Dashboards on demand

Properly constructed, a graphical display of key indicators can help almost anyone stay on top of their job

The dashboard craze sweeping enterprises shows no sign of abating. On the contrary, dashboards are being tuned to better deliver real-time information to a wider array of workers and to ensure that the information is pertinent to individual business roles.

“They’re not just for executives anymore; they’re for everyone,” says Jeff Jones, program manager of data management marketing at IBM. “They’re a hot commodity because they provide the window into the information environment that you need.”

As if to make good on Jones’ point, Hyperion, a BI platform vendor, has introduced a drag-and-drop, wizard-driven dashboard-development component to its Hyperion Performance Suite 8.3, which allows business users with no programming skills to customize dashboards on the fly. “What would have taken half a day using Java, or a day’s coding, has gotten a lot easier,” says Colin Dover, senior product marketing manager at Hyperion. “So what you’re really talking about -- what this enables -- is pervasive delivery.”

AmberPoint, maker of SOA management software, unveiled in March enhanced and fully customizable dashboard capabilities for its suite of products.

“SOA systems are more complex, evolve more rapidly, and comprise heterogeneous environments, so by their nature they’re more difficult to manage,” says Bob Dever, director of marketing communications at AmberPoint. “The dashboards we provide simplify the ability to monitor and take corrective actions.”

Adaptability is key. “We can customize the dashboards to suit the specific needs of our users,” says Toby Redshaw, vice president of IT strategy at Motorola, an AmberPoint customer.

According to the InfoWorld Business Intelligence Report 2005, customer demand for dynamic dashboards is alive and well. When asked about the functionality of their BI solutions, 78 percent of respondents said they have the ability to share dashboard views with colleagues. On the downside, 20 percent said their dashboards don’t allow for sufficient drilldown.

That statistic keeps vendors striving to increase functionality and to widen the dashboard’s appeal. “The use of BI on the front lines has been sought after for many years,” says Rich Clayton, vice president of product marketing at Hyperion. “The ability to leverage them to arrive at actionable strategies fundamentally improves the way companies do business.”