Are Dashboards dead?… #Analytics

Standard

Let’s think through:

Are Dashboards Dead?

With lot of vendors pushing for democratizing analytics (a.k.a self-service), it may seem that the dashboards would soon be dead!

You need two things to make a org data driven. 1) Push 2) Pull.

“Pull”

…is where most of the analytics vendors are focused right more — it’s set of technologies that the business users want.┬áThe big idea here is to enable business users to pull whatever data they want, whenever they want without having to wait for Analytics/IT. Note that the business users are doing the heavy-lifting in analysis (of course you need a data platform to enable this but still it’s the business users using the platform and doing their analysis)

“Push”

…is where there are dashboards which are built by central IT/Analytics and are ready to be consumed by the business users. This should be a governed environment where a lot of effort has been invested by Analytics/IT to make that the metrics are standardized & accurate. This is key to making this work — if the metrics on the dashboard are accurate and metrics are standardized then business users would trust these dashboards more than the self-service dashboards. This would also be their one-place to go view all key performance indicators for their org/department and then if they see something “interesting” (or better yet — get an alert!) then they can dive into the self-service environment and do their thing. You see, “Push” strategy is really great at getting the data to all business users and then “pushing” them to do use the self-service analytics platform.

[BTW: Putting bunch of reports in a grid layout is not what I am talking about here. I am limiting my definition of dashboard which have KPI’s and directs users to where they should be focusing on]

(Again, two things to do here to make sure the push strategy succeeds. 1) Having standardized & accurate data = earn trust! 2) Having KPI’s that align with the strategic plan of the org/dept)

Dashboards Push Pull Analytics Strategy

So now having understood what these strategies are let’s take a minute to put them to use to answer the question:

Are Dashboards Dead Yet?

So let’s imagine a scenario where a org does not a Push Strategy. They have implemented a self-service platform and are focused on evolving that. Now there are two problems that they will run into:

  1. For “casual” users — How do they get them the training they need? OR support that they need?
  2. For “power” users — Once they start creating their own calculated metrics then how do they make sure that they are standardized across what other power users are doing? (also, how do they validate if what they are analyzing is accurate?)

You see both of those problems can be partially (if not completely) solved by having Dashboards:

  1. Dashboards are a great way for casual users to look at their KPI and then they can figure out where they would focus on
  2. Also, Dashboards are a great way to provide standardized & accurate metrics so everyone could trust the number that they are looking at
  3. Note that it shouldn’t require you to start from zero! You should be using the data modeling layer built for your self service platform for the dashboards as well

And that’s why I think Dashboards are not dead yet.

PS: You might see some vendors that are pushing for a different approach where the platform would auto-magically go through the data and get you the “insights” — I think it’s a great approach. Usually they would target dashboards but I would argue that they compete more with “Pull” strategies rather than “Push” because now the business user won’t have to explore so many different variables but the platform could do that heavy-lifting and get them quick insights.

Sales Bookings vs Quota Dashboard for a B2B company:

Sales Team bookings vs quota dashboard
Standard

Business Goal:

Need a daily report delivered in sales team’s inbox that shows Sales Team’s Bookings vs Quota for current & next month.

Brief Description:

Ability to see Bookings vs Quota in near real-time is a key to effectively manage performance for any sales team. Before the project, analyst(s) would have to manually put together this report and since the report took more than a day to put together they couldn’t afford to run it daily and so they delivered this report bi-weekly/monthly basis to the sales team. After the project, the process was automated and the sales team received an email with a report on a daily basis and this helped them see Bookings vs Quota in near real-time. As a famous saying goes “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” (by Peter Drucker) – in this case, the report helped them measure their actual numbers against their goals and helping them improve their sales numbers which directly hits their top-line!

Tools used: SharePoint report subscription, SQL server analysis services, SQL Server Integration services, SQL server reporting services & Excel.

Mockup:

Note: Drill down reports are not shown and the numbers are made up.

Sales Team bookings vs quota dashboard

Cost Driver’s Dashboard for a Supply Chain Executive:

Supply Chain Cost Drivers Profitability Dashboard
Standard

Summary:

Profitability equals revenue minus costs – To that end, A supply chain executive is mostly focused on optimizing cost elements to drive profitability. Here’s a mock up of a dashboard created for an executive to help him keep an eye on the overall health while making sure he gets alerted for key cost categories.

The Dashboard was created using profitability data-set & also had drill down capabilities to analyze numbers for cost buckets like Raw materials, manufacturing & logistics.

Mockup:

Supply Chain Cost Drivers Profitability Dashboard