Enterprise dashboards must provide a clear visibility to steer through the thick clouds of data overload and lack of insight. The early years of the 21st century have seen a convergence of sevethe task of conductinral management thoughts that further that age-old quest for the right information at the right time. The dashboard is the new face of the emerging information management field. Dashboards have become the vehicle of execution for several key initiatives being implemented among organizations worldwide. Some of those initiatives include Balanced Scorecard, Enterprise Performance Management (EPM), also referred to as Business or Corporate Performance Management (BPM), Business Activity Monitoring (BAM), Six Sigma, and the regulatory compliances such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. In hindsight, dashboarding seems to reflect the natural course of progression in the quest for improved information and better decision making. Almost every organization has experienced an exponential growth in computing power and data volumes during the past years. This growth drives the organizational management to create more enlightened decision-making processes in an information-rich environment (see Exhibit 1.1).
During the past decade, capabilities for data analysis and data mining have made great strides as computing power has followed Moore’s law1 of doubling every year. However, until recently, the task of conducting powerful data analysis has been relegated to well-trained analysts and experts within the respective fields. The rest of the organization depended on this elite group of information champions to decide what information was dispersed, when, and in what format. If someone needed information that was not precanned, it required an ad hoc information request. By the time therequesting person received the information, it was often too late, the information was obsolete, or perhaps the need for that specific information had evaporated because of rapidly changing daily priorities. The information seeker is forced to make a gut instinct decision to quickly address the narrow window of decision making. For a business user, the frustration resulting from such delays or timely inaccessibility to information can be well imagined! As is often the case, frustration became the mother of innovation. At first, spreadsheets became everyone’s favorite tool to manipulate, store, and analyze data as they saw fit. Some departments found themselves developing databases out of Microsoft’s Excel because the corporate database group or the information technology (IT) group just could not meet their information needs. In almost every organization, one can find such innovative islets of information ownership. However, information islets fall far short of meeting current needs for constantly evolving and real-time information. As organizations open myriad fronts of interaction through their customers, vendors, and partners, they can no longer afford to handicap their front-line management with a lack of information. Anyone possessing decision-making authority that may affect organizational performance requires timely, relevant, accurate, and actionable information. Existing modes of information dispersal, whether through standardized report distribution or drag-and-drop reporting, are simply not sufficient anymore. Such reports are too static and often too overwhelming. The reader is highly susceptible to data overload. Opportunities and threats often go overlooked and are discovered too late. For these reasons, dynamic and interactive dashboards have become a fast-growing phenomena coupled with EPM and corporate compliance. For the most part, the vendors who have developed the potential of enterprise dashboards most effectively are the reporting and Business Intelligence (BI) vendors such as Business Objects, Cognos, Hyperion, and MicroStrategy. Also, there are niche vendors such as iViz Group, iDashboards, Noetix, QPR Software, and Theoris, who have developed dashboard software with certain characteristics that have been left out by the major BI vendors.
INSPIRATION FROM AN AIRCRAFT
The dashboard within an aircraft or automobile has inspired the term dashboard within the information and business intelligence fields (see Exhibit 1.2). The purpose of the dashboard in all three of these settings is the same to monitor and drive a complex and interdependent system. David Norton and Robert Kaplan draw the analogy between an aircraft dashboard and an organizational need for similar information tools in their landmark book on the subject of Balanced Scorecards:
Skilled pilots are able to process information from a large number of indicators to navigate their aircraft. Yet navigating today’s organizations through complex competitive environments is at least as complicated as flying a jet. Why should we believe that executives need anything less than a full battery of instrumentation for guiding their companies? Managers, like pilots, need instrumentation about many aspects of their environment and performance to monitor the journey toward excellent future outcomes.
If we agree that effective management of organizations requires information tools similar to those required by a pilot for flying an aircraft, we have a useful starting point to describe the basic characteristics of an organizational dashboard.
Contrary to the evident simplicity of an information dashboard, deploying an effective dashboard for a large organization is usually no less a complex task than doing the same for a jet. By no means do I mean to undermine the challenge of developing cockpit dashboards handled by aeronautical engineers, but it would be fair to assume that all aircraft dashboards display the same set of key performance indicators (KPIs), such as the aircraft speed, altitude, direction, wind speed, humidity, fuel status, engine temperature, latitude, longitude, and so forth. The various aircraft manufacturers may have different ergonomic designs for their dashboards, but essentially they all have to deliver to the pilots the same set of KPIs critical for a successful flight. The same applies to automotive dashboards. This leads to the ease of replication whereby an aircraft or automobile manufacturer may replicate thousands of dashboards in an assembly line to equip their aircrafts or cars, as the case may be. However, in contrast to an aircraft or automobile, each organization has a set of KPIs that differs significantly from those of another organization. Even if two organizations are within the same industry or are close competitors, they rarely share an identical set of KPIs. Each organization’s business and organizational management has evolved differently, and each division within a given organization has separate sets of KPIs relevant to itself. Finance, Supply Chain, Human Resources, Sales and Marketing— they all have their own set of KPIs that result in different types of dashboards. Although many KPIs are commonplace and standard by definition, such as gross revenue, net profit, gross margin, asset turnover ratio, and so on, each organization has unique nuances of self-management. This diversity in evolution and need necessitates conducting a thorough and individualized requirements analysis in order to build customized and effective dashboards for each organization. This provides a sharp contrast to the manufacture of thousands of cars and aircrafts with identical dashboards in an assembly-line process. To make matters even more complex, sources of information that need to be presented through the enterprise dashboards are invariably in different forms within different organizations. The fact that two organizations may be using exactly the same version of a specific Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software program alleviates the task of building these dashboards. However, no two organizations are identical in the myriad information sources that each of them would require to access for their dashboards. This makes building an enterprise dashboard a custom and complex undertaking each time.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PORTAL AND DASHBOARD
The distinguishing feature is that a dashboard is an application with a collection of metrics, benchmarks, goals, results, and alerts presented in a visually effective manner, whereas a portal is a collection of different applications presented together within a personalized framework. A dashboard could be part of a portal, but not vice versa. Aportal, for example, could contain a dashboard, a company’s events calendar, weather conditions, individual profile details, financial market conditions, financial stock tracking, and so on. A dashboard in its strictest definition should not contain a company’s events calendar, personalized weather conditions, and other elements like these. There are dedicated portals for varied applications such as e-commerce, auctions, e-mails, as well as corporate portals for company information. A dashboard, however, is intended specifically for the presentation of organizational and individual performance metrics and alerts.
۱۲ DASHBOARD EXECUTION
c01_malik.qxd 6/8/05 10:31 AM Page 12
Metrics are measurements of activities to evaluate performance, mostly within a relative framework of time, geography, and aggregation. For example, a sales metric may be Gross Sales for Quarter 1 for North America for an Item/Category.
Enterprise Performance Management and Business Intelligence
EPM is the application of BI, metrics, and methodologies to improve enterprise performance. BI is the capability to track, understand, and manage information across the organization