InetSoft Webinar: Dashboards as a Type of BI Application

This is the continuation of the transcript of a Webinar hosted by InetSoft on the topic of "Building a Winning Dashboard" The speaker is Abhishek Gupta, sales engineer at InetSoft.

So, let's move onto dashboards as a type of BI application, and what I want to do is, I want to start with misconceptions. I want to tackle that one first, because that really troubles me when I hear it. Here's the misconception. Dashboards are just making data flashy. Some people seem to have to believe that data is boring, and that in order to make people pay attention, we need to load them into flashy graphics, things that move around, and with big dials.

There is definitely importance to the look of a dashboard, but what I want to stress in the beginning is that dashboards are not just making data flashy. The goal is not to design things that are interesting and attractive. The goal is to really design things that solve real business problems.

Now, in our case these problems are information problems, and beauty and aesthetics, these are just the byproduct of a great design, but they are not the goal. Dashboards are there to make our life easier. They are supposed to help you become better in what you do, and they are unique to solve problems that other forms reporting simply cannot.

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Now in the simplest terms, dashboards present the most important information needed to achieve business objectives, and usually at a glance. Not everything, only what is critical. Not because data is more informative, but because that data plays a direct part in helping you achieve that business objective.

Now, what we want to do is not make screens or spread out information over a 100 pages, but display it on a single screen It's purpose is to give you actually more information quickly at a glance. I often hear people who say dashboards are really for executives and managers, but we feel that dashboards can be for everyone, for the knowledge worker.

The power you can have from this technolgoy is that the dashboards can even help the average Joe's understanding of data even when there are large data sets and complex relationships. Now, here is an example of a dashboard that we have in mind, and you can see many other live samples in our samples gallery.

What is important to remember is that dashboards are unique in design and purposely built to show you to most important and relevant data to your specific world. In the past, they would be presented in the confines of a computer screen or a printed page. Today, they are presented on many devices including smart phones and tablets, of course, but regardless you always want to have it available in a single screen, in a single view.

Now this is because most of us are very busy people, and because it's very difficult to get a comprehensive view of your whole business, because we have limited time and short term memory, difficulties that make it very hard for us to remember what we saw after we flip to the next page. Nothing else does the job that well, and that's pretty compelling, so before we talk about the creation of winning dashboards, let's first understand why dashboards can work so well.

It all starts with the way our brain works. Our brain is a great machine, great at recognizing patterns, but it is not really good when it comes to storing numbers, and I will give you an example to prove that. So, here is the example. You can see here three rows of data across 12 months. Any company that sells anything in more than two regions is going to routinely create reports that have more data than this.

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Now, take a moment and look at this sales report, and see if there is anything striking in this data. Okay, now I am going to visualize this. Oh, if you look at the data, and you are used to looking at reports, I'm sure there are few things that you already know. You may have noticed right away that the U.S. sales are higher than Europe.

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