Dashboards offer effective visualization vehicles for providing information gleaned from an organization’s data resources in a concise format. They can be instrumental in making real-time data available that allows decision-makers to make well-informed choices. That is if the stakeholders take advantage of the tool.
The last thing that any developer wants is to spend a lot of time creating an application that does not address the needs of its intended users. It can be very disappointing to roll out a new software tool that is received with skepticism regarding its capability to provide the expected results.
The importance of delivering a satisfactory solution increases when the audience for your development efforts may include high-level executives and members of the management team. These individuals often are tasked with making decisions that affect the entire organization based on the available business intelligence at their disposal.
A dashboard can be just the right tool to help corporate executives make informed decisions from any location. They can be accessed on mobile devices that can be whipped out to provide on-the-fly information during a meeting. The trick is to provide the management team with a well-designed dashboard that presents relevant data that is easily understood. This gives the tool a chance to be used by the team.
Preliminary Steps in Dashboard Design
Simply presenting interesting charts and graphics may make for a visually pleasing application that does not address the underlying reason for the dashboard’s creation. Before entering the coding and physical development of the dashboard, it is imperative to understand the problem it is meant to solve. This involves several steps that define the specifics of the data under review, the stakeholders who will use the tool, and the way they will use the dashboard.
- Review available intellectual resources to gain a deeper understanding of the problem that needs to be addressed. Without at least a working knowledge of the information, it will be more difficult to craft a successful solution.
- Focus on the dashboard’s intended users. Detailed knowledge of the problems they are trying to solve and what they hope the application will provide is crucial in developing a viable tool.
- Use data resources to directly answer stakeholders’ questions. Refrain from displaying extraneous data and concentrate on information that addresses the issues that are important to your potential users. Focus on key performance indicators and metrics that provide value to your users.
- Use an iterative process of storyboards and user feedback to refine the way data will be displayed and used on the dashboard. Multiple stakeholders may need to have alternative methods of parsing the data resources that the application accesses. Prototypes offer a streamlined way of obtaining input from users without the overhead of full development.
Creating Compelling Visualizations
Once the purpose of the dashboard is understood, you can begin to flesh out the details of the application. Here are some of the considerations to keep in mind when developing data visualizations for your dashboard.
- Offer features that allow customization and interaction with the dashboard. A single well-designed dashboard can be used effectively by multiple groups of stakeholders.
- Selectively display only important data elements. It can be tempting to make as much data available as you can fit on the screen. Focusing on the most crucial information will result in a dashboard that is easier to use and understand.
- Allow users to drill down to obtain more a more detailed view of specific data elements. This is where data items that were excluded from the main screen in favor of readability can make their appearance.
- Using real-time data is a hallmark of effective dashboards. Obsolete business intelligence can be more dangerous than having no information at all. Keep dashboards updated with current data so stakeholders can use them to make informed decisions.
Making Efficient Use of Data Resources
Database teams charged with creating dashboards out of enterprise data assets may have multiple platforms from which to gather information. Using different tools to develop the visualizations they will incorporate into their applications can negatively impact productivity and the effectiveness of the finished products. A better approach is to use a unified tool to access the various platforms from which data needs to be extracted and manipulated.
Aqua Data Studio is exactly that kind of tool. It offers your database team a single application that can access and create stunning visualizations from over 30 different database platforms including SQL Server, MySQL, MongoDB, Sybase, DB2, and many more. Whichever of the supported databases are in your environment, Aqua Data Studio can be used to design and develop dashboards that provide users with immediate access to the information that drives business decisions.
In addition to its utility as a data visualization solution, Aqua Data Studio can be used to perform many management tasks on the supported database platforms. It’s a versatile application that should be part of every database team’s software inventory.