Intranets, Portals and Dashboards, Oh My!

A couple of posts ago, Dashboard Spy readers debated the definition of a dashboard. Some stated that the dashboard metaphor as a layout pattern or navigation device makes for a perfectly fine dashboard – even if it didn’t contain business intelligence artifacts such as metrics or charts. Others insisted that dashboards as we study them here must tell you something about the state of your business. Similarly, we have debated the difference between a dashboard and a scorecard.

Today we look at the fine lines between intranets, portals and dashboards. If you adhere to the “dashboard as a layout pattern” argument, then there doesn’t seem to be muxh of a difference between a portal and a dashboard. Both are often single page / multiple tab constructs that add value to the user by bringing disparate information together onto a single screen. If you belong to the “dashboards show a summary of your business” school, then what do we call those applications that mix business metrics portlets with news feeds? Think of sharepoint dashboards – are they dashboards or portals? Take a look at this demo of a SharePoint marketing dashboard and you’ll see a mixing of portal and dashboard type content.

The best way to get a feel for what is what (and for that matter, whether it’s important at all to differentiate and names these various dashboard-like applications) is to simply visit examples and decide for yourself.

For example, let’s take a look at an intranet/portal/dashboard product. adenin Technologies offers the “IntelliEnterprise Intranet Suite” as an “unbelievably complete intranet suite”. The adenin Live Demo Site allows us to explore an intranet installation that includes enterprise portals, document management sites, dashboards, workflow and more. There’s a lot in this suite which is perfect for this discussion.

The demo starts with a gateway page that allows you to simulate various user roles:

Adenin Intranet Demo User Profiles

You should visit the demo and lead yourself through the various modules, but let’s take a look at a couple of screens that caught my eye.

Click on the images below to enlarge them.

Portal Page on the Corporate Intranet

Portal Page on the Corporate Intranet

The above screenshot is that of the corporate portal. It seems like a typical intranet page, with a web portal-style layout. But look at the right column and you’ll see a portlet titled “New Order Volume”. Ah!! – a business metric makes an appearance. So does this make this a dashboard? Or a portal? Or a corporate intranet with business intelligence sensibilities?

Now take a look at this: (click on the more link for the rest of this post)

The screenshot below shows a particular user’s portal page. Take a look and you’ll see that it is a personalized portal page that allows the user to navigate to his business applications and workflow tasks. This page is truely acting as a “portal” – a doorway to a particular user’s systems.

This "My Portal" page allows access to a user's applications as well as workflow tasks

This Personalized Portal serves as a gateway for the user to her applications

This next screenshot shows a departmental portal. It’s for the HR department and also includes some business intelligence. Again, the line between portal and dashboard is blurred.

HR Portal - Department level Dashboard or Portal

HR Portal - Department level Dashboard or Portal

Now we get to what the folks at adenin call a “Dashboard“. This is a corporate management dashboard that consists of portlets containing various charts and graphs. Is this called a “dashboard” because it’s a one-page graphic depiction of the health of the business as seen through graphs of various KPIs?

Management Dashboard from the Adenin Intranet Portal Demo

Management Dashboard from the Adenin Intranet Portal Demo

As you see, there are various instantiations of dashboard-like applications. Call them what you want, they all serve to provide the end user with the following functionality:

  • Navigation
  • At-a-glance Understanding
  • Digital workplace
  • Business Health readings

I wanted to know more about this particular intranet suite and received the following from an adenin spokesperson:

adenin Technologies includes a business dashboards module in its IntelliEnterprise, a comphrenesive intranet suite. The modules lets managers create and manage dashboards with a real-time view of the business. The dashboards takes information from various corporate systems and data and turns it into meaningful visual presentations.

adenin Business Dashboards can visualize data from any ADO/ODBC compatible data sources to turn them into real-time metrics and performance indicators. It can also store any valid sql statement
returning name/value pairs or a single value to integrate existing data source.

Roles control access to all data sources so users can view only the information they are allowed to see.

Key features include:

  • Gauges
  • Pie charts
  • Bar charts
  • Line charts
  • Pyramid
  • Funnel
  • AppBuilder Integration for defining aggregated views for all application
    data that can be shown as a dashboard chart.

Again, the demo should be visited because there is a lot more than what I have shown. adenin Intranet Demo.

So what’s the difference between a dashboard and a portal? Let me know what you think.

This is a post by The Dashboard Spy. You may be reading this from a “scraped” source so be sure to visit these Dashboard Spy sites:

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One thought on “Intranets, Portals and Dashboards, Oh My!

  1. “what do we call those applications that mix business metrics portlets with news feeds?”

    They’re called mashups – a mashup is essentially anything that presents a range of differing information from differing sources, and this is a great example. Its subject matter makes it a bit dashboard-like, as it is mashing dashboard output.

    In fairness, both the dashboard content and the news content tell you stuff that’s relevant and qualitative, so this example is also on the fringes of being “a dashboard”.

    We’re seeing more of this in BI as Qlikview will happily suck data from anywhere, although only numbers as it still presents this through its core visualisation tool.

    Finally, I neaver meant to say that dashboards are only about business, but rather that they must give you the information you need regardless of the context and must be more informative than a phone book or a table of contents.

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