and drawing conclusions." Specifically then, dashboards can be used to aid in the reporting of business intelligence and subsequent analysis.

Dashboard Characteristics

Dashboards have small, concise and clear display mechanisms. They help information designers to transform data into useful information, and have visual capabilities. Dashboards are also customized to the needs and requirements of users. They are used for monitoring information at a glance, and display the information needed to achieve specific objectives. Finally, dashboard

Dashboards can help users to understand what's happening and, more importantly, to alert them to problems that require their immediate attention. By definition, such a broad and high-level overview should provide instant information about the state of a process, department, or other entity. As a communication medium then, dashboard success depends on proper design. This design requires a display that speaks clearly and immediately to users, as well as to their specific needs and requirements.

Types of Dashboards

There many types of data dashboards and many different ways to classify them. Some are structured by role, applications, or layers. Others are classified by data type or update frequency. This blog entry will focus upon dashboard classification by role and application. In turn, role and application can be divided into three subsections each.

Dashboard Roles

Dashboards serve three roles: strategic, analytical and operational. Strategic dashboards are designed mainly for executive-level audiences. They have simple display mechanisms. Analytical dashboards serve to support data analysis. They feature more complicated display media than strategic dashboards. Analytical dashboards also provide a richer context, including history and comparisons. As their name suggests, operational dashboards are designed to help users monitor operations. Operational dashboards use simple display media to identify exceptions that require immediate attention.

Dashboard Applications

There are three applications for dashboards: management, analysis, and monitoring. The management application helps an organization to improve alignment, collaboration, and coordination among its strategic goals. The analysis application also lets users identify and examine exception conditions. Finally, the monitoring application allows users to understand information at a glance. Given these applications for data dashboards, their uses can range from C-level executives down to entry-level line workers.

Other Dashboard Features

Regardless of type, all dashboards contain both quantitative and non-quantitative data. In addition, they can be updated on an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, or even real-time basis (if required). Dashboard displays are either static or interactive through the use of drill-down filters. Finally, dashboard display mechanisms are graphical, text, or a combination of both.

Editor's Note: This is the first of a two-part series. Click here for Part 2.

Resources:

http://www.perceptualedge.com/about.php

http://www.gartner.com/it/about_gartner.jsp

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Guru
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#1

Re: What are Data Dashboards?

05/26/2009 11:11 AM

Jeez thats a long winded way of saying a graphical representation of useful information.
Maybe he should present his ideas using a data dashboard.
Del

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Re: What are Data Dashboards?

05/26/2009 11:30 AM

Baaad grumpy kitty, you shall have no tea...

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Power-User
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#3

Re: What are Data Dashboards?

05/27/2009 9:02 AM

Don't people already do this all the time? Hello PI and WonderWare.

In a plant with potentially thousands of input/output points, you need to be choosy about what you show to management, corporate, etc. otherwise you will start to get yourself into trouble. Usually those upper management types don't spend enough time to learn how to grab the data and therefore you can feed them what you want, walking the fine line between not enough information and too much information. As a rule, the "management application" should show only the information relevant to the contract, like the outlet flow meter.

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Guru
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#4
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Re: What are Data Dashboards?

05/27/2009 9:14 AM

Does that mean I do get some tea?

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