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

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