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D is for Dashboards

Here is a sneak-peak of some of the 12 Ds to be discussed in the Iron Chef Dashboard track in Limitless BI conferenceIBIS 2013.

As I started putting my train of thoughts together for the Dashboards track of IBIS 2013, I was listing the important elements of implementing a successful dashboard project. I was also trying to come up with a way of presenting those key points so our attendees can remember very easily when they go back to develop actual dashboards. In the process I suddenly discovered the interesting recurrence of words starting with D and guess what ? I had a quick D list. Soon the D list became part of the course. I was so excited I couldn’t resist till June to talk about them.  Here are the first five:

Data

D-for-Dashboards-imageData is the most important piece of the puzzle called BI dashboards. Actually it plays a critical role in running modern business, at least it should, and hence it ranks first in my D list.

Data is key. Business acquires raw data which by itself does not generate much significance. But when put into context, relation and interpretation, data results in Information which in turn is collected and processed to identify patterns based on experience; and now we have knowledge. What do we do with this mass of knowledge for it to be useful? Analyze, ask questions, understand the underlying principles and provide answers so business can make more cognitive decisions and gain competitive advantage – in other words, gain intelligence about the business.

Dashboard is one of the vehicles to traverse this journey from data to intelligence. Without a doubt, accessing the right data for your dashboard is an essential and critical step. As simple as it sounds, you will face challenges in every phase of the development to get the right data, sometimes simply accessing the data. You need to ensure the availability, quality, and authenticity of the data. Any failure in those areas will highly compromise adoption and usability of your dashboard. From our years of experience in real world deployments, in this bootcamp, we will guide you on how to achieve this goal and prevent a failed project. There will be more topics related to data – for example how to process, manipulate and optimize them in context of the tool.

Design

Being a visualization mechanism for delivering information dashboards demand extremely high importance on effective visual design. Whether it is a traditional single page summary view dashboard or modern multi-layered dashboard app, it needs to follow all the principles of data visualization. Only then can you successfully provide consistent, easy, intuitive and quick consumption of the most important information. This should not be confused with the mere shiny look and feel of a dashboard. We will cover the process of applying the various best practices, design principles and marketing standards in the context of end user’s requirement, connectivity options, data volume and audience. At the end of the course you will not just be able to display charts but will understand how to deliver a visually compelling and exciting application to your end user.

Device

Dashboards must allow consumption beyond the desktop. Proliferation of mobile devices among business users has mandated availability of dashboards on a variety of devices. While until very recently there were hard limitations on technology for flash based dashboards to render on iOS devices, there are also many mobile-handicapped dashboards merely due to bad design considerations. Now that SAP Dashboards (Xcelsius) has introduced mobility, the importance of following design considerations has become more severe than ever. The need for thoughtful consideration of handheld device friendly designs, various approaches towards going mobile, limitations set by the tool, degree of summarization and connectivity options for mobile dashboards has shot up immensely. You will get to see the various methods available for building dashboards for mobile in addition to detailed discussion of the above considerations, pros and cons of available options against one another with examples and hands on.

Delivery

D-for-Dashboard-DeliveryThis is one very important consideration many dashboard developers put aside until towards end of the project which results into lot of unexpected changes at the last hour – something every developer must do everything to avoid. It is very crucial to ask the end user/ business analyst of the dashboard project very early on how they want their dashboards to be delivered to them – sent via email? Accessed from a portal? Need offline capability once delivered? Sent to mobile device? Need customized data bursting? Non-BOE environment? BOE security enforced? All these questions and more should be asked during requirement gathering and evaluated/re-evaluated at the various phases of iterative development cycle. Not every capability comes out of the box, many of them can be achieved with partner add-ons and integration kits but they are often the burning requirements for our customers. We will discuss different design considerations to keep in mind to meet your end users’ goal.

Dollar

D-for-Dashboard-DollarsWhy should a technical developer care about this? For business what will matter is ROI, but for IT $ will translate to the duration and deadline of the project. BI projects often face scope, schedule and consequent budget creep. Though it is common it is not completely unavoidable. Thorough requirement gathering, timely availability of the right resources, involvement of business, proper change control, mockup building with the decision making team and correct iteration cycle can prevent many unplanned changes and schedule slippage. IT needs to clearly communicate any realistic estimation and understand the consequences of budget overrun. Wise planning will not only stop a project from being scrapped but also gain substantial credibility from business for any future deployment. You can also limit or extend the functionality of your dashboard with use of third-party add-ons available across SAP ecosystem based on approved budget. We are going to discuss several useful add-on features you can enrich your dashboard with and how to conduct the aforementioned activities in most efficient manner.

 

Whether you are wearing a developer, business analyst or project manager hat or all of them, it is very important to understand these key elements of a dashboard project. The goal of this track is not just to help build your technical skills, but capacitate you with all other aspects of an entire end to end project, their pitfalls and how to overcome them. The rest of the Ds focus on the facets that make or break a dashboard project, and will be discussed in a future article. We hope this has whetted your appetite for the upcoming Dashboard Design Iron Chef Bootcamp using SAP Dashboards 4.x.  See you at IBIS 2013.

 

About Runali Ghosh

Runali provides consulting and training for SAP BusinessObjects (Dashboard 4.x, Xcelsius, Web Intelligence, Universe, IDT, Explorer, BI Mobile, Data Services) and InfoBurst Enterprise at InfoSol. She has over 10 years of experience with programming, development and analysis with Business Intelligence, Database and ERP Suits (Oracle and SAP - order management, inventory, distribution and payables). Runali successfully led and managed several business-critical projects to develop custom interfaces, dashboards, universes, and reports. Her passion for data and data visualization has enabled her to be a key performer in the area of business intelligence deployment.

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