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Using Guided Analysis to Stop Your Dashboards From Turning into a Wild Goose Chase

My running log’s message of the week was that 24,000 people a year end up in the emergency room as a result of incidents on treadmills so take care when you use one.

I hate running on treadmills and try to avoid them . A few years ago I was running on one at a hotel in New York City and the power suddenly cut out and I went flying over the top. Fortunately my head did not hit the ground but I was left in an awkward handstand position that required time and special attention to get back on my feet!

Ironically, I was in New York City again today and I needed to run. It was torrential rain with 18 mph winds but I wrapped up and prepared to brave the elements rather than run on the hotel treadmill. I made it all of 200 yards before a headwind literally blew me to a stop in a 12 inch puddle of water. Wet, miserable and defeated I returned to the hotel gym to face my nemesis.

Now this gym had top of the line treadmills with big personal video screens and a program where you can view and run along beautiful running trails around the world. I picked a run through the Black Forest in Germany and decided to do 4 miles. All started well and the first mile took me through little paths with breathtaking scenery. It did seem strange at one point that I overtook someone riding a mountain bike and that I ran through streams without a single splash. Then at mile two the scenery suddenly switched to the city of Munich and I was running through cobbled streets full of tourists. At mile 3, I was running through Nuremberg and at one point, a blonde German girl stepped in front holding a large stein of beer and started making faces at me! At mile 4, I was miraculously transported to a national park in New Zealand where I ran over a glacier.

While the video run provided entertainment and made the time go quickly, the transitions were a huge distraction and I was never really comfortable. I was lost for the first few minutes after each switch to a totally different landscape and it was hard to get into my regular running rhythm. I think I was more stressed out after the run than before I started.

I have seen some Business Intelligence dashboards that give a similar experience. They look nice, but there is too much unrelated information in them and no one clear path to follow to get the result you are looking for.

The majority of Business Intelligence users are consumers, not data discoverers, and they need information delivered in either a summary format or a guided analysis application. The most effective guided analysis BI applications are dashboards but they must be carefully thought out and designed to logically and intelligently guide the user through the information presented to a result or actionable outcome. The simplest example of this is starting with summary information and drilling through to the details that identify any exceptional items that are responsible for these summary results.

The last week I have been one of the panelists reviewing the many dashboard submissions for the prestigious annual InfoSol Dashboard Awards. There are some truly awesome dashboards that follow the guided analysis methodology really well. We will have to wait to IBIS2017 to find out the winners but there are some pretty nice examples for the 2016 winners discussed in a previous blog.

A BI dashboard should not be a “wild goose chase” to find what you are looking for and it should not distract you from your goal when you use it.  As for running treadmills, I will continue to avoid them as much as possible especially the ones in New York City!

About Paul

Paul Grill started his career in Information Technology in the U.K. in 1978, as an Executive Data Processing Trainee for Honeywell. More than thirty years later, he still has a voracious appetite for learning as Information Technology continues to advance at an ever accelerating pace. He was first introduced to the world of Business Intelligence in 1991, in France, when he saw a demonstration of an early version of BusinessObjects on Windows 2.1. He returned to the U.S. to rave about this phenomenal product, but it was many years before BusinessObjects made it into the mainstream. Paul founded InfoSol in 1997, and made Business Intelligence one of the key solutions offered by the company. Today, InfoSol is a leading SAP BusinessObjects solutions partner, known for its expert consulting, education and innovative add-on solutions. Paul is well known within the SAP BusinessObjects community for his extensive knowledge of Business Intelligence, and he has lectured and written many articles on the subject. Paul enjoys writing, running and coaching kids soccer, and is passionate about Ancient Egyptology.

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