Senior Consultant, Technical Architect

Designing an Effective Business Intelligence (BI) Dashboard

Senior Consultant, Technical Architect

As technologists and strategists, our team is regularly tasked with helping clients improve visibility of their business metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). A common starting point we find is business leaders manually looking at data using classic desktop applications such as Excel or out-of-the box reports from their record keeping systems.

To reduce workload and improve results, we recommend moving business analytics to a web page “Dashboard” format where specialized tools are used to automatically aggregate, filter, and present data. This blog post outlines the key steps for designing a successful business Dashboard:

1) Learn your Audience
Before you can design anything, you must understand who is using the data and what they are looking for. Are they interested in high-level performance? Deep drill downs? Visualizations or tabular charts they can export? What are their pain-points and are there any tedious manual data crunching processes you can take off their plate?

2) Understand the Data
Creating powerful visualizations requires building an intimacy with the numbers that you are presenting. This includes discovering all of the facets available, noting the relationships between data sets, and finding key fields to filter on. It is also critical to find gaps in the data that may limit what can be presented.

3) Workshop and Whiteboard
Sit down with your audience and brainstorm around their needs. Walk through wish lists and day to day processes to understand their priorities. Sketch multiple prototypes and debate what provides value and clarity. Bring in subject matter experts and usability gurus to recommend and polish the concepts.

4) Capture the Requirements
Finally, create a specification document and composite mockups to define what will be built. Use this document to set audience expectation and lock down scope. It’s also a great idea to have the technology team bless the final designs to ensure they can actually be realized with the tool set and data available.

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