Tremendous volumes of information are generated and collected daily in corporate databases. These data resources are one of the organization’s most valuable commodities. They can be used for a variety of reasons ranging from tracking sales to trying to obtain a better understanding of customer behavior. Effective use of enterprise data assets often determines success or failure in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace.
Corporate decision-makers are confronted with the problem of trying to make sense of these data resources to further their company’s goals. One of the problems that they often face is the overabundance of information available in their databases. While it’s great to have virtually unlimited data at your disposal, identifying the pertinent information can be difficult. It can be like trying to hear the string quartet playing Mozart among the white noise of an airport runway. Good luck with that!
Using Data Efficiently
Overcoming the challenge of efficiently using data assets is a task that usually involves an organization’s database team. Culling important information and incorporating it into reports that can be distributed to stakeholders is a commonly used tactic. Armed with the knowledge gleaned from these database reports, management can make more informed decisions regarding the directions the business should take.
A potential problem that is an inherent part of generated reports is that they are a static means of obtaining information. They can employ basic graphs and charts to illustrate aspects of the data being studied and offer the teams creating the reports the ability to optimize its presentation. Reports are usually provided periodically at pre-defined intervals and simply provide a snapshot of the data available when they were created. They do not provide users with the ability to manipulate the data to answer questions that are not easily answered in the original report.
In the fast-paced business world of the 21st Century, relying on static information can result in making poor decisions. Better methods of representing dynamic data are required to keep stakeholders apprised of current information or changing conditions. One such method is a dashboard.
Dashboards are data visualization tools that present real-time data to provide specific, relevant, and continuously updated information. They can be designed to focus on broad or narrow areas of interest-based on the needs of the teams using them. Upper management were the initial dashboard consumers, but these applications are now used throughout an organization by many diverse teams. Dashboards mesh particularly well with mobile devices as a means of delivering current information that can be quickly understood to users, no matter where they are located.
Dashboard Design Principles
The design of a dashboard can seriously influence its utility in the hands of its intended users. Adhering to some guiding design principles can assist the team in creating dashboards to produce a tool that adds value to the data being presented.
- Defining the dashboard’s purpose is a necessary first step in the design process. Two broad categories to consider are operational versus analytical dashboards. Analytical dashboards are designed to provide information for analysis and decision-making. Operational dashboards are used to deliver critical data regarding available resources and their status to users performing time-sensitive tasks. The type of dashboard being designed will inform what data is used and how it is represented.
- The method used to display information in a dashboard is one of the most important aspects of the design process. Using the wrong type of chart or visualization can make the data hard to understand and reduce the utility of the dashboard. A viable design tactic is to build on the types of reports the audience is accustomed to using and incorporate them into the creation of the dashboard.
- Consistency in various aspects of design such as naming conventions, date formatting, and the widgets and building blocks that populate the dashboard contribute to its usability across the organization. This is especially true when multiple dashboards are created to address different business needs. A consistent design philosophy facilitates the tools’ usability.
- Displaying information clearly and concisely so as not to overwhelm the user is the hallmark of a well-used dashboard. Try to avoid long scalable dashboards, opting instead for prioritizing and summarizing the data so it can be absorbed and understood quickly. Limit the number of elements that appear onscreen and employ enough whitespace to present an uncrowded view of the information.
A well-designed dashboard provides its users with a valuable tool with which to make business decisions based on current and dynamic data. It offers a more immediate method of understanding the current state of an organization than wading through a ream of static reports.
A Flexible Tool for Creating Dashboards
Aqua Data Studio is an excellent tool for developing dashboards from a wide variety of database platforms. The application supports interaction with over 30 different databases including some of the most popular platforms in the industry. Your team can use a drag and drop interface to create impressive dashboards based on the information stored in SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, Snowflake, and many other databases.
Database team productivity is heightened by using a consistent interface to develop dashboards across all of their platforms. The tool also allows your team to manage databases and create entity-relationship (ER) diagrams for reverse engineering. Your DBAs will welcome Aqua Data Studio into their support toolbox and it may be able to replace several tools that are limited to supporting a single database platform. It’s a great tool for multi-platform environments both from a support and data visualization perspective.