Communicating Through Business Dashboards

Many companies are still just getting into business intelligence dashboards, so it probably is a bit premature to talk about Dashboards 2.0. But, we as a community have certainly learned a thing or two about the best practices of presenting business information through digital dashboards.

Let’s look at the cutting edge of dashboarding and see what innovations are happening there – particularly with the use of business dashboards as active messaging platforms.

What do I mean, exactly?

Start by asking yourself this question: How active is the messaging functionality in your corporate dashboards? Yes, you publish metrics and business indicators to your audience via tables and charts. Yes, you even have a widget on your dashboard that provides company news and “Did you know?” highlights.

But does your dashboard let you actively push a message to your viewers in real time? What kind of message? A system-based alert? Can it handle a human-published message?

Take a look at what Klipfolio is doing with Klipfolio Publisher. If you will recall, Klipfolio has been innovating in the business dashboard space through their unique “desktop dashboards”. These clever “gadget or widget-style” mini-apps reside on the the desktop and appear when you boot up your machine. No need to launch a specific app or load a particular webpage. They take up very little real estate and appear when needed. Klipfolio’s latest versions of the desktop dashboards take advantage of some very powerful messaging functionality.

Take a look at this message that comes from the dashboard widget:

Klipfolio Publisher

Want to see how that message was configured and sent out? I’ll show you, but first take a look at this quick video of me talking about communicating to your user base through digital dashboards and urging you to download and try Klipfolio (go to this link: Klipfolio Dashboard .


Here’s what the admin page looks like for the creation of the message:

Klipfolio publisher message administration page

Here is how you set the severity level of the communication:

Klipfolio publisher message severity level

And here is the message down in the system tray area of your desktop.

Klipfolio publisher message severity level

Now doesn’t that give you ideas as to how your dashboard can be a more active part of your communication strategy to your user base?

Here’s a video on Klipfolio Publisher:


The Klipfolio Publisher functionality is part of the new Klipfolio release. Here is some info:

There’s 2 big changes for this release and a number of smaller ones. The first highly visible change is the addition of interactive pie charts that let users mouseover different pie segments to get more info on a given KPI. The second is a secure, hosted, publisher that let’s users share news and alerts with their team or whole organization via their desktop dashboards without any help from IT.

And finally, here is the press release:

Klipfolio Dashboard Simplifies Real-Time Alerts & Notification
New release gives managers and communicators publishing power without taxing IT

Ottawa, Canada – December 1, 2009: Klipfolio, Inc., developer of KPI dashboards, today announced the immediate availability of Klipfolio Dashboard version 5.3. The dashboard software now adds organizational and departmental notifications and alerts to its well-known strength in KPI reporting for operational decision makers.

While dashboard software aims to give workers the performance data they need when they need it, achieving this goal can also increase the burden on overworked IT departments. Klipfolio Dashboard solves the first problem by putting KPIs in front of every employee all day long. Now Klipfolio addresses the second problem with real-time alerts and notification that are completely self-serve and require no IT intervention.

KPI dashboards from Klipfolio are popular with Fortune 1000 firms like Baxter Healthcare, EMC and Lufthansa for improving data visibility for business performance metrics using a light-weight desktop dashboard that exposes performance indicators and drives application adoption.

“The new real-time publishing system is invaluable for employee alerts,” say Allan Wille, CEO of Klipfolio. “Above and beyond internal communications, every department needs to communicate with their staff. Klipfolio Dashboard Publisher let’s managers and communicators notify the workforce with anything from passive news to critical alerts that require acknowledgement – all without any added IT effort.”

The 5.3 release also builds on Klipfolio Dashboard’s ability to share KPIs at a glance. In addition to tables and bar charts, desktop dashboard users can now visualize KPIs in interactive pie charts as well as searching and filtering dashboard KPIs with a new find feature. Finally, the new version also adds support for Microsoft’s XML Excel spreadsheets – the .xlsx format.

About Klipfolio Inc.
Klipfolio develops Klipfolio Dashboard – the KPI Dashboard – to help the Fortune 1000 increase the visibility of key performance indicators for informed decisions that improve performance and profitability. It is the only business dashboard that presents operational information directly on the desktop where it’s always visible, accessible, and actionable. Clients include Intel, Staples, Baxter Healthcare, EMC and Lufthansa. For more information, visit For more information visit, call +1.877.233.6149 US and Canada or +1.613.233.6149 Worldwide, or email

Google Analytics Marketing Dashboard

Enterprise Dashboard Example from the Desk of The Dashboard Spy ( – Long time readers know that I always approach business dashboard design with a fierce user-centric focus. My background as a user experience director and information architect just doesn’t allow me to do otherwise. (In fact, I’m the originator of a user-centric approach called Users FIRST that I’ll describe in a future post)

Designing a successful user experience (a business intelligence dashboard, in this case) requires an understanding of the true wants and needs of the end user. Note that I use the word “true” when describing a user’s requirements. In my experience, the “true” desires of a user are often not explicitly stated by the user and have to be drawn out. Successfully doing so requires a patient and sincere bonding experience with the user.

In today’s enterprise dashboard example, I highlight a dashboard that is successful exactly because the designers understand the user’s “true” hot buttons. It’s a marketing metrics dashboard from, the makers of “desktop dashboards” – widget / gadget like dashboards that reside on the desktop level (they appear automatically when you turn on your pc and can expand and collapse to the sides of your screen).

Specifically, the dashboard that I have in mind is the Klipfolio Google Analytics Dashboard. It’s for web marketers and analysts looking to track the performance of their website in terms of marketing metrics. Typical KPIs include top keywords, visitor statistics, goal conversion rates, etc.

Let’s take a look at the Google Analytics Dashboard first and then I’ll tell you why I think this dashboard is so successful (hint: It gives the user something they really want).

Google Analytics Dashboard from Klipfolio

Here’s why I think that this dashboard really hits the user’s needs square on. Of course, it offers the user those metrics that they really want. In fact, the Klipfolio Dashboard for Google Analytics lets the user choose from what they call “Klips” to put on their dashboard via a control panel. Users can tailor the selection they want from many web site stats and calculations. But the real “secret sauce” of this dashboard is that the designers understood the psychology of the marketing user and their incredible need (sometimes outrageously extreme) to keep refreshing their screens to see the latest Google stats. How many people have hit “refresh” over and over again to see how many new conversions or visitors they get?

By incorporating the “desktop dashboard” approach to information delivery where the data display becomes part of your desktop and automatically refreshing the Google data, this dashboard neatly meets a major need for the user – automatic updates of web stats that are constantly in view yet don’t obscure their desktop nor interfere with their work flow.

I just love the idea. It’s perfect for web analytics and I think can be applied to many other areas of the enterprise.

The Klipfolio Dashboard for Google Analytics just got released in a new version. Here are some details from Klipfolio:

Better visibility into web analytics data benefits marketing professionals, new media agencies, and web masters alike. Klipfolio Dashboard for Google Analytics helps those professionals and organizations improve web-based marketing ROI by removing barriers to using Google Analytics more effectively and often.

Unlike web-based or other applications that must be opened and can hide behind other windows, Klipfolio Dashboard for Google Analytics is a desktop sidebar that keeps key web metrics always visible for “top of mind” awareness and at-a-glance understanding. It enables side-by-side comparison of KPI reports, with current and previous date ranges to provide context and trending information.

With Klipfolio Dashboard for Google Analytics, web-site analysts can read accounts with multiple websites and sub-domains in one place. Its unique ability to duplicate Klips – the small graphical displays that make up Klipfolio dashboards – enables side-by-side goal tracking of multiple websites.

Klipfolio has also updated its Google Adwords Klip to provide more information and Goal Conversion Rate data for Traffic Sources, Adwords, Keywords, and Goals. Its sorting capabilities mean users can quickly see what is performing best, filter out nonperformers, and key in on what matters most. They can drill down on traffic sources for a summary, and then drill into their top referring sites for details.

Klipfolio Dashboard for Google Analytics lets users choose among a variety of Klips, so they can display the web analytics and trends over time that matter to them. Available Klips include top keywords, Web visitor statistics (including page views and bounce rates), traffic sources, goal performance, and Google Adwords campaign performance metrics.

Download the sample and try it out. Let me know if you find the desktop dashboard approach useful and compelling. It’s certainly neat!


Hubert Lee
The Dashboard Spy

Management Transparency through Dashboards

Enterprise Dashboard Topic: Xcelsius Dashboard Case Study from The Dashboard Spy

Unless we’re careful, we dashboard designers may fall into the trap of becoming ivory tower theorists. Isolated from the nitty gritty of real life, we would be unable to tie our dashboards to the real wants and needs of our users. How so? Well, in designing a dashboard, we explore several fields that rely heavily on theory and fundamentals: usability, cognitive behavior, information visualization, data graphing and representation, graphic design, etc. In all these fields, we avidly read the rules and practices espoused by the core group of experts (often opinionated, always persuasive!) and sometimes risk going overboard and putting theory before the flexibility required by actual users. It’s easy to think that we (or the gurus) know best, when, in actuality, it’s the users (yes – contentious statement).

To turn this thought into a case study with a real, implemented business dashboard, let’s consider the situation today regarding rising gasoline prices. Sure, it’s hurting all of us, but those people in states with higher gas taxes really feel the pinch. Take a look at this great listing of state sales, gas, cig and alc. taxes. The gas taxes are used in various ways. In fact, they typically go to a multitude of different state agencies to fund projects of all sorts.

It’s in times of rising prices (and short tempers) that tax payers demand visibility into how their tax dollars are being spent. Management transparency becomes an absolute requirement by the public. Of course, the web and the rise of management dashboards fit this need very well.

The Washington State Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) has taken a major step in terms of management transparency by putting onto their public website, an extensive performance dashboard. The TIB GMAP Dashboard was launched to the public on May 1, 2008 and provides visiblity of KPIs and metrics for the projects funded by their share of the tax revenue.

Getting back to the theme of real user needs versus ivory-tower thinking, this dashboard application shows the balance that can be struck between design principals and real-world contraints. It’s not the most “correct” BI dashboard implementation out there, but it will certainly be a hit with the users. The choice of Xcelsius and its flash-based interactivity has some nice glitz to it. While some charts and graphs may be better designed from an information visualization point of view, the level of utility is high. Check out the screenshot below of the use of sparklines to show historic trends – nice!.

After 4 years of internal use, user feedback and constant iteration, the team had confidence that the public would find not only great utility in the data, but a satisfaction from seeing how their tax dollars were being put to use. It took 4 years of evolution and listening to constituents that got the TIB to their current level of transparency. Good job!

Here is a screenshot of the Xcelsius dashboard:

Performance Dashboard for Transportation Project Management

If you are on the front page of the Dashboards By Example blog, be sure to click on the following “more” link to see the rest of this post as there will be a great video of this flash-based dashboard as well as more screenshots and business case documentation.

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Mashups on Enterprise Dashboards – Is Mash-Dash the 2.0 of Enterprise Dashboards?

Enterprise dashboard implementation teams know that these business dashboards have always “mashed” together content from multiple sources. In fact, a big rationale for both enterprise dashboards and portals, is always the bringing together in a single view, content from sometimes far-flung systems across the enterprise.

What’s new in the current buzz about “mashups“, is the ease of bringing together content from target systems, both from your enterprise and from outside. This idea is not new (web services, syndicated feeds, sharing webparts in Sharepoint, etc), but this current ease of use (as seen in all those web 2.0 applications) is now making its way to enterprise dashboards.

The “Winter 07” of has mashup capability as you see from this screenshot. I can tell right away that the dashboard now has some business objectcs xcelsius components. See this article about the mashup. mashup dashboard

salesforce mash dash

As soon as some Dashboard Spies get me some screenshots of their mash-dashes in action, I’ll post them here for all you other enterprise dashboard fanatics.

Tags: Mash Dash, enterprise dashboard, enterprise dashboards 2.0, dashboard design, business, enterprise mashup, business intelligence

So who is the Dashboard Spy? No one really knows, but his growing collection of enterprise dashboard screenshots has captured the imagination of the executive dashboarding community. From excel dashboards and custom-built business scorecards, to xcelsius and flex-based visualizations, the dashboard screenshots at serve both as nuggets of inspiration and warnings of what not to do on an enterprise dashboard. These hits and misses will enlighten and entertain. Technology-neutral, and always business-driven, the Dashboard Spy website is the place to go to learn about the latest enterprise dashboard packages. Check out the Dashboard Spy’s latest recommended book, Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data.

The Dashboard Spy Business Intelligence Dashboards Blog

Microstrategy Report Services Enterprise Dashboard Screenshots

Dashboard Topic: Enterprise Dashboards

Rounding out the sample executive dashboard screenshots from the enterprise dashboard vendors reviewed in the 2005 Meta Group rankings of enterprise reporting and dashboard vendors, is this set of Microstrategy management dashboards.  Microstrategy scored lower due mostly to the newness of its enterprise dashboard product offerring. As the Meta Group commented:

MicroStrategy 8: Report Services, NarrowCast, and MicroStrategy Office 

MicroStrategy has greatly improved its enterprise reporting and dashboard offering with the 8.0 release of Report Services. Improvements include the support of multiple output formats, much improved reporting and developer interfaces, SAP BW integration and the addition of data mining support. Report Services is integrated seamlessly into the overall MicroStrategy 8 product suite. Holding MicroStrategy back in the overall ranking is the relative newness of the Report Services product.


• Strong Web-based developer and end-user environments
• Integration of reporting and analysis within the same interface
• Best-in-class developer environment and support for parameters
• Above-average distribution capabilities
• Strong integration with multiple portal products


• Low presence and scalability ratings due to relative newness of product
• No check in/check out or versioning support for multiple developers
• Administration is not Web-based
• Report Services pricing is high, and MicroStrategy is difficult to negotiate with; this makes standardizing
on Report Services for all reporting needs (simple to complex) difficult

Here we take a look at several enterprise dashboards done using Microstrategy. See more examples of Microstrategy Report Services Dashboards at their site.

Here is management scorecard:

Microstrategy Report Services Management Scorecard

This is a performance management dashboard:

Microstrategy Performance Management Dashboard

And here is a shipping timeliness analysis:

Microstrategy enterprise dashboard

Followup: Enterprise Dashboards – KPIs, Metrics, Drill down reports – after deciding on the content, you’ll need to focus on how the deliver the dashboard. Web-based, fat client or how about desktop dashboard, even?

So who is the Dashboard Spy? No one really knows, but his growing collection of enterprise dashboard screenshots has captured the imagination of the executive dashboarding community. From excel dashboards and custom-built business scorecards, to xcelsius and flex-based visualizations, the dashboard screenshots at serve both as nuggets of inspiration and warnings of what not to do on an enterprise dashboard. These hits and misses will enlighten and entertain. Technology-neutral, and always business-driven, the Dashboard Spy website is the place to go to learn about the latest enterprise dashboard packages. Check out the Dashboard Spy’s latest recommended book, Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data.

The Dashboard Spy Business Intelligence Dashboards Blog

Identifying Enterprise Dashboard Metrics – process, templates, project structure

Enterprise Dashboard Topic: KPI Metrics

Ultimately, the discussion will no longer be about whether or not your business has an enterprise dashboard and will instead focus on what kind of dashboard it uses and which KPI reports it provides.

Thanks goes to a Dashboard Spy out there for this glimpse into one health organization's process for gathering user ideas for enterprise dashboard metrics and then rolling them out to the enterprise dashboard.

The first graphic is of the process used to implement a particular dashboard measure. It's a 6 step process of Identification, Submission, Selection, Development, Testing, and Rollout.

Digital Dashboard Project KPI 

This next screenshot is of the user requirements template for the proposed metric. The users are asked for the following: Metric title, description, look, assumptions, data source, update frequency, and Subject Matter Expert. 

Dashboarding Metrics

Here is a look at the team structure put together for this project. Note the composition of both the business and IT sides. Also, Goverance is key:

Dashboard Goverance

So what or who is The Dashboard Spy? As his about page states, The Dashboard Spy is just a guy interested in the design of enterprise dashboards. He could not find any executive dashboard design source books (or even screenshots of real business dashboards) and so set about creating his own. Finally convinced to post his extensive collection of dashboard screenshots online, he was amazed to find how popular it has become. If you have a nice screenshot of a digital dashboard, balanced scorecard, or any business intelligence graphic to share, please send an email to info _at_ Also check out The Dashboard Spy's favorite books.