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Identifying The Essential Requirements Of Any Dashboard Solution

by Lyndsay Wise, President, WiseAnalyticsMonday, January 18, 2010

With the constant announcements of so many new and improved dashboard versions, it can be difficult to sift through the essential elements of a company’s dashboard business requirements from the “nice to have” extra features and functions available.  Although added bonuses are great when looking at potential software, the reality is that depending upon the organization’s business needs, many features fall into the “nice to have” category and may not be essential in relation to getting value out of actual dashboard use. 

This article explores what organizations should consider when looking at the “must haves” of a dashboard implementation.  Some aspects discussed in this article go beyond features and functionality and touch upon the usability of dashboards in general.  This can help companies when comparing solutions by looking at aspects such as ease of use and customization.

IT integration

Even though dashboard use may be relegated to several end users within the organization, in many cases software evaluation falls into the hands of the IT department.  The reason this occurs is because IT manages the cohesion of technology in house.  In most instances, a current infrastructure exists whereby certain solutions will be easier to maintain and manage, thereby lowering the effort of IT staff and enabling them to provide better service to the business.  IT people take into account the required and desired features, overall interoperability, customization versus what comes out of the box, integration, overall maintenance, security, etc. when conducting their evaluations.

In addition to the dashboard requirements, IT departments are responsible for all software, hardware and business applications throughout the organization – security, service-level agreements and the like ensure maximum returns on overall IT investments.  This translates into dashboards that are more efficiently run; however, this does not mean that IT should work in a vacuum.  Cohesion between business and IT ensures the most accurate and relevant solution choice to the business.  But it is still important to remember that integration requirements cannot be overlooked and will differ based on the current IT infrastructure.

General purpose

As an expansion of IT considerations, organizations should first identify the purpose of the dashboard being implemented.  With any dashboard or business intelligence solution, the ability to customize and expand usage over time provides additional benefit when looking at long-term ROI.  However, when first looking at a new solution, the business purpose should guide the variety of applications selected.  For instance, vendors such as Klipfolio offer operational dashboards that reside on the users’ desktop, whereas QlikView provides dashboards that are more analytical in nature.  Other solution offerings are provided on-demand as hosted solutions, such as InetSoft.  By identifying the business purpose of the dashboard, short lists can be made and solutions evaluated against one another in a level playing field as opposed to considering dashboard solutions randomly. 

Business users

After exploring the importance of IT and general software selection, the next step is to look at the role of the business and the way in which business users will interact with the dashboard.  In some cases, finalized dashboards are developed for end users, while in other cases, business users can customize their own views in relation to what they want to see and how.  Depending upon the technical savvy of end users and the way in which they want to use the dashboard, there may be both types of users in one organization.  In this situation, companies should implement a solution that offers end users enough flexibility to interact with one or with a series of dashboards in the most beneficial way to their job functions.

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