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Wayne Eckerson

Welcome to Wayne's World, my blog that illuminates the latest thinking about how to deliver insights from business data and celebrates out-of-the-box thinkers and doers in the business intelligence (BI), performance management and data warehousing (DW) fields. Tune in here if you want to keep abreast of the latest trends, techniques, and technologies in this dynamic industry.

About the author >

Wayne has been a thought leader in the business intelligence field since the early 1990s. He has conducted numerous research studies and is a noted speaker, blogger, and consultant. He is the author of two widely read books: Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business (2005, 2010) and The Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders (2012).

Wayne is founder and principal consultant at Eckerson Group,a research and consulting company focused on business intelligence, analytics and big data.

(Note: This is an excerpt from the opening section of the "Dashboard Verdict," a compendium of dashboard product reviews that I'm writing for the Business Applications Research Center (BARC), a German research firm that does in-depth evaluations of business intelligence products. To be notified when the dashboard reviews are available for purchase, register at www.bileadership.com/mailing-list-form.html.) To view and subscribe to BARC research, go to www.bi-verdict.com.)

One way to differentiate dashboard products is to position them within the MAD framework that I devised several years ago. MAD stands for Monitor, Analyze, and Drill to detail and is represented by a pyramid divided into three sections. The shape of the pyramid represents the amount of data at each level.

A well-designed MAD dashboard consists of about 10 metrics at the top level, 100 metrics at the analysis layer, and 1,000 metrics at the detail layer. The top-ten metrics are filtered by about 20 dimensions, which generate the lower-level views and metrics. In essence, a performance dashboard is an interactive, information sandbox that is big enough to answer 60% to 80% of questions that users might want to ask about their performance objectives, but not so big that they get lost in the data. (See figure 1.)

The monitoring layer consists of graphical metrics (e.g., charts, stoplights, gauges, etc.) tailored to an individual's role. With a quick glance, users can see if everything is going according to plan. If something is awry, they can drill to the analysis layer and perform root cause analysis by slicing and dicing data dimensionally or applying a variety of filters. If they need transaction data to resolve the issue or they want more context about the issue, they can drill into detailed data, which might be stored in the data warehouse, an operational system, or a detailed report. MAD dashboards focus users on key metrics aligned with strategic objectives and provide access to any data they need in three clicks or less.

Five years ago when organizations built custom dashboards, they stitched together multiple tools to implement the MAD framework. Typically, they used portal software for the monitoring layer, an OLAP tool for the analysis layer, and a reporting tool for the detail layer. Today, although there are many so-called dashboard products on the market, very few support the entire framework in a seamless fashion. Most support only one of the three layers.

Figure 1. BI Products Applied to the MAD Framework (Click to expand)
7-27-2011 1-09-24 PM.jpg

For example, dashboard tools, such as Domo CenterView, SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards, and iDashboards primarily support the monitoring layer. Analysis tools, such as Tableau, QlikView, and Information Builder's Visual Discovery primarily support the analysis layer. And reporting tools, such as Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services and SAP BusinessIntelligence Web Intelligence, only support the detail layer. Only enterprise BI platforms, such as those sold by SAP and Information Builders, and ROLAP tools, such as those from MicroStrategy and Oracle, offer tools that encompass the entire MAD stack. (Note: many BI platforms consist of lightly or non-integrated product modules that don't always deliver a seamless experience as users traverse the three layers of the MAD framework.

(The rest of this section in the soon-to-be-published BARC report uses scalability, architecture, price/performance as ways to differentiate dashboard products.)

Posted July 27, 2011 11:17 AM
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