BI Dashboards: A Review of 6 Trends and 8 Best Practices for C-level Executives 09 Aug 2016

BI Dashboards: A Review of 6 Trends and 8 Best Practices for C-level Executives

Business intelligence (BI) and BI dashboards typically generate high expectations among C-level executives. For example, Nic Smith of Microsoft offers this lofty expectation for business intelligence — “BI is about providing the right data at the right time to the right people so that they can make the right decisions.” According to a survey by Forrester, 58 per cent of business intelligence leaders stated that BI reporting is the primary driver of innovation in their organization. Bain & Company reports that companies using BI analytics are five times as likely to make faster decisions (compared to competitors not using business intelligence tools).

On the other hand, Gartner estimates that 90 per cent of “self-service” BI projects will fail. As reported by BI Scorecard, the average adoption rate of business intelligence projects has stayed in the range of 18 to 24 per cent since 2005.

Simply stated, some business intelligence and dashboard projects produce stellar results — but this is not the universal outcome. What can C-level executives do to continue positive BI dashboard outcomes and avoid business intelligence dashboard problems? Research Optimus provides some insights on common mistakes and believes that a prudent path to improving BI dashboard outcomes involves two primary elements: (1) Observing best practices for BI dashboards; and (2) Paying attention to new BI dashboard trends and then modifying dashboards accordingly. With this in mind, we are devoting the remainder of this post to an overview of eight best practices and six trends for business intelligence dashboards.

8 of the Best Practices for BI Dashboards and Mobile Business Intelligence Dashboards

The business use of “best practice” usually involves a definition such as the following — “A method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark.” Similar terms and phrases include leading practice and best in class. For business intelligence dashboards, here are eight best practices that can help BI dashboard projects succeed:

  1. Plan ahead for any use of color — use colors sparingly and wisely
  2. Mobile BI: Keep filtering options simple and straightforward — emphasize the use of charts
  3. Mobile BI: Use smart layouts — designs that are responsive to any device
  4. Storyboarding for BI dashboard design instead of piecemeal designs — detailed conceptual planning before proceeding with initial dashboard development
  5. Zero learning curve — as if each dashboard viewing is the first time
  6. Dense information not cluttered — key information available at a glance
  7. Access to supporting details — capability to dig deeper for more information
  8. Highlight exceptions — outliers should pop out by displaying both problems and opportunities

Here are several additional points about the above list. First, a complete list of all BI dashboard best practices would be much lengthier than the eight examples shown here.

Second, when incorporating color into BI dashboards, it is prudent to remember that color blindness will prevent about 5 per cent of total users from interpreting results properly based on colors — approximately 8 per cent of men and less than 1 per cent of women with Northern European ancestry have a form of red-green color blindness.

Third, mobile BI dashboards are likely to become a bigger part of the business intelligence equation and therefore have even more impact on potential successes or failures for BI dashboard projects. Mobile BI dashboard considerations should include visual emphasis from top left to bottom right and spacing that makes it easier to make selections on smaller screens and keyboards.

6 BI Dashboard Trends

Keeping up with new trends is vital to the ongoing success of any business intelligence dashboard project. Here are six trends to consider in any effort to keep BI dashboards as effective as possible in your organization:

  • Demanding more insights, action recommendations and business impacts from BI dashboards
  • Expanding use of data virtualization
  • Business intelligence as a service, with more outsourcing to experts
  • Less standardization throughout organizations
  • The trend toward self-service and mobile data analytics continues
  • Increasing use of visual data discovery

Here are some additional thoughts. First, C-level executives are expecting “more” from BI dashboards than data. As noted in the first trend above, this can be reflected in expectations for recommendations and insights that involve more bullet lists of text and less reliance on standalone visual representations such as charts.

Second, data virtualization refers to real-time data integration from disparate sources that include in the cloud and converting results into data services that support a company’s work patterns. It represents a big step in the right direction toward achieving the “right data at the right time” noted in the opening paragraph.

Third, the growing trend of business intelligence as a service effectively means an increased use of outsourcing to data analysis experts such as Research Optimus. This trend can also make it much easier for C-level executives to be comfortable about keeping up with new BI dashboard trends and best practices.

Fourth, visual data discovery is being increasingly used to cope with the ever-expanding universe of data. Visual data discovery — and a similar approach called exploration AL visual analytics — can facilitate digging into the data to find patterns before proceeding with more in-depth data analysis. This new way of “filtering” an immense amount of Big Data will ideally lead to new data insights that will ultimately show up in BI dashboards.

Research Optimus: A Long History of Observing Best Practices at All Times

C-level executives searching for help with business intelligence and BI dashboards will find an effective long-term partner in Research Optimus. The data management experts at Research Optimus provide a cost-effective solution for staying up-to-date with the constantly evolving trends and best practices that can have a direct impact on successful results for BI dashboards.

– Research Optimus

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