As the pace of business grows ever faster, users require better and faster data access more than ever before to support accurate decisions. Companies no longer have the luxury of waiting for IT to deliver customer reports or handcrafted dashboards for each user. In reality, customized dashboards were never capable of supporting users’ needs since the format and sources of the necessary information had changed so frequently depending on business conditions and the problem under consideration.
Fortunately, advances in underlying business intelligence technology and cloud-based or Internet-accessible solutions have ushered in the era of self-service dashboards. Many companies are uncertain about how to evaluate these new tools. Here are five key factors to consider:
Choose the Right Level of Interactivity
Interactivity and flexibility can mean the difference between eager acceptance of the new tool and project failure. Before selecting a self-service dashboard, the company must understand the user’s actual requirements. The chosen tool should enable users to access data from a variety of sources quickly but without exceeding their comfort levels. More importantly, the level of interactivity should be based on the user the tool is being created for. For example an advanced business analyst would need a higher level of interactivity and customizability than a top level executive who wants an at-a-glance snapshot of company performance. So the deeper analysis a user does conducts, the higher level of interactivity the user will need.
Manage Security and Role-Based Permissions Appropriately
Understand each user’s role to ensure that the dashboard provides access to the necessary data to accomplish their respective tasks. This requires a careful review of top-level information access, and it should extend to information that might be required for drill-downs or item analysis. Providing the wrong amount of information limits the dashboard’s usefulness, could show sensitive data to unauthorized users, and potentially damage your company’s business workflow. Conversely, providing the right level of security and role-based permissions makes sure that your end-users have the right information relevant to them at the correct time within the business workflow, and also prevents unauthorized users from maliciously looking up sensitive data.
Consider and Prepare for User Adoption
Before rolling out a self-service dashboard, make sure that its capabilities match the users’ business role, technical aptitude, and actually helps them do their job better. Don’t skimp on training, and make sure users understand the sources and limitations of the data. As mentioned earlier it may make sense to create simple reports with some basic prompts for some users while others might be comfortable with a more open and flexible user experience. A Self-Service Dashboard implementation can only be successful if end-users are actually using the system, so planning the implementation around the users is a must.
Pertinent Time Horizons
Some users will find everything they need to accomplish their tasks in historical data while others may require access to real-time or near-real-time data. Consider the nature of each user's role and the types and urgency of decisions when rolling out self-service dashboards for users. Figuring this out early on will make sure your dashboard implementation provides the right info, to the right people, at the right time. Additionally, this will ensure your team builds the right dashboard the first time. Neglecting this could add a lot of time to your implementation if you figure out you need a different time horizon.
Plan for Growth and Scalability
As users become more comfortable with self-service dashboards, they will find new uses for information and begin to look for more sophisticated functionality and flexibility. Be sure to select a dashboard that allows you to deploy to a range of user capabilities but that also allows for growth. Consider company growth, growth in the number and variety of data sources, and growth in end-user capabilities and needs.
Self-service BI dashboards are an excellent tool for providing usable, actionable information to users at all levels and in all roles within an organization. When selecting a new self-service dashboard tool, companies should consider many factors and choose the tool that provides the right mix of security, simplicity and sophistication while supporting growth in data sources and usage needs.
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