Digital dashboards, also known as enterprise dashboards or executive dashboards, are rapidly rising in popularity as the presentation layer for business intelligence. The chances are that you've been asked to implement a dashboard to let management quickly ascertain the status (or "health") of an organization via key business indicators (KPIs) and this task might seem daunting. This is where Dundas Dashboard can help.
As a leader in data visualization solutions, Dundas has given us great products that power many business intelligence solutions, including Microsoft Reporting Services and .NET charting. Its latest offering, Dundas Dashboard 2.5, lets you implement compelling dashboards quickly and easily. Since my career focus has been Microsoft Business Intelligence, I was curious to evaluate the capabilities of Dundas Dashboard and compare them with Microsoft PerformancePoint 2010.
PerformancePoint 2010 is bundled with SharePoint Server 2010. PerformancePoint dashboards are implemented as SharePoint pages and rendered in HTML. The notable exception is the Silverlight-based Decomposition Tree which is based on a technology Microsoft acquired from ProClarity. By contrast, Dundas Dashboard is entirely Silverlight-based. Consequently, Dundas Dashboard delivers a more engaging and interactive user experience. Figure 1 shows some of the rich data visualization capabilities of Dundas Dashboard.
Figure 1. Powered by Microsoft Silverlight, Dundas Dashboard delivers rich data visualization.
Another important architectural difference is that Dundas Dashboard doesn't require SharePoint. However, given the rising popularity of SharePoint as an integration platform for delivering business intelligence, Dundas provides a web part to let users view dashboards within SharePoint. Since Dundas Dashboard is a standalone product, it includes a comprehensive server component to let the administrator configure security by assigning local and Windows users to predefined roles.
No software can meet every requirement out of the box. In terms of extensibility, PerformancePoint supports custom filter, data source, and report extensions to enhance the product features. Dundas Dashboard supports DundasScript and an API to let developers implement:
- Custom data connectors
- Data visualization (DV) and user controls
- Custom dashboard navigation controls
- Custom dashboard export files
- Custom authentication systems
A unique extensibility feature of Dundas Dashboard is its scripting support. Developers can write C# scripts to extend dashboards, and do things such as validate parameters and implement navigation actions.
PerformancePoint users would use the Dashboard Designer to define dashboard elements, including KPIs, filters, reports, indicators, scorecards, and dashboards (dashboards can also be assembled in SharePoint outside the Dashboard Designer). The PerformancePoint Dashboard Designer is implemented as a desktop client that gets distributed and installed via the .NET ClickOnce technology. PerformancePoint enforces a strict object hierarchy that defines relationships among objects. For example, a KPI has indicators, a scorecard consists of KPIs, and a dashboard is an assembly of scorecards and reports.
A PerformancePoint dashboard conforms to the SharePoint design model and has pre-defined areas (zones) that serve as containers for scorecards and reports. This imposes limitations for arranging elements. PerformancePoint relies on the SharePoint web part connection infrastructure for web part communication, such as passing the selected value from a filter to a scorecard.
By contrast, Dundas Dashboard takes a more flexible paradigm where a dashboard can be composed by dragging and dropping elements to arbitrary locations on the page to create a free-form layout. Dundas departs from scorecards as collections of KPIs. Instead, KPIs and datasets can be visualized in an impressing number of options, including charts, gauges, indicators, maps, and treemaps. What's more important is that a dashboard element, such as a KPI, is defined once but can be visualized in different ways on the dashboard. The designer can indicate a preferred option to visualize an element.