Building an Effective BI Dashboard

Building an Effective BI Dashboard

In our BI manifesto whitepaper, we discuss and outline how to effectively build a dashboard and avoid common mistakes.  Dashboards have a very specific use and should not be confused with reports; this in itself is a common conceptual mistake.

The following are key elements of a well-designed dashboard:

  • Dashboards should be designed to answer or provide insight into specific business questions or issues.
  • Typically dashboards contain 5 to 7 key metrics.  Too many metrics clutter the effectiveness and focus of the dashboard.  Conciseness is important.
  • Dashboards should allow you to drill back to the source data for further analysis.
  • Dashboards are not simply another way to graphically represent a report.
  • Dashboards are designed for a specific audience level.  Examples include Supply Chain VP, Inventory Manager, Plant Manager.
  • Each dashboard at the audience level should support the next level up.  For example: the plant manager will likely be interested in metrics and analysis which support the metrics and analysis of the supply chain VP.  Likewise, the inventory manager will be interested the inventory metrics which support the metrics of the plant manager. Certain metrics may be more granular, but if done properly, all metrics are in direct alignment.
  • Dashboards should contain metrics with thresholds so users can instantly see if there are issues which require further investigation.  These include the red, yellow, green dials and meters which show metrics in or out of tolerance.  Immediate understanding of a metric’s disposition is critical.
  • Alerts are typically used to proactively message to key users when metrics are out of tolerance allowing the proactive investigation and resolution of issues.

Putting these elements into practice, we can look at a sample supply chain dashboard below.

BI supply chain dashboard example

Imagine the supply chain VP logging in each morning to their supply chain dashboard.  At a glance, using dials and alerts, they can immediately identify those elements which are not within tolerances.  These may be at a specific plant or facility level, or even a consolidated view of the facilities across the country that at a summary level are out of tolerance.  The VP can drill down for investigation or simply contact the facility manager for explanation or action.  This allows action to be taken prior to significant impact to the business.

In a future post, I will illustrate the power of “what-if” analysis and dashboards that allow for business benefit decisions to be more intelligently made.


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