Deploying dashboards the right way

Deploying dashboards the right way

A recent survey of nearly 700 IT and business professionals shows that the use of dashboards to monitor performance metrics is on the rise. Yet 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 are 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 press release.

The technology in end-user shops is still in its infancy, the group says, reporting that most support fewer than 50 users and less than 50 GB of data. And most organizations polled reported that they didn't put down a log of cash for their dashboard deployment. For instance, an inexpensive dashboard application can be licensed for under US$50,000.

According to TDWI, "You get what you pay for." The industry organization says that 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." The industry organization also advises when investing in dashboards to plan for a long-term deployment, considering a successful rollout for one application or department could result in other departments wanting similar technology. That means invest in scalable technology.

Among other best practices TDWI offers is to plan for real time. IT executives should be prepared to deliver daily updates and provide more data to help the "business proactively optimize performance." As for business staff, the group advises any dashboard deployment to 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 that using fewer metrics can keep dashboards simple and getting user buy-in can help ensure metrics are effective. Also the group advises to monitor and revise the metrics over time as business and IT conditions change and the "metrics lose business impact."

Lastly, the report advises to develop the dashboard on a single platform and avoiding creating silos among departments, which ultimately would have to compete for resources. A single platform would also eliminate the chances of multiple dashboards misrepresent performance across an enterprise company. "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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