Deploying dashboards the right way to score

Use of the tools is increasing, but they only provide value if implemented correctly

A recent survey of nearly 700 IT and business professionals shows that the use of dashboards to monitor performance metrics is on the rise. However, IT and business users will need to invest more time and money to reap the full benefits of the technology.

The study, performed by The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI), polled corporate IT professionals, business intelligence consultants, business sponsors and users to identify trends in recent dashboard deployments. Among the findings, TDWI says a majority of those polled deploy dashboards — which can be defined as applications that aggregate specific data into a single portal to let IT and business users quickly gauge the effect of interrelated events and take corrective action — for business purposes. In fact, “many dashboard and scorecard projects are initiated and guided by business leaders”, according to a TDWI statement.

The technology at end-user level is still in its infancy, the group says, reporting that most dashboards support fewer than 50 users and less than 50GB of data. Most organisations polled reported that they didn’t spend a lot on their dashboard deployment. For instance, an inexpensive dashboard application can be licensed for under US$50,000 (NZ$80,000).

According to TDWI, “You get what you pay for”. It says inexpensive dashboard tools can provide short-term results, but “the inevitable need to increase the scale of your dashboard will require significant additional time and investment”. TWDI also advises that, when investing in dashboards, it’s wise to plan for a long-term deployment, considering a successful rollout for one application or department could result in other departments wanting similar technology. Therefore it’s vital to invest in scalable technology.

Among other best practices TDWI advises is to plan for real-time. IT executives should be prepared to deliver daily updates and provide more data to help the “business proactively optimise performance”. As for business staff, the group advises that any dashboard deployment should involve technical people. “One common mistake is to create metrics for which no data exists. ... Make sure you assign technical people to the team that gathers requirements and designs the metrics,” the report states.

As for which metrics to collect, TDWI says using fewer metrics keeps dashboards simple and getting user buy-in can help ensure metrics are effective. Also, the group advises organisations using dashboards to monitor and revise the metrics over time as business and IT conditions change and the metrics “lose business impact”.

Finally, the report advises developing the dashboard on a single platform and avoiding creating silos among departments, which will ultimately have to compete for resources. A single platform will also eliminate the chances of multiple dashboards misrepresenting performance across an organisation.

“It’s best to develop all dashboards and scorecards on a single platform that leverages a unified data integration infrastructure,” the report says.

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