3 reasons to hate BI dashboards

3 reasons to hate BI dashboards

Summary: Today's business intelligence dashboards aren't any more intelligent than they were two decades ago, analyst says. Is there room for improvement?


Just as eyes are the windows to the soul, business intelligence dashboards are the windows to corporate progress. They are ubiquitous, appear in many forms and configurations, and are offered by many vendors. 

Keyboard Photo by Joe McKendrick

In the service-oriented space, portals have been key to service delivery, and there has been a lot of impetus to enable end-users to build their own dashboards, in the form of enterprise mashups that pull in any data designated.

No discussion about BI and analytics is complete without a discussion about the dashboards that will deliver the actionable data.

However, Ventana Research's Mark Smith has something to say about today's BI dashboards. Basically, they're "pathetic."  Why?  They're essentially a bunch of bar charts squeezed onto a page. He provides three reasons for hating today's dashboards:

1. They haven't gotten much smarter in the last 20 years: "The early forms of dashboards appeared in the 1980s, but today’s dashboards have not gotten much more intelligent in all those years," Smith points out. "The graphics have gotten better, and we can interact with charts in what is commonly called visual discovery so you can drill into and page through data to change its presentation. So some progress has been made, but the basic presentation of a number of charts on the screen has not improved significantly and worse yet neither has the usefulness of the charts."

2. They don't prioritize information: "Just presenting charts tuned to the context of the individual’s role that may or may not require action is not enough," Smith states. "We need to prioritize the information and make it like the news, with headlines and stories that people can read to determine if they need to make decisions or take action. Whether you are reading the physical or the digital version of The Wall Street Journal or USA Today, newspapers have survived over the centuries as the main source of what humans read in formats they can comprehend. When is the last time you saw a dashboard that communicated the story of its charts and explained the analytics?"

3. They don't help individuals take action based on the information they receive: "To date, most developments of the notion of an action-enabled dashboard have focused on data discovery and supporting root-cause analysis," Smith explains. "That can’t match the familiar people type actions that happen in our organization – collaboration through dialogue to address issues and opportunities."

So there you have it. Is Mark Smith on target with his criticism of dashboards? Are we attempting to view 21st century organizations and 21st century challenges through a 1990s window?

As I mentioned above, one of the most encouraging developments -- starting with Web services and service oriented architecture, and carrying over through Web 2.0, cloud and now cloud -- is the increasing ability of  individual business users to build their own interfaces to get at the data they want for decision-making. Then, there's the simplicity of providing mobile apps that provide easy-to-follow, essential data on any mobile device. Self-service BI may be the push needed to bring dashboards  into the 21st century.

(Photo: Joe McKendrick.)





Topics: Big Data, Browser, Enterprise Software, Enterprise 2.0

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  • Hate?

    Hatred (or hate) is a deep and emotional extreme dislike, directed against a perceived evil. The objects of such hatred can vary widely. Though not necessarily, hatred is often associated with feelings of anger and disposition towards hostility against the objects of hatred. Hatred can drive oneself to extreme actions. Actions upon people or oneself after a lingering thought are not uncommon. Hatred can result in extreme behavior including violence, murder, and war. Commonly held moral rules, such as the Golden Rule, oppose universal hatred towards another.

    Now why do you even try to bring hate into tech world? And why you put it in the title at all?
  • The "window" to corporate progress, eh?

    "Just as eyes are the windows to the soul, business intelligence dashboards are the windows to corporate progress."

    Or so businesses would like to believe.

    No, the window to corporate progress is getting out of the ivory tower and actually talking to your customers and employees.

    Frankly, sitting behind a computer staring at a dashboard is the problem. Business leaders are out of touch with their customers, because they think some numbers on a dashboard are somehow more important than the people they serve.
    • Well said....

      Couldn't agree more, thanks... that's why more self-service BI capabilities, designed by users themselves, may help bring insights and decision-making closer to the people who are face-to-face with customers every day.
  • well

    I agree that B.I solutions have not significantly evolved in term of usefulness since decades and that they are quite boring. However the same can be said about Operating system which are even getting worse cf Windows 8.
    I think the solution will come from a paradigm shift and the efficient use of artificial intelligence which could provide an accurate analysis of the enterprise and is environment in real time.
  • Why you should not hate BI dashboards


    This is my view on the article
  • Modern BI dashboards have come a long way


    While Mark Smith is right on a lot of points, it's not a wash that all current dashboards are useless. Some great strides have been made, especially in the SaaS/PaaS space for BI.
    Robert Woo
  • The good news

    Mark Smith is on the mark here. Fortunately there are web technologies that are already changing the game in BI dashboards when it comes to personalization, comfortable UI and mobile deployment. For starters, Netvibes comes to mind.

    It's exciting to see enterprise organizations, big and small, starting to adopt these solutions.
    Chris Damsen
  • Intelligence still comes from the human brain

    It's silly to call BI dashboards unintelligent. Their purpose is to elucidate data, not to decide for you. Notice they are not analytic solutions or consultants. True insight must still come from the people analyzing them. True, there are some tortured looking dashboards, but solutions like Leftronic.com are slick enough to separate out the signal from the noise. But understanding that signal is still something for the user. Otherwise, why even bother having human beings running companies?