Out of all the disciplines that make up Information Management, BI (Business Intelligence) is the one that users connect to most. As a result, how BI fulfills user needs and expectations is often what determines whether a system is seen as a success, regardless of how brilliantly designed and delivered it is. Among the range of BI information-delivery vehicles, dashboards have become increasingly popular: They fill up the user’s whole screen and use a wide range of visual elements to tell the user what is happening with the business’ KPIs in seconds.
BI Dashboards are no longer simply fixed views with a static set of speedometers and traffic lights. “Modern” dashboards enable users to switch dimensions or viewpoints using a wide range of intuitive controls: we can open detail windows, drill down and across to other dashboard views, plot data on an on-line map, and explore the full scale of our data warehouse without giving up the visuals, the user friendly controls, or performance. Dashboards are now powerful applications that enable their users to extract meaningful, actionable content, in an intuitive and user-friendly way: users no longer have to follow a strict sequence of instructions to get their reports. The latest BI tools even let users create their own basic dashboards without weeks of training. Having new tools for interactivity on hand, creators of modern dashboards need to balance these three aspects: allowing the freedom to analyze, providing a user-friendly interface, and an acceptable cost.
Despite the exciting developments in user-centricity, development of more complex and dynamic dashboards requires the application of business logic, a solid foundation of meaningful KPIs, as well as integrated data that is set up to interact effectively with the dashboards over the long term. Whereas tools may be able to deliver some “plug and play” and “without help of IT” capabilities, to give users the information they need, organizations need to ensure specialized skill sets, services, and methodologies are used. Business users may be able to create dashboards and BI visualizations on their own to satisfy certain information need, but also to communicate their ideas to professional BI developers who can take it from there and upgrade it to an advanced BI application.