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Consistency versus Personalization

by Wayne Morris, CEO, myDIALS Inc.Monday, April 5, 2010

Within the context of performance management or Operational BI, I continue to hear customers discuss and ask for information consistency - many times they use terms such as a “single version of the truth” or a “single unified data store”.  Metric or data consistency can be addressed by:

  • using a consistent “data source of record” for each base metric, for example the ERP/GL for recognized revenue or the CRM system for sales orders;
  • ensuring this data is consistently aggregated up the dimensional hierarchy so everyone in the organization is looking at the same metrics and can drill back into these to get to more detailed data; 
  • using  consistent formulas for calculating Key Performance Indicators (KPI metrics); 

However, consistency goes beyond the data since ideally everyone using performance metrics interprets them in the same way which results in more consistent approaches to decision making and hence behaviour. 

But there seems to be some debate about this level of consistency and how much customization should be allowed in terms of how information is presented. At one extreme we have customers who insist that everyone in the same organization view information in exactly the same way - using the very same dashboard layout that differ only in the scope of the presented metrics which are based on the role and scope of authority of the individual person.  At the other extreme I hear people in the industry (typically vendors) advocating a notion that people should be able to self-serve and select any metric to be displayed in any way.  I believe this laissez-faire approach leads to anarchy, confusion and poor decision making.

MyDials Designer Performance Dashboard
"An example of personalizing a dashboard by selecting metrics and visualizations
that have been authorized for the user role."

I think there is a happy medium between applying consistency and best practices while still allowing the individual person to customize what metrics they use and how they view and analyze these metrics as follows:

  • embedded best practices  provide pre-defined metrics, how they should be calculated, alert conditions, most effective visualizations, appropriate analytics such as trend lines, forecast projections, control charts, Pareto charts, histograms, scatter plots etc.; 
  • the standard or default views are built from these embedded best practices and are aligned with specific business processes, value streams or functional areas; 
  • the individual person can select from a variety of pre-defined variations from the default views, for example:
    • selecting additional metrics or reducing the number of metrics - but all from within the list of metrics that are relevant for them;
    • changing the particular visualization, but again from within the best-practice set of visualizations for that metric;
    • selecting one or more analytic options that have been applied to that particular view of the metric (for example selecting a polynomial trend versus a linear trend);
    • re-arranging the layout to make certain metrics more prominent on the display or to logically group metrics according a person’s scope of authority;

In this way there is not the anarchy of everyone visualizing any metric and applying inappropriate analytics and coming to incorrect conclusions, while at the same time it allows each person to fine-tune or personalize they way they use information to make decisions within a framework that ensures consistency with best practices.

About the Author

Wayne Morris - President, CEO, myDials

Wayne Morris has more than 25 years of experience in executive management, strategy, marketing, sales and technical roles in software, services and hardware companies.  Most recently Wayne was Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing for McDATA and previously, he was the CEO and Managing Director of Citect Corporation, an industrial automation software company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.  As part of his commitment to technology and business, Wayne has spoken at many industry conferences and is co-author of "Foundations of Service Level Management" published by SAMS in 2000.

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