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Business Intelligence Dashboard Design Best Practices
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Business Intelligence Dashboard Design Best Practices

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Microsoft BI expert Dan Bulos spoke on Dashboard Design Best Practices to the Bay Area Microsoft Business Intelligence User Group. …

Microsoft BI expert Dan Bulos spoke on Dashboard Design Best Practices to the Bay Area Microsoft Business Intelligence User Group.

This presentation shows techniques for displaying data in a dashboard for maximum impact. Dan also discusses various tools available in the Microsoft BI stack – Reporting Services, Excel, PerformancePoint and the new entry, Power View.


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  • 1. Dashboard Design Best Practices Speaker: Dan Bulos Symmetry Corporation July 2012
  • 2. Best Practices inDashboard DesignDan Bulos – bulos@symcorp.com©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 3. Agenda What is a Dashboard? Dashboard Best Practices Dashboard Components Navigation©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 4. Metaphors Go Only So Far Monitors a Continuous Process At a Gauge Glance Oriented©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 5. Reporting Spectrum Managed Dashboards Analysis Tables, Crosstabs, Charts, Graphs P Customization Ease of Depth & D r & Distribution Development Quickness i o Alternatives & Usage of Analytics s d Paramount Parameter Interactive c u Driven Navigation o c v t Highly Formatted Advanced e i Visualization r o Guided Analytics y n Programmer Line Staff Developed Developed Developed©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 6. Dashboard Definition Visual Display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives which fits entirely on a single computer screen so it can be monitored at a glance Information Dashboard Design By Stephen Few©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 7. What Makes a Good DashboardSome are Better Than Others ©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 8. Dashboard - Best Practices Key Data/Metrics In Context Dense Zero Information Learning Not Curve Cluttered Single Page Graphically Oriented Access to Highlight Supporting Exceptions Details©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 9. General Design Considerations “Single Page” “Graphical” No Scrolling Displays Patterns Nothing Hidden Abstract Data Linked Content Better Minimal Grids Dashboard All Relevant Info Design Domain Aware One Place to Look Leverages Not Data Driven Knowledge “Disparate Data” “Guided Analytics”©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 10. Key Data/Metrics in Context Key Data/Metrics ▪ High level performance metrics ▪ Generally tied to goals and bonuses ▪ Focus on actionable data ▪ Disparate sources Context ▪ The 3Ts = Target, Trend, Typical ▪ Similar/Related Data/Metrics ▪ Basis for interpretation©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 11. Dense, not Cluttered Dense Information ▪ All relevant data/metrics ▪ Different perspectives Not Cluttered – “At a Glance” ▪ It is not how much, but how well ▪ Easy to view, not an eye chart Data-Ink Ratio ( ) The Visual Display of Quantitative Information Edward R. Tufte ▪ Non-essential ink should be removed ▪ Supporting ink (axis lines) = low visual impact©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 12. Zero Learning Curve Dashboard viewing is not a person’s job ▪ Oriented at casual users, line mgt, & execs ▪ Little/No accumulated experience ● Each viewing is the first time Dashboards are not analytical tools ▪ But they provide guided analytics Targeted to a Person/Role/Problem Set©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 13. Exception Oriented Outliers should POP out Visual Cues Highlight Both Color ▪ Problems Size ▪ Opportunities Shape Boldness What is an Exception? Position ▪ > 1 Std Dev, 2…. Five9s Icons ▪ When action needs be taken©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 14. Supporting Detail Dashboards are not an Associated end unto themselves Layers Guided Contextual Analytics Update Content Updates Dashboard Webparts Links to New Pages Hierarchical Drill-Down Root Cause Analysis Ad Hoc Analysis Detail Reports©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 15. Dashboard ComponentsScorecards Diagrams Grids Charts Gauges MapsTree Map Decomp Tree And So Much More…… ©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 16. First a Word on Color Use Color Sparingly – Generally Soft Colors ▪ Highlighting – Bold Colors Different Colors = Different Meaning ▪ Try shades of grey Use a Single Hue ▪ Increase the intensity for low to high values Remember - 7% of men are color blind A dashboard is not a painting Usefulness is Paramount©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 17. Grids When to use: ▪ Values are familiar ▪ Need to lookup a value ▪ Small differences are important ▪ Mixed units of measure Design Considerations ▪ Try to keep square-ish ▪ Comparisons are done by column ▪ Limit length with Top/Bottom©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 18. Grid Embellishments Highlights ▪ Items of interest Data Bars ▪ Helpful to read magnitude Color Scales/Icons Icons are best used to: ▪ Can overwhelm the data Arrows Replace data to save space ▪ Used for change over time Show variance or score©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 19. Scorecards Are a special type of grid ▪ Created for KPIs and Objectives Can be methodology oriented ▪ Balanced Scorecard, 6 Sigma, … Used as a navigation aid ▪ A list with data Scorecards are less about data and more about process©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 20. Basic Charts Lines Charts – Time Series oriented ▪ Highlights trend, patterns or variability ▪ Highlights relationships between series ▪ Trend lines & projections can be added Bar Chart – Comparison Oriented ▪ Categorical comparisons within a dimension ▪ Nominal comparisons across data (sales to cost) Pie Charts – Part to Whole ▪ Only works with small sets ▪ Hard to visually quantify ▪ A lot of space for not much data©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 21. Interlude: Form vs. Function If the dashboard is not visually appealing, people will not go to it 1 Page – 6#s If the dashboard is not effective and practical, people will not use it Pretty Yes! Useful? What is fun the first time Might be boring the 100th time Too Dense?©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 22. Bar Charts Horizontal ▪ Long labels ▪ Pattern comparisons ▪ Long-ish lists Vertical ▪ Groups with in groups ▪ Stacked and 100% Bars ▪ Pareto Charts Doesn’t work for large numbers of groups Bars are easily drilled into©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 23. Hybrids – Charts in Grids Effective Great Mixing Of Data-Ink Charts & Ratio Values Introduction of Sparklines & Bullet Graphs©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 24. Bullet Graphs A bullet graph is a variation of a bar graph developed by Stephen Few. Seemingly inspired by the traditionalthermometer charts and progress bars found in many dashboards, the bullet graph serves as a replacement for Symmetry’s dashboard gauges and meters Variation Sales Costs Black Bar = Value Green/Red Bar = Target Blue Pointer = Last Year©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 25. Maps Useful in showing regional componentsMaps are great fordemographics Maps are highly specialized Impact grids can be effective Be careful of charts within a map ©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 26. Gauges When using a set of Hard to set gauge scale gauges expected value for the general case should be straight up Best for continuous process Poor Data-Ink Ratio©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 27. Diagrams Balanced Process Diagram ScorecardStrategy Map Diagrams are underutilized Graphical RepresentationsImpact Diagram Root Cause/Fishbone Diagram ©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 28. Graphical Excellence Show the data Focus on the substance of the numbers Don’t distort the data Present many numbers in a small space Encourage comparisons Show data in several perspectives The Visual Display of Quantitative Information Edward R. Tufte©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 29. Screen Layout Number of Frames ▪ Up to 4 is good, no more than 6 Frame Proportions ▪ Size = implied importance ▪ Uniform otherwise Location ▪ Top left = primary focus ▪ Bottom right = supporting detail ▪ Off page = irrelevant Printing ▪ The dirty little secret©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 30. Frame Options Different frame on same page ▪ Must fit on the page ▪ Can drill from here to new page New page in same browser ▪ Easy to get back ▪ Full page available New browser tab/window ▪ Allows for comparisons ▪ Users must close windows/tabs©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 31. Navigation FrameworkA tiered set of dashboardsbased on role or function A set of grids, graphs, orvisualizations that examine a single metric A set of detailed reports or ad-hoc analytics©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 32. Navigation Identify the key dimensions for the metric ▪ Customer, product, department ▪ Drill into one or more of these ▪ Top 10 rankings Identify the audience ▪ Marketing manager – Drill to product ▪ Sales Manager – Drill to customer©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 33. Navigation - What to Show©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 34. Microsoft Software Components Reporting Services ▪ Formal report view ▪ Highly formatted Performance Point Server ▪ Analytical Charts and Graphs ▪ Less control over format ▪ Built in Slice and Dice Excel Services ▪ Shared user-created content ▪ Fast changing©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 35. Summary Choose the right tool for the job Simple is better Conserve your screen real estate Use color to highlight Put focus on the data not the decoration©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 36. Symmetry Founded in 1986 Experienced Consultants ▪ Each with over 15 years of BI experience Microsoft Relationship ▪ Gold Certified Partner ▪ Microsoft-nominated BI Partner Advisory Council member since 1999 ▪ Licensed Technology to Microsoft ▫ SQL Server Accelerator for BI ▪ Internal Microsoft Consulting ▫ SQL Server ▫ PerformancePoint Server ▫ Internal departmental BI application development©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 37. Resources ▪ Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten ● Stephen Few ▪ Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data ● Stephen Few ▪ The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition ● Edward R. Tufte http://www.perceptualedge.com/ http://dashboardspy.com/ Symmetry Corp – www.symcorp.com©2012 Symmetry Corporation http://www.symcorp.com
  • 38. To learn more or attend a meeting: www.bayareamicrosoftbi.org To inquire about sponsorship or speaking opportunities: Mark Ginnebaugh, User Group Leader mark@designmind.com

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