Donation Portfolio Dashboard

The Donation Dashboard is a project run by the Berkeley Center for New Media at that uses a dashboard approach to help users choose charitable giving opportunities. Did you know that, in the Unitied States, there are over a million registered non-profit organizations? This dashboard helps you select the right mix of charitable organizations to donate to.

Through a series of “rate this donation” type of questions, the site builds a donation portfolio for you. Instead of a long form, it uses a simple “slider bar” that you click on to indicate your interest. This works well from a design sense, because it allows for extensive information about each charity to be shown.

The underlying technology for this dashboard is interesting. It uses personalization and collaborative filtering techniques. According to the site,

Giving is getting easier with an experimental website called “Donation Dashboard,” which uses machine learning techniques to recommend a customized portfolio of good causes based on your personal ratings of sample non-profit organizations.

Here’s how it works: you are presented with brief descriptions of non- profit institutions and asked to rate each in terms of how interested you are in donating to it. The system analyzes your ratings in light of others’ ratings and does its best to allocate your available funds in proportion to your interests. Your customized “donation portfolio” is presented in an easy-to-understand pie chart that you can save at the site for future reference.

Donation Dashboard, which is being developed by the Berkeley Center for New Media, extends machine learning techniques used by commercial websites to recommend movies, music, and books.
Donation Dashboard goes beyond existing charity ranking sites by statistically combining your ratings with the ratings entered by your fellow good samaritans to compute a porfolio customized to your interests.

The Donation Dashboard website is a pilot system that includes information on 70 non-profit institutions. If the system is successful, the developers hope to expand it with other features and partner with a third party that can streamline collecting and distributing funds.

“There’s strength in numbers; the system should improve over time as the number of ratings increases, in this sense each person who visits the site contributes to the collective wisdom about good causes,” notes UC Berkeley Professor Ken Goldberg, who is developing the system with graduate students Tavi Nathanson and Ephrat Bitton at UC Berkeley, with conceptual input from Jim Buckmaster at craigslist.

Here is the dashboard. I quickly ran through the initial series of charities to arrive at this portfolio:

donation portfolio dashboard

Here’s a look at the dashboard screen for National Public Radio. Note the slider bar at the bottom. You click on it to give an indication of how interested you are in this particular organization.:

charitable giving dashboard

Give the dashboard a try and you’ll see how it refines your interests in the various organizations.


This is a post by The Dashboard Spy on Dashboards By Example. Visit the site for more dashboard examples.

Tags: Charitable donations dashboard

Interaction Design Principles

Dashboard Design Topic: Principles of Interaction Design for Dashboard Designers.

Dashboard designers and builders often back into the disciples of user interface and interaction design through necessity after a few business intelligence projects. Once they get a few dashboard projects under their belt, they realize that there are quite a few subtleties in a dashboard project beyond selecting metrics and applying information visualization best practices. Some come to the realization sooner than others. Those building a custom application with a dashboard tend to need to deal with interaction design issues sooner than those leveraging dashboard software platforms with their built-in user interface layouts and components. Either way, dashboard designers realize that they are building a user interface and need to apply fundamentals and principles that assure user satisfaction and acceptance.

Dashboard Spy readers tend to be a diverse lot with a variety of job functions and backgrounds. Even their learning styles are different. Usually we focus on the visual learners by showing numerous screenshots and image. Today’s post on Interation Design Prinicples is designed to appeal to those listening learners as well by using video content. As you know there is a Dashboard Spy site, Dashboards.TV, that collects video content regarding business intelligence dashboarding resources. From that library of videos comes today lecture on Interaction Design Principles. It’s a great resource that all dashboard designers should review.

From the O”Reilly Webcast, comes this 1 1/2 hour long presentation on the principles of interaction design. It reviews the six design patterns that are critical for designing web interfaces. The video is embedded below, but you may wish to view the high resolution version at youtube. The content is presented by Bill Scott, the director of UI engineering at netflix and follows the book titled Designing Web Interfaces: Principles and Patterns for Rich Interactions

I took the following notes during my viewing of this video:

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When Dashboards Are Not Enough

As much as digital dashboards rock my world, I have to keep in mind that business intelligence is much more than a dashboard. In terms of that old tired metaphor, if a dashboard shows me the metrics of my vehicle in a small location right in front of me, then business intelligence is everything else that I need to know – the view around the car, the view out the windshield, the sound of the engine, etc. In this example, the dashboard alone is not sufficient for me to drive the car. I need the additional input of the world around me to get to my destination.

Wait a minute, you say, pilots can fly by instrumentation alone. Ha! Take that, you Dashboard Spy you! I would reply that a pilot has a full cockpit. If you were to apply that analogy to a business dashboard, then you have to go beyond a simple one page, read-only dashboard and include business intelligence application functionality that can provide control and feedback. Your enhanced business cockpit would include what-if analytics, modeling etc.

I bring this up today because of a very interesting post from the UK. Data Monkey is a marketing analyst fond of bananas and dashboards. See photo:
data monkey

Data Monkey’s post on Why a Dashboard Won’t Solve All of Your Problems is a good read that reminds us not to be seduced by all that data out there:

Business Intelligence (BI) has come of age. Assuming your IT department knows roughly what they’re doing and you can afford it, you can have your latest sales, market share, media spend, Google conversion rates and any other metrics you care to mention on your screen on a Monday morning.

More information is incredibly seductive. If you had your sales and media spend histories at your fingertips, you could show the effectiveness of your current advertising campaign. Surely? Couldn’t you?

Well actually, no you couldn’t. Marketing analysts have had this data for ages and it takes them a couple of months (and a degree in statistics) to work it out.

His bottom line is that a dashboard can only show basic information:

As analysts, we’re often the ones selling dashboards, so lets be honest about what they do well. They show data. So to be useful, you have to be someone who needs to see that data – and I mean really needs to see it. Just the number. Not why the number, or where it came from, or what you might want to do about it.

Anything that goes beyond looking at a number isn’t a dashboard, it’s insight and analysis.

Be sure to read his post for more.

I’ve added Data Monkey’s blog, Wallpapering Fog: An analyst’s thoughts on the marketing industry to the information visualization section of The Dashboard Spy’s List of Experts.

What do you think?

Regards Hubert Lee, The Dashboard Spy

Tags: Business Intelligence Dashboards, Data Monkey, Dashboard Metrics

Intuition through Business Intelligence

Dashboards: Business intelligence tools, Business intuition enablers, or both?

The role of intuition in the business place has certainly grown in the “softer”, more people-focused areas of the enterprise. Note the number of books available on topics such as emotional quotients, consumer desire and team building. Decisions are made based not only on the cold hard facts (i.e. “the numbers”) but by more nebulous decision criteria. Can the same be said, however, for the more analytical parts of the business enterprise? Is there room for intuition when it comes to business intelligence?

Are numbers and metrics cut and dried? Certainly the gathering and crunching of the data should be held to a quantitative approach that is both rigorous and free of bias. The graphical display of the data, likewise, should be accomplished in a consise, accurate manner free of misleading suggestion. Information visualization experts such as Stephen Few (see his excellent book Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data and the upcoming Now You See It: Simple Visualization Techniques for Quantitative Analysis) constantly preach the importance of correct information graphic design.

In discussions with some Dashboard Spy readers, I’ve looked at both sides of this issue. I’ll share with you some of this very interesting discussion.

From a Dashboard Spy at Actuate, we get this contribution of how to make sure that you don’t confuse business intelligence with off-the-cuff intuition:

Business Intelligence Versus Intuition

Almost any good business-person will tell you that predictions based on detailed information are typically more reliable than predictions based on feelings or intuition. The saying “knowledge is power” operates on the premise that if you know more than your competitors do, you can make powerful decisions for your company. Nowadays, businesses are turning to business intelligence (BI) to help them guide their decision-making processes. BI can be a powerful tool, but it is only as strong as the data that the system analyzes. When poor or irrelevant data goes in, poor and irrelevant business intelligence is reported. Often, companies don’t know how to use their business intelligence systems correctly and end up relying on their gut feelings instead of their BI reports. The good news is that you can learn how to leverage your data to get the best possible business intelligence for your company.

One of the first and most important things that companies neglect to do is define their objectives. What do you want to get out of your business intelligence system? What are the factors that drive your business? What type of business decisions do you commonly face? By determining what type of information you’ll need from your system, you can work backwards to decide what data is important for your company, what is useful to have for future reference, and what can be discarded. You can apply this method to sales data, customer information, and other important information that your company has collected.

Once you have determined what data should go into the system, a process needs to be put in place to maintain the cleanliness and usability of the data. Designations must remain consistent in order for your business intelligence system to produce usable BI. For example, if one department inputs “Male” and another “M” under the same heading, reports crafted to include the information for customers under the “Male” designation will ignore the equally valuable information about customers under the “M” designation. By maintaining consistency across the board, your company will be able to get the information you need, when you need it.

Once you know what you’re looking for and have good data going into your business intelligence system, you can step back and let your system do what it was designed to do. You’ll find that your key decision makers will have to rely less and less on their instincts as they continue to get useful information from their business intelligence reports. By taking just a few steps, you can improve the way your company uses your BI investment.

Take a look at this sales dashboard for an online book seller. It is created using Actuate. You can learn more about Actuate dashboards here.

actuate dashboard

Yes, I agree that the quality of the data and the goals of your analysis are critical to getting actionable, accurate information from your BI system. I would take a slightly different angle about the Business Intelligence versus Intuition subject and frame it as “Business Intelligence Powers Intuition”.

The following book was brought to my attention regarding Business Intelligence and Intuition:

Climbing the Ladder of Business Intelligence: Happy About Creating Excellence through Enabled Intuition

One of the authors, James E. Cates, has a presentation titled Ladder of Business Intelligence (LOBI) with an brief introduction of the framework offered in the book.

Here are some interesting images from the presentation.

As you will see the 10 levels on the Ladder of Business Intelligence are:

  1. Facts
  2. Data
  3. Information
  4. Knowledge
  5. Understanding
  6. Enabled Intuition


Ladder of Business Intelligence - BI Framework

Steps toward Enabled Intuition

Dashboards enable Intuition

A definite take-away would be that business intelligence dashboards are tools that we deploy to enable corporations to achieve the ultimate goal of enlightened intuition. This end state allows solid data and valid interpretation to power business intuition.

Do you think Business Intelligence leads to Business Intuition?

Tags: Actuate Dashboards, Business Intelligence Dashboards

2009 Year of the Mashup Dashboard

If poring over another year’s worth of business intelligence dashboards has taught me anything, it’s that the very form and structure of a digital dashboard is what gives it such value and utility. We’ve heard it said over and over from many a dashboard design guru that a dashboard should be a single page, easy-to-absorb, summary of your most key performance indicators. I agree that this “at-a-glance” nature of a business dashboard is its most core attribute.

Just as imagery can be such a powerful device in poetry, the snapshot that a dashboard provides can be the strongest call-to-action for corporate managers. Think of a dashboard as the haiku form of business intelligence. What is more compelling – a 30 page printed report or a handful of charts and alerts right there on the screen in front of you?

The fact that we are constrained by the screen real estate of a single page dashboard forces us to prioritize. During the dashboard design process, we are challenged to indentify the KPIs and metrics that most matter to us. The fact that we can only select 4 charts, for example, means that those 4 charts must be the most meaningful.

Looking through all those dashboard screenshots during this last year, however, has shown me that the world of dashboard content is limitless. What particular chart or metric shows up on my dashboard or your dashboard does not mean that it is what is desired by our coworkers. The content of a dashboard doesn’t even have to be driven by databases that we own. Dashboard portlets can contain navigation elements to other systems, mini applications, images or anything else of value to the user.

We have looked at the concept of enterprise dashboards as mashups. Many business intelligence gurus are forecasting mashups as a huge trend for dashboards in 2009.

A recent podcast by BriefingsDirect titled “Analyts Make 2009 Predictions for Enterprise IT, SOA, Cloud and Business Intelligence” examines the major trends for IT in 2009. Click on the link for the transcript and the podcast itself. Note the emphasis on mashup dashboards as part of “Extreme BI” as driven by end user needs.

We’ll see more BI become social networking, in the sense of mashup as a style of BI application, reporting, dashboards, and development. Mashups for user self-service BI development will come to the fore. It will be a huge theme in the BI space in 2009 and beyond of that.

Finally, let me point out that from the view point of the end user, dashboards in general (and mashup dashboards in particular) have become more accessible that ever. Without the intervention of the IT department, business users can create their own mashup dashboards right now.

We’ve looked at how easy and powerful Google Sites dashboards can be. Check out that link to see some awesome free dashboard templates from Google. We’ve looked at Google Sites for Project management dashboards as well.

On those earlier posts, we didn’t look under the hood at exactly how the Google Sites dashboards allow for mashup of content, so let’s take a quick peek now.

Here is the configuration mode for the Google Sites dashboard template. Note how each dashboard portlet can be configured with whatever content you want. Pick from whatever content you would find helpful on your personal dashboard. Truely, it’s a dashboard end users world now. Welcome to 2009.

Google Sites Dashboard Configuration

Tags: Configuration of Google Sites Dashboard, Mashup Dashboards, Extreme BI, business intelligence dashboards, year of the mashup dashboard

Real Time Operational Dashboard Case Study

The Dashboard Spy is pleased to be cited as a enterprise digital dashboard resource in the fine whitepaper by Sidney Shek titled Enterprise Digital Dashboards as Rich Internet Applications. This CSC paper was added to the CSC Leading Edge Forum Knowledge Library a while back, but came back to mind recently as I helped a Dashboard Spy reader design an operational dashboard.

Let’s take a look at a prototype dashboard featured in the whitepaper. It’s a real-time operational dashboard designed to track the operation of a Hot Strip Mill. You may have seen videos on Mr. Rogers where slabs of steel are heated and rolled through a series of operations until you have an inch thick piece of metal. It’s an awesome process that deals with huge machines and temperatures of up to 2300 degrees farenheit.

hot strip mill steel slabs Steel Mill Process Rolled Steel Mill

Here is the Hot Strip Mill dashboard itself.

Hot Strip Mill Dashboard

Let’s have a look at the commentary on this dashboard from the white paper. Here is the use case:

For this example, this dashboard is designed to be used by a manager of a production plant to view what is currently happening in the plant. The dashboard can be kept running on his/her computer on a second monitor in the background so that the manager can glance at it occasionally and pick up key performance indicators and current production status. When problems in the plant occur, there is sufficient detail on the dashboard to identify possible causes (through operator comments) and possible impacts (through information about the most recent products). The manager can drill down from the dashboard to investigate further if required. Changes in the plant’s status (e.g. when a stoppage occurs) are pushed from the server through to the client dashboard so that the information on the dashboard are kept up-to-date without requiring frequent polling of the server.

Click on the “read more” link to see the rest of the commentary on this real-time operational dashboard.

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E-Zone Dashboard

A Dashboard Spy’s job is never done, it seems. Even while doing some traveling and shopping for the holidays, I came across some very interesting data visualizations such as this Spanish language diagram about e-zones of all things. It was in a book I was flipping through at Saks on Fifth Avenue titled Latin American Graphic Design.

This example of an information dashboard should put to rest any concern that data analysis is a boring occupation. I’m sure that the data gathering and analysis behind these metrics proved stimulating. Yes, the research tasks may have been repetitive across many subjects, but, if the researchers put their minds to it, I’m sure they got through the data sampling just fine.

As the metrics were not presented in English, I’m not exactly sure what statistics are shown on this data visualization, but I think that certain things in this world are universally understood.

Here is the information visualization graphic. I call it the Erogenous Zones Dashboard. I told you kids that Business Intelligence isn’t boring!

e-zone dashboard

And here is a screen capture of the front page of the book that I grabbed the dashboard from.

latin american graphic design

Tags: e-zones information visualization, zone dashboard


When a Dashboard Goes Red

Dashboard Design Topic: Using Colors for Business Dashboard Alerts

You hear about a problem so you log on to your business dashboard looking for red alerts among your KPIs and metrics. Not an uncommon use case, right? Your dashboard should clearly alert you to the conditions most requiring attention. Well, let’s spend this post talking about how to display alert conditions.

First off, think about the “heirarchy of alerts” that exist in your organization. There are, of course, the low-level everyday advisory types of alerts. “Did you know?” style alerting includes announcements and reminders such as service advisories. Then there are more of the health status indications. These are what we think of when we want to report on the state of KPIs and metrics. The real challenge here is to design the alerts such that they stand out on your busy dashboard.

We’ll address some of the principles behind the effective design of alerts, but first I’d like you to visit this post for a humorous look at the idea of the “heirarchy of alerts“.

Getting back to designing alerts on dashboards, take a look at the “Red Alerts” in this graphic below. There are 7 of them:

Dashboard Icons Picking out the Red Alerts

Now take a look at the 7 Red Alerts in this graphic:

Easy to Pick out the Red Alerts

This visual design exercise simply shows that when you reduce visual “noise”, the “signal” becomes much easier to understand.

Let’s illustrate this principal with a great example contributed by Dashboard Spy reader Mike Gaffney, a talented software architect and dashboard designer at BoxTone, a company that monitors mobile application service levels. In his blog post titled The BoxTone Dashboard and the Blackberry Outage, Mike shares his view that dashboards must use strong color values only to indicate alert states:

If you quickly glance at the dashboard in its normal state (version 1) and the dashboard in its “alert” state (version 2), you should immediately notice that version 2 stands out more. It stands out more because of the careful and restrained use of colors.

Unlike many other dashboards, the BoxTone Dashboard uses highly saturated colors only when there is a problem. Edward Tufte’s, Envisioning Information (1990), has a chapter entitled “Color and Information” which provides an excellent overview on the use of color. When everything is normal, the BoxTone Dashboard looks, well … normal.

Our users are highly intelligent people. They do not need bright green check marks to make them feel good about themselves. They bought BoxTone to tell them when something is wrong. And when something is wrong, they want to know what it is and quickly!

A single bright red dot on a calm page screams out and demands the user’s immediate attention. On February 11, 2008 (date of the RIM Blackberry Outage), this technique is what allowed our users to know instantly that the problem was a global one.

Here are some screenshots showing what Mike is talking about.

Here is the BoxTone dashboard in it’s normal state. Click on the dashboard screenshot to enlarge the dashboard.

boxtone blackberry monitoring dashboard

Now take a look at the dashboard in an alert condition:

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Oracle JD Edwards Plant Management Dashboard

Dashboard Topic: Operational Management Dashboards, Manufacturing Plant Dashboard

Thanks goes to the Dashboard Spy Reader who sent me the link to the pdf from Oracle titled Plant Manager’s Dashboard. This really helps out another Dashboard Spy reader who was recently assigned to a manufacturing plant analytics project.

The Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Plant Management Dashboard leverages data from the central ERP database and displays metrics for the following areas:

  • Revenue Management
  • Customer Shipment Performance
  • Manufacturing Performance

Here’s a quick screengrab from the pdf, but page down for a listing of the operational metrics used.

Oracle JD Edwards Dashboard

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Difference between Balanced Scorecard and Enterprise Dashboard

Update: The topic of “dashboard” vs. “scorecard” is still alive and kicking about in business intelligence circles. Take a look at this recent post:

What is the difference between a scorecard and a dashboard?

A Dashboard Spy reader who is getting involved in a balanced scorecard reporting project asked me the difference between enterprise dashboards and balanced scorecards. He was getting confused between all the different approaches that his team could take. We had an interesting conversation with a couple of interesting screenshots that we passed back and forth. I thought it valuable enough to share with you today.

An interesting webpage on the difference between balanced scorecards and enterprise dashboards can be found here: Dashboards vs. Scorecards.  The page states correctly that the difference lies in the degree of “balanced scorecard formality”, that is, the balance scorecard approach has strict elements:

Components of a True Balanced Scorecard: While both Balanced Scorecards and Dashboards display performance information, a Balanced Scorecard is a more prescriptive format; a true Balanced Scorecard should always include these components: Perspectives (groupings of high-level strategic areas), Objectives (verb-noun phrases pulled from a strategic plan), Measures (also called Metrics or Key Performance Indicators/KPIs), and Stoplight Indicators (red, yellow, or green symbols that provide an at-a-glance view of a Measure’s performance). These specific components help ensure that a Balanced Scorecard is inherently tied to the organization’s critical strategic needs.

They provide the following example of a balanced scorecard dashboard:

Balanced Scorecard Dashboard

This is contrasted against the more loosely defined standard of an enterprise dashboard:

Dashboards – More Loosely Defined. The design of Dashboards, on the other hand, is much more open to interpretation. Most Dashboards are simply a series of graphs, charts, gauges, or other visual indicators that a user has chosen to monitor, some of which may be strategically important, but others of which may not. Even if a strategic link exists, it may not be clear to the person monitoring the Dashboard, since the Objective statements, which explain what achievement is desired, are typically not present on Dashboards.

As an example of a dashboard, the company took a subset of the above balanced scorecard and presented it as a more high-level KPI dashboard. It focuses on presenting a manufacturer’s sales KPIs.

Manufacturing sales KPI dashboard

Tags: Balanced Scorecard vs. Enterprise Dashboard, Manufacturing KPIs and Metrics, Enterprise Dashboard Design, Balanced Scorecard Methodology, Difference between scorecards and dashboards

Dashboard Spy Reader bonus link: Download article from the Harvard Business Review – The Balanced Scorecard – Measures That Drive Performance

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