My youngest son recently learned to drive and he now takes himself to school three times a week in my wife’s orange Honda Fit. For those not familiar with this awesome sub-compact, it is a nifty 38 mile per gallon cute little dynamo of a car. It is practical, economical, environmentally friendly and, most importantly of all, my wife adores it.
So the other night, my son decided to chat with me about cars. This was mainly due to the fact that a girl from his junior class parks in the spot next to him driving a huge black Hummer. He always seems to arrive at the same time as she does and, as he put it, “It’s just not cool stepping out of a little orange car as she climbs down from her big black Hummer.”
I explained to him that you really should not compare a Hummer with a Fit. They are two very different vehicles with different capabilities. A Hummer would be an ideal vehicle if you were planning some “off-roading” in the desert but for driving to school it is expensive, bad for the environment and not very practical.
Although, in many ways we are conditioned to compare, we often end up comparing items using different criteria and coming to vastly different results. Comparing the Honda Fit to the Hummer may put the Fit ahead in terms of fuel efficiency, maintenance cost, price and many other areas but many people would still pick a Hummer over a Fit to drive.
So when people come to me and ask me to compare Xcelsius to Qlikview, Dundas, Corda or other BI dashboard solutions, my first response is usually to first ask about the solution they are trying to implement and then ask about what will be their main criteria for selection.
Usually, the bigger issue is the data and metrics that they want to compare. These often do not exist in a form that can easily be used in a dashboard solution and a Data Mart may need to be created first to do any meaningful comparisons. The quantity, quality and frequency of change of the data are also all important factors to be considered.
The dashboard, like most user interface solutions, is usually the tip of the iceberg above the water and the larger and more important consideration is that mass of data under the water. We tend to get caught up in comparing features of dashboard tools and the tool vendors love to show their competitive analysis matrices and reports from “independent” analysts and organizations that they pay to create for them.
Yes, factors like ease of use, dynamic visibility, underlying technology and price are important too but if you focus on the solution itself then the weighting of these items will become more apparent and fall into their rightful place. If the solution is too difficult to use or too expensive, then you can eliminate it from consideration right away.
I have always been a great believer in “try before you buy” but more importantly in doing that “trying” in the context of the solution you want to create. So, in my opinion, the best way to compare dashboard solutions is to set up a meaningful pilot project and see which one truly meets your needs the best.
No, I am not going to encourage my son to test drive a Hummer to see if it is the best vehicle for him to drive to school because there is no way he could ever afford to own and run a vehicle like that so we can eliminate that one right away. Besides, there are better ways to impress the girls.Photo: ca. 1999 — Apple and Orange — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis – downloaded from Microsoft clipart online.