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AUG 22, 2012 9:31am ET

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The State of Dashboards in 2012: Pathetic

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Over the last several months, my colleague VP and Research Director Tony Cosentino and I have been assessing vendors and products in the business intelligence market as part of our upcoming Value Index.

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Comments (8)
Well stated. My short summary: data is useful in decision making only if it tells meaninful stories to people, and then those people can easily get at the detail they need to take action. Very little of today's implemented BI does this.
Posted by KIm C | Thursday, August 23 2012 at 2:21PM ET
I have simply been stunned by the level of value business discovery / data discovery brings. I do not see discovery as being in the same class as traditional B.I. dashboards and the value discovery brings is difficult to overestimate.

My suggestion? Get out of the conforming dimensions, hierarchically-driven, need-to-know-the-answer-before-the-question world of traditional B.I. and join the world of data discovery. The truly disruptive 'power of the grey' as evidenced by products like QlikView from QlikTech allows users of B.I. Dashboards to suddenly gain far deeper insights than traditional B.I. dashboards.

Posted by Gary B | Thursday, August 23 2012 at 5:01PM ET
A couple of well made points, most importantly: the current crop of dashboards are generally very poorly designed and ineffectual in effectively and efficiently conveying important business information to the people who need it.

But to propose that because the widespread lack of design skills dashboards are dead and we need to move beyond them to the next thing? That's preposterous. There's no sense or value in throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Ditching the tools that promote bad dashboarding is a good idea. Adopting tools that surface the elements and principles of effective analytic information design so that creating good dashboards is easier than creating bad ones is a good idea.

But the real key is in teaching the people who create dashboards how to do it well is critical. Without this it's impossible to ever address the real problem and abandoning dashboards (in favor of what, exactly?) as a medium for communicating essential business information is a silly idea.

Posted by Chris G | Saturday, August 25 2012 at 10:45AM ET
Great article, Mark. After many years of BI, I am still amazed at how many people still expect the software to replace business acumen, intuition and just plain common sense. Dashboard technology is a tool to quickly and regularly depict the story - but someone still has to author that story. Having a kitchen full of fancy equipment is not going to make you a master chef. Sure a good knife will help you slice and dice, but you still need some idea of what you are cooking up. I think people have lost the ability to be creative and think, and hope that by buying yet another nifty bit of software that they can sit back and watch the insights pouring in.
Posted by Gill S | Monday, August 27 2012 at 6:49AM ET
Mark and Tony, you can add dashboard proliferation problem to your list. The easy vendors make it for users to create new dashboards, the more dashboards there are and the harder it is for a user to find anything. We've seen companies with 100s and sometimes 1000s of dashboards. Their users just throw up their hands.

At Metric Insights, we've thrown out the dashboard paradigm for the reasons you stated. Similar to a Facebook like, our users follow metrics that are of importance to them simply by clicking on a star. That is it. The whole presentation layer changes based on an individual's personalized analytics profile they develop over time. Users do less work and see better results.

Posted by Steve M | Wednesday, August 29 2012 at 9:42PM ET
Good article that contains plenty of sense. The ensuing discussions have also made good points. I have seen loads of Dashboards and BI "solutions" that the poor users cannot interpret and understand. It is in unpacking the "story" that is in the data and information that turns it into knowledge and finally wisdom, from which better quality decisions are made. That is where the real value of BI and dashboards lies (IMHO)
Posted by Adrian B | Friday, November 09 2012 at 12:16PM ET
Perhaps replace Business Intelligence with People Intelligence would be a start?
Posted by Dan S | Wednesday, November 14 2012 at 4:11AM ET
Yes, a newspaper is a newspaper. The medium maybe paper, magazine, or online, but the focus is with disseminating the news. With BI, too much time is spent dwelling on the latest buzz words. And this article has yet another one: "action-oriented information technology frameworks," whatever that is. If you really want BI to succeed in your organization, get back to basics. The local TV station is always upgrading its weather forecasting tools and how it presents the weather, but it is still a weather forecast. Ditch the buzz words, identify the information you need, build a team to gather and present the "BI news", constantly update the tools and constantly interact with the "views" to ensure you are reporting the news they want. And did I mention to ditch the nonsensical buzz words.
Posted by An P | Monday, November 26 2012 at 9:09AM ET
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