Good analytics dashboards turn BI data into actionable info

When used properly, dashboard data can 'liberate' businesses

The main purpose of analytics applications is to shine a light on business processes and point the way to possible changes in how organizations operate. Effective analytics "can liberate us to think about things in a new way," as TreeHive Strategy consultant Donald Farmer put it.

Data visualization clearly has become a crucial part of the analytics process in most companies, Farmer added during a presentation at the 2017 Pacific Northwest BI & Analytics Summit. And, increasingly, visualizations are being delivered to corporate and business executives in analytics dashboards that are meant to streamline and simplify access to BI data.

But designing dashboards isn't so simple. To the contrary, it's all too easy for BI and analytics teams to build dashboards that are "too complicated, overwhelming, burdensome or incomplete," Gartner principal research analyst Lizzy Foo Kune wrote in a January 2017 blog post.

To avoid such a fate, Foo Kune said designers should strive to make dashboard data actionable by ensuring it answers specific business questions. Connecting the data to real business issues helps put the focus of dashboard design efforts squarely on producing the desired takeaways for decision-makers, as opposed to flashy graphics that don't provide useful information, she wrote.

Well-designed dashboards "can facilitate increases in organizational maturity and help foster a data-driven culture," Foo Kune continued. She was talking specifically about dashboards for marketers, but her tips -- and her cautionary notes -- apply to analytics dashboards in general.

Dashboard design is also being affected by new issues, such as the growing use of big data systems and the emergence of intelligent voice technologies that can be used in analytics applications. This handbook looks more deeply at dashboard trends and how to create dashboards that can successfully liberate an organization's thinking.