In my 10 years of experience in Business Intelligence in an IT Organization, “dashboard” is probably the word that has come up most frequently to my ears when talking with my customers. Behind this, the variety of more concrete expectations is so large that it would be very difficult to make a summary: is it a report (complex) or a dashboard, what are the KPIs, who is the requestor and who is the sponsor – there is not a single unique approach.
Despite the complexity, dashboarding has been influenced over time by various major trends:
The incredible flexibility of tools to answer Customers expectations: taking the example of SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (historically Xcelsius), the continuous enrichment of this tool year after year brought us to the point where you are now able to create much more than a nice, interactive dashboard. You can even create a transactional application with read and write access to corporate systems… This is an example where the adoption from the Business community, initially mainly driven by the impressive display capability and interactivity, has generated more and more demand.
The need for mobility: despite sometimes heavy content and mass of information, getting direct access from anywhere at any time has become a MUST. Dashboarding did not escape to the viral adoption of Mobility with the emergence of tablets 3 years ago – with the complexity of adapting content and interactivity to smaller screens keeping a great User Experience and High performance.
More recently, a new request has come from our community: the need for more Highlights and Messages. In an earlier time, dashboards were usually built out of a pattern of charts, put into one or several views, with tabs. When becoming too heavy, you would even divide your dashboards into smaller ones linked in a transparent manner to the End User.
Following an overall media trend (look at media websites), Users are now asking the dashboards to be more like a newspaper with headlines in the front page. The direct access to charts – even with targets and alerts – is not sufficient. Like in the news, they need the big titles on the 1st page, and they expect to be oriented to the hottest topics.
This is where our design is now moving to a new trend, based on the concept of tiles: each tile is a shortcut to a more detailed view on the topic – all tiles are put together in a home page and / or sorted by topic with a navigation pane.
With this, dashboards are speaking to and keeping the end users in a type of navigation they are familiar with when browsing any news on Internet / Intranet. The good thing is that the SAP Analytics tools already allow this – with SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio and Dashboards for example, the design capabilities offer this possibility without a need to wait for an upcoming evolution.
Here is an example out of SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio where each KPI is represented by a separate tile – and the end users can dig into any of the topics highlighted in this single view by taping on the related tile. It would open up a detailed view of the situation with more charts and tables.
This one has been developed within SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards according to the same concept.
From these examples, the end user has a direct, full overview. Messages are clear – and can even be enriched with text and pictures, like in the first page of a newspaper. The question is not about the technology:
The tools are generally flexible enough to offer such design capability
The type of source (relational, multidimensional) comes when you go into the details of a KPI, and not in the front page
The main point is on the business owner side: it strengthens the notion of KPI and the importance of defining it clearly since you aim to share a message out of one initial value and a colored alert.
With this new concept, we currently see a very strong demand for new dashboards / dashboard redesign – with highest attention for content and messaging. A step forward in actionable Business Intelligence that we will certainly not refrain from!