Reaping the Benefits of
Next GeNeratioN DashboarDs
The need for timely and succinct business intelligence (BI) A Need to overcome INflexIbIlIty
continues to grow as executives demand critical information
to seize opportunities faster than competitors and to address The old approaches for collecting, assimilating, and
potential problems in the making. delivering BI information have not kept pace with today’s
increasing demand for rapid decision-making and flexible
But increasingly, it is not just C-level executives and upper information access requirements.
management who need access to business intelligence.
Business unit managers and rank-and-file personnel A majority of organizations leverage static reports and ad-
increasingly must also have updated information to do their hoc queries as primary methods for delivering business
jobs. intelligence information, according to a 2007 CIO Insight
survey of 215 senior business managers. These methods
And in every case, users of business intelligence solutions were found to be in use, respectively, by 81 percent and
desire a flexible and intuitive method for assimilating 67 percent of the managers in companies with revenues
information without manually gathering data. The delivery of $500 million or more. While a smaller percentage of
mechanism must provide transparent connectivity organizations use dashboards and portals (62 percent and
and security to users, while presenting an easy to use 48 percent, respectively), most implementations of these
interface for navigating and consuming information. These tools lack the interactivity required for intuitive navigation
requirements are driving the demand for a new generation and visualization of business data.
of BI solutions.
Additionally, as information requirements and user demands
increase, traditional BI solutions present obstacles and
limitations that slow an organization’s ability to integrate
Next geNeratioN dashboards: business processes and strategy. In turn, this can hamper
intelligent decision making in organizations today.
• align business process with live data to
provide business intelligence at all levels of A major challenge for organizations is the gap that some
an organization BI applications widen between IT and the business unit.
While communication is difficult enough, some tools
• use intuitive and easy to digest visuals for
can also hinder what should be a collaborative process
delivering information to busy executives between business users, stakeholders, and developers who
• visualize and navigate timely and accurate implement BI solutions. The inflexibility of many BI tools can
information lead to deployed solutions that still fall short of business
users’ expectations for addressing business problems. A
careful implementation of technology that properly aligns to
business process or strategy is critical to the success, yet can SolutIoN: Next geNerAtIoN dAShboArdS
easily be compromised based on technology choices.
Faced with these challenges, organizations demand
integrated and flexible business intelligence solutions
that facilitate more timely and informed decisions. Next
traditional bi solutions face many generation dashboards will solve these challenges, by
introducing a robust entry point into business intelligence at
obstacles and limitations, and they might
all levels within an organization.
not be capable of evolving.
The next generation of dashboards must:
An additional challenge of collecting and “mashing” data be easy to build and customize: While traditional
from multiple disparate systems can present obstacles, dashboard projects required great amounts of custom
slowing a business users’ ability to make critical business coding, the next generation of dashboards empower non-
decisions. For example, past BI efforts typically included IT professionals to design and connect business data to a
information from a centrally maintained enterprise database, dashboard interface. This approach bridges the gap between
as well as data from enterprise resource management, sales IT and business intelligence users, allowing stakeholders
force automation, and supply chain management systems. to become proactive in the design process. Dashboard
As organizations outsource functions like marketing, product technology should be flexible, allowing an unlimited
design, customer service, and others tasks to third parties, combination of controls for analyzing and navigating
Challenge with Benefit with next Provide a consolidated view from any data source:
traditional dashboards generation dashboards Dashboards are only as useful as the data they present
to the user. The next generation of dashboards leverages
Disconnect between IT Speed and ease in aligning
and business rapid information analysis with technology that can not only consume proprietary data
business processes sources, but also enable web service and XML standards for
Difficulty coupling data Allows the aggregation of the a seamless “mash-up” of data from most data sources. For
from multiple sources latest information from years, a challenge with many dashboard initiatives has been
into one application multiple sources the difficulty getting the needed data from the requisite
mission-critical applications, including database, enterprise
Getting users to adopt Proven value and ease of use
tools lead to higher adoption and resource management, customer relationship management,
expanded reach of BI tools to and others. Senior managers in a 2007 Baseline Magazine
new users survey noted that this issue was an obstacle to deploying
BI tools. Specifically, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the
managers said integration and interoperability with other
still more data must be culled from these sources to make systems such as ERP and CRM posed a problem for them.
business decisions. While the emergence of web services and
APIs have provided great progress for accessing data from leverage visualization to make information easy to
these additional sources, coupling this valuable information consume: In today’s fast-paced business world, users’
into a single integrated interface remains a barrier for needs are immediate, so dashboards must provide data
successful BI applications. visualization in a way that makes sense for each individual.
Dashboards now embrace common data visualization
Even with the correct data and development process, techniques and charts that facilitate rapid information
typical BI applications designed for business users are rarely assimilation, leading to new insight and faster decisions.
adopted because of the extended learning curve attributed In addition to robust data visualization, next generation
to user interface complexity, lack of customization, or poor dashboards provide methods to visually alert a user when
design. performance indicators are out of tolerance, then enable the
exploration of details with point and click simplicity.
offer engaging interactivity for further analysis: data formatted and aligned to the business, alleviating
While BI solutions’ provide significant improvements over any manual work for users to obtain valuable information.
manually culling the information from multiple sources, Combining data visualization and navigation controls with
the next generation dashboards extend additional utility personalized data can provide effective and efficient analysis
with interactivity. Such dashboards facilitate information for users.
exploration and allow users to more easily navigate
information, again, with point and click ease. Whether Allow developers to extend new features or integrate
clicking on a chart data point, or a simple toolbar, users new to technology: Dashboards may not provide out
can effortlessly filter, sort, and drill through information. of the box features that address every requirement for
Dashboards that incorporate what-if analysis enable an every industry. With a strong technology foundation and
additional layer of intelligence, leading to more informed a flexible SDK, the next generation dashboards should
decisions. In scenarios where further analysis is required, allow developers and third party vendors to easily extend
dashboards should funnel business users to supporting or integrate new features, controls, or data sources into the
reports or analysis tools, allowing for quick discovery of dashboard technology.
detailed information required to answer the business
question at hand. beNefItS of uSINg Next geNerAtIoN
An example of this interactivity is a sales dashboard for a
territory manager. A next generation dashboard enables this The reasons for using business intelligence can vary greatly,
manager to view and navigate his territory’s performance even within a single organization. Notably, C-level executives
to figure out which regions he should focus on for the use business intelligence to improve processes, ensure
week. While filtering sales figures by region, the manager compliance, optimize marketing efforts, and increase sales.
can quickly click on a region and drill into the opportunity And department managers can use the information to
pipeline. Using what if analysis, the manager can calculate improve their operations and monitor the performance of
to improve operations requires improv- According to a 2007 Baseline Magazine article, managers
cite three priorities to accomplish these goals. They are:
ing information quality, improving the abil- improving information quality, improving the ability to use
ity to use information, and offering more information, and offering more kinds of information to more
kinds of information to more people.
These are all areas where next generation dashboards can
play a major role, as we’ve discussed.
how closing opportunities will affect sales figures for the Next generation dashboards allow for the alignment of
quarter. Furthermore, the manager can then click in the business process with rapid information assimilation.
dashboard to launch a detailed report f showing contextual As IT and business stakeholders collaborate to implement
information from the CRM system.. This entire solution is dashboards, the result is a valuable tool that is properly
enabled with point and click interactivity achieved only with aligned to business process while presenting an accurate
next generation dashboards. view of the most current performance statistics. With an
accurate representation of critical performance indicators
Provide the information in a personalized and easy to and trends, next generation dashboards should increase a
understand format: Most users (58 percent) misunderstand business user’s ability to quickly reach the thought plateau
or ignore data produced by BI tools because they don’t know required to solve business problems.
how to analyze it, according to a 2007 CIO Insight survey.
Users want to be able to understand the information they That was the case for Metarom, a French manufacturer of
are looking at in a bite-sized, easy to consume format. The food flavoring products. Before using its new BI solution,
next generation of dashboards can provide personalized managers would receive information about sales in a report
at the end of each month. When the company implemented approach into business intelligence using rich, interactive
a next generation BI solution to tracks sales, managers used controls that integrate into web-based portals and in some
information delivered via a dashboard to monitor customer cases even desktop tools including PowerPoint, Word,
turnover and sales by product. This helped them see which Excel, and PDF files. Though the technology is flexile to how
products were selling well at any time. Additionally, when the business users’ work, the underlying technology still
a large order arrived, managers could see its impact on seamlessly connects to secured data sources managed by IT.
margins immediately and coordinate supplies and human
resources management. Letting users make use of the dashboard information
with their common office tools is a critical aspect when it
Next generation dashboards deliver timely and accurate comes to BI tool usage. Essentially, new dashboards can
information. As a dashboard automatically retrieves the be deployed to more people because they are easy to use,
latest information available from critical systems, business can be implemented quickly, and are focused on business
users can make better decisions with confidence. Next processes, thus leading to higher user adoption.
generation dashboards facilitate an integrated solution that
couples a rich user experience with live data connectivity. Dashboards that are integrated with a trusted BI
The resulting dashboards provide significant time savings infrastructure allow organizations to have a consolidated
from manually gathering data and are immune to user error view of business performance using easy to interpret
that might occur during this process. dashboards; while solving data integration, data quality, and
performance problems from a central hub. The end result
This was a critical issue that was resolved for the Georgia is a consolidated view of business performance in easy to
Department of Transportation when they deployed new BI interpret dashboards, allowing users to confidently make
technology with next generation dashboards. They found business decisions.
one of the main benefits was that, “People are more aware
that the information they’re looking at is accurate and up-to- coNcluSIoN
date—so they can make decisions with confidence.”
Today’s competitive and fast-paced business environment
Next generation dashboards can improve operations by requires that more people have access to real-time
delivering information to more people. Currently, as few as performance and status information, so that they can make
20 percent of workers who could use BI tools take advantage quick and intelligent decisions. n
of them, according to a 2007 Baseline Magazine article. Next
generation dashboards will empower the other 80 percent of
an organization to access business intelligence leading to a
more informed and proactive workforce to take action.
Citing third-party research, a 2008 CIO Insight article For more information about next generation
noted that about two-thirds of organizations consider it dashboards and improving operations with timely
very important to make BI technology accessible to all
business intelligence information, go to:
operational users, who are otherwise working primarily with
spreadsheets or more primitive reporting and data access www.sap.com/sapbusinessobjects
tools. Next generation dashboards integrate a user friendly