SAS Graph iPhone Dashboard

A lot of Dashboard Spy readers have Apple iPhones on their brains these days. With the release of the new iPhone models (3G S) and the price drop of the older 8 gb iPhone to $99, there’s a lot of buzz right now. Personally, I’ve been having an adventure with a “detected but not identified” message when I connect my own iPhone to my Dell laptop but now I’m digressing (see comments below for the work-around that solves it).

Long time Dashboard Spy reader and SAS/GRAPH guru Robert Allison has developed a nifty iPhone dashboard. Take a look at this screenshot:

SAS Graph dashboard for iphone

He was sparked by an image of a dashboard that appeared on this blog, but I’ll let Robert tell the story.

A while back, the “DashboardSpy” posted up a mock-up of a dashboard
for an iPhone.  He got it from BonaVista Systems (it was a graphic they had
used for a contest), and I checked with Andreas Lipphardt of BonaVista Systems
and he says the iPhone dashboard is a “screen mockup”.

http://enterprise-dashboard.com/2008/05/05/the-future-of-excel-dashboards/

I decided to try to create the _real_ thing, using SAS/Graph! 🙂

How did I create it?

First, I found that the screen dimensions of an iPhone are 320×480 pixels.
Therefore, I set my xpixels and ypixels to those values.

Then, to create the dashboard, I started with a “gplot”, but I only
used it for the haxis and to give me a coordinate system to work with.
I pretty much annotated everything except for the numbers on the haxis.

The names of the “Key Figures” along the left are actually outside of
the gplot axes, and everything to the right of that text is ‘inside’
of the plot axes.  I used a large “offset” value in my haxis to allow
room for me to annotate the red dots, the sparklines, the CV, and
the bar values to the left of the 0% axis value.  I use an angled
title on the left of the graph to guarantee that I have room on that
side to annotate the text for the “Key Figure” names.

For the sparklines, I put 12 variables in my dataset (line1-line12),
and connect them with annotate move/draw.

For the bullet graphs, I annotate a ‘bar’ for each of the 3 shaded
sections behind them, and I annotate a move/draw line segment (with
a wide thickness) for the ‘bar’.

Notice that some of the lines of data have all-missing numerical values.
These are the ones for the section labels, etc.

I tried to write it somewhat generalized, so that you can have a different
number of lines of data, etc.

You can find the full write-up and SAS code for this dashboard here:

Robert Allison’s SAS GRAPH iPhone Dashboard

Here are some images from Robert:

The “mockup” of an iPhone dashboard:

iphone dashboard mockup

A real iPhone Dashboard created with SAS/GRAPH:

real iphone dashboard with sas graph

About to zoom in on the iPhone dashboard:

SAS iphone dashboards

The enlarged view of the SAS iPhone Dashboard:

sas graph dashboard on the iphone 3g

And here is a view of the rotated dashboard:

iphone dashboards for sas

As always, Robert Allison has done a great job with the dashboard. Check out his other sample dashboards at Robert Allison’s SAS/Graph Samples.

Tags: iPhone dashboard, sas dashboard

Sales Throughput Dashboard with LED Meters

Dashboard designer and SAS/GRAPH expert Robert Allison walks us through the thinking behind his latest dashboard – a sales throughput dashboard complete with LED meters. Thank you Robert!

Dashboard Spy, a while back, you featured a sales dashboard with LED-meters . It measured sales order throughput and was accompanied by some negative commentary from Stephen Few.

Sales Order Throughput Dashboard with LED meters

Your readers may recall Stephen Few’s comments and his opinion that the display was poor :

“Enormous effort was dedicated to the creation of display widgets that look like controls that you might find on an old electronic control board, such as one for mixing sound. Most of the measures were designed to look like LED (liquid emitting diode) meters, with tall stacks of green, yellow, or red light horizontal bands of light set in a framework of burnished metal. Old audio mixers used LED meters because that was the state of the art, the best that technology could offer at the time, but a computer screen is capable of displays that are light years beyond and much easier to read than LED meters.”

Being a part-time DJ, with lots of audio equipment that has LED-meters – this “poor” dashboard always caught my eye, and I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to try to do a “decent” version of a dashboard that uses these retro LED-meters (with SAS/Graph, of course!). Well, I finally got around to it!

Hopefully my version is visually captivating *and* conveys the data in a fairly decent manner. You can try it out at http://robslink.com/SAS/democd37/throughput.htm.

Sales Throughput Dashboard with LED Meters by Robert Allison

Once I got into it, I found that the LED-meters aren’t really that bad a design. They’re actually a lot like a bullet graph. For example the red & yellow lines are like the ‘range’ colors behind the bullet bars, and the lighted section is like the bar (especially in my slightly-modified version). And, if I really wanted, I could add a “target” marker, making it even more like a bullet graph.

Here are my specific improvements, which hopefully make this an acceptable dashboard:

  • Per the LED-meters … I made the lighted section of the LED-meters a *lot* brighter, and made it where you can distinctly see that the lighted section is a bar chart ‘bar’. Also, it took quite a bit of scrutinizing the values to determine that all the bars across the page were to the same scale, and that the scale went from 0-1000. Therefore, I added an axis to the left, showing the min & max values to make this more obvious.
  • Rather than using a gauge to show the total number of orders, I just write the total number where the gauge was (and I write it *really* big!) This way, you can easily see that number, from many feet away (this could be useful if the dashboard is on display for a group, rather than being looked at by one user on their own screen).
  • I couldn’t read the text in the original dashboard very easily (maybe it was a resized screen-capture?), so I made mine larger, with larger/bolder text.
  • And, in case you still can’t read the values printed above the LED-meter bars, I added html charttip/hover-text so you can see the exact value that way. (I also added drilldown capability to the bars, although I don’t have any more-detailed data to really drill down to.) And in case you don’t know what ‘Jeop.’ means … you can hover over that bar, and find that this is the number of Orders that are in “Jeopardy” … html charttips are kinda handy!
  • Rather than cluttering the dashboard with visually distracting select lists (and a rotary knob to select a time ‘period’ … which seems redundant with the select list for choosing beginning/ending date), I merely print the selected values on the dashboard, and let the user click on any of those values to take them to the selection screen to let them change those values.
  • Why does a dashboard need an analog clock (with no numbers) cluttering the bottom/right? … I will assume that most Windows users have a clock somewhere on their screen, if they want one (personally, I keep the default digital clock at the bottom/right of my screen).
  • And, rather than using a “burnished metal” look with reflective shading, I went with simpler solid colors. And I used black, rather than shades of dark green – this way, I have a higher contrast with the white text, making it easier to read, and there is no confusion between green LED bars and a green background.

Best Regards,
Robert A

Tags: SAS/GRAPH Dashboard, Sales Dashboard, Order Throughput Dashboard, LED Meter Dashboards

Manufacturing Dashboard using SAS/GRAPH

“SAS/GRAPH for great dashboards – Can SAS really do that?” Yes. If you license BASE SAS and SAS/GRAPH, you may already own the most powerful dashboard software in the world. You would never know it from the examples published by the SAS Institute, but SAS/GRAPH can render virtually any graphical display with high resolution and great fidelity to the design.

That’s the provocative start to a great post by Dashboard Spy reader, Neil Dulohery of Whitmarsh Associates as part of his blog, AutomateBI.

We’ve seen some wonderful examples of SAS/GRAPH dashboards by long-time Dashboard Spy contributor Robert Allison, but until now, he’s been practically alone in his pursuits. We’re glad to see our ranks of SAS/GRAPH dashboarders swell!

Take a look at the manufacturing dashboard provided by Neil Dulohery. It monitors the procurement of raw materials:

SAS/GRAPH dashboard for manufacturing

As Neil explained to me “Here is a manufacturing dashboard to monitor procurement of raw materials. The Lincoln Mill is fictional. All of the information is simulated. The real project in production for a number of manufacturing plants across the U.S. The project was developed in SAS/GRAPH, version 9.2. It is deployed as a set of interlinked web pages that refresh at 30 minute intervals. Users can drill down from dashboard indicators to supporting detail. My original post explaining the dashboard is available at SAS/GRAPH for Great Dashboards.

Here are some excerpts from his post explaining his dashboard. Be sure to visit Neil’s post to get the full details.

In Stephen Few’s Book, Information Dashboard Design, all of the designs he proposes can be fully automated in SAS with excellent visual fidelity. One can further enrich the user experience in SAS/GRAPH with customizable, context-sensitive tool tips that appear when hovering over any feature of the dashboard. Drill-down is possible from any context, including individual data points, whole graphs, an any other dashboard feature. The behind-the-scenes engines for data access and analysis enable the most sophisticated merging, processing, and refinement of information before presentation.

The dashboard below was adapted from one recently placed into production for a manufacturer with plants across the United States. The purpose is to monitor the process of procuring and delivering raw materials. These dashboards were developed in cooperation with local and corporate procurement managers. The intent of the project was to improve awareness of how the organization was performing relative to its own targets and recent history.

The most common comment I heard from this group is that they simply had never seen so much of the information they need presented in one place before. Speaking of one of the drill-down views, a procurement manager said that while other aspects of the dashboard were only 3 or 4 times better than anything he had seen before, that particular view was 1,000 times better because it put everything he needed to know about the subject onto a single page. The word, “Holy Grail,” was even mentioned. That remark lead me to believe that dramatic perceptual gains are indeed possible when a lot of related information is presented in a single well designed view.

Tags: SAS/GRAPH Dashboard, sas dashboards, manufacturing dashboard, procurement dashboards