Just about every executive who has heard the word “analytics” this year realizes that it is an essential for growing a business. 

But it’s really the word “dashboard” that should resonate in an executive’s mind. Dashboards are what you need to assess an organization’s analytics capabilities.

Selecting a dashboard for analytics requires a lot of thought behind the business operations, especially if a company has long established data architecture.

Fortunately, the latest tools are starting to account for that architecture and resources through a self-service option.  In fact, a self-service dashboard offers one of the best ways for organization to assess its overall analytic needs for the long term.

(Editor's Note: Pierre DeBois will be speaking at CMSWire's DX Summit 2015 on Nov. 3 in Chicago.)

The New Data Storage Way: Rapid Access

One of the strongest influences on a dashboard selection is matching the existing data architecture.

These architectures were usually IT-influenced initiatives built to warehouse data. The data warehouses would typically require a degree of technical expertise to access the information.

Over time a new dynamic with data usage arose. The data needed for strategic decisions was becoming increasingly associated with dynamic business and marketplace conditions, making businesses hard pressed to provide rapid decisions. Moreover, the data came from different sources.

The big data story — where data has grown in velocity, variety and volume — is well familiar among professionals, to the point where it could be retold in one’s sleep.

But everyone needs to wake up!  The big data story has become nuanced into a smart data story, and those nuances have directed attention to unique solutions designed for the new data dynamics.

Capitalizing on Content

One example is within content creation, a component behind big data created.

The ideas behind sales enablement software, explained at the SAVO Summit, is an example.

Accessing media and sales content had been traditionally warehoused. Today sales professionals are seeking that content regularly, changing the data storage strategy as a result.  The content has to be more convenient to find as well as sent in a timely fashion to the customer audience. This means that sales professionals do not have a lot to time for query, let alone any query complications.

These scenarios reveal the impact data can have on resources.

Analytics must match that need, but doing so means having tools with user flexibility for queries and analysis.  New data storage architectures helped to adapt to the demand, but companies still fell short in having querying expertise within their ranks.

Self Service Dashboards To The Rescue 

To better match the gap between skills and data dynamism, solution providers have introduced self-service business intelligence dashboards.  

Self-service dashboards allow analysis based on existing data sources while minimizing the query language needed to pull the data.

This permits employees to be more focused on modeling and business decisions from data gathering.  It also permits an IT team to focus in depth on data warehouse concerns rather than dashboard-related requests from various users. 

Learning Opportunities

The demand for self-service business intelligence tools is gaining ground in a number of business processes.

Gartner’s annual Magic Quadrant report for Enterprise Content Management notes that “by 2017, nearly 50 percent of all business content will be nontextual, which will require organizations to invest more widely in analytics as part of content management.”  (You can download the report here).  

That influence is leading to more self-service like, well, self-service dashboards. In the annual Magic Quadrant report for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms, Gartner expects that the majority of business analysts will use a self-service solution by 2017.   

For businesses that are playing catch up in their analytic capability, the good news is that much of that growth may be spread out across platforms. Enterprises are starting to examine private cloud and hybrid cloud options against the IT-influenced architecture. 

These options open the door for experimenting with how teams can use self-service dashboards in a given environment. Does it allow for analyze data independent of assistance from the IT team?   These assessments may take time to organize deployment and deploy into advanced strategies, so, although pressed, businesses have a chance to experiment with dashboard solutions.

What to Consider

When considering a self-service bi dashboard executives and managers can start with the management of technical features. The most obvious start is examining the input from multiple external and local data sources. Many tools provide some form of data blending.

Assessing data blending capability can lead to questions regarding how users define their report settings within the dashboard’s user interface.  What visuals are available? How adjustable are they?

And once the visuals are set, what communications with teammates are possible? Most self-service dashboards are linked to the cloud, allowing ease to share graphs and information.

Once dashboard features are considered, executives should further consider the following aspects about their managers and organization:

  1. How well do users understand the data and metrics that will be collected? Ultimately a dashboard should act as a storyboard based on the data and metrics users will need to understand. Dashboards should extend agility within a business by summarizing the narrative behind the data; and displaying information that relates the organization to the data story.
  2. Determine which managers and analysts will have access to the data. These users should be able to take substantial action based on the data presented. Can users drill-down in analysis and is the interactive dashboard the right capability?
  3. Highlight necessary training that will direct executives, managers, analysts, and supporting teams towards a shared understanding of the metrics and dimensions in the dashboard.

Tableau, IBM Watson, and Microsoft Power BI are among the most recognized dashboards available.  For more ideas about a range of dashboard choices available, check out the post How to Select Sophisticated Dashboard for Sophisticated Marketing

These considerations will assist executives that want their teams unleashed to conduct timely analysis and to separate such that IT can focus on other enterprise-level tech demands.  Ultimately, the right self-service dashboard selection will help teams thrive further on the data they have.

If you'd like to hear more about analytics, Pierre DeBois will be speaking at the DX Summit in Chicago on November 3. Find out more here.

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