May 20, 2015

Fast, But Not Furious

Today’s BI tools do a much better job of meeting users’ typically number one success criteria – meeting the need for speed.  Speed is not only measured in real-time performance (near-instant response time per ‘click’) but also the speed in which new reports and dashboards can be developed.

Most of our favorite tools in the market today allow you to create an impactful prototype in a single meeting or two – establish data connections, create a few visualizations, wave your magic wand, and a new dashboard is born!  This is the premise upon which the success of tools like QlikView and Tableau has been established and thrive.  However, in most cases, there is quite a bit more effort before we can call these dashboards production ready.  Things to consider:

  • Who is the real audience for the dashboard? Very few production dashboards have a single champion.  Getting second and third opinions tend to expand the scope of visualization and analysis.
  • So you have a dashboard – now what? Pretty pictures can drive interest, but do they drive insight?  Will better decisions be made?  Is there an ROI?
  • Whose data is it? Just because you have access to the data, you may find that others may not agree with your portrayal of the data, or even publication of that data.  We’ve seen many dashboard initiatives die on the vine due to data authorization issues – get in front of the political issues associated to data ownership.
  • How clean is your data, or is it too clean? The most common mistake of many rapid design projects is working with a spreadsheet extract from a complicated system, and forgetting all the scrubbing and manual effort to get that data into a nice, condensed format.

Just because we have new tools that allow us to build visualizations faster than ever before, they still do very little to with regards to short-cutting our way to the final product – the same BI principles still apply, regardless of changes in technology.  As seemingly always, there is a delicate balancing act between speed and success.  Ladies and gentlemen – start your engines!

Tagged: Business Intelligence, General, QlikView, Tableau

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