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1 April 2007
A hand touching a screen

The term 'Dashboard' has become a common term when presenting information, but do we really know what the term actually means?

The term has at least two meanings related to the world of computerization. The first refers to the visual design and interface through which users experience the chosen Knowledge Management solution (SharePoint's first portal interface, six years ago, was called Dashboard. Only later were the Tahoma and SharePoint created). The second meaning regards the graphic indication that presents processed organizational data. If so, when one uses the 'Dashboard' in a Knowledge Management context, what does it mean?

Usually, the term refers to the indicator which visually and sophisticatedly presents essential organizational information in a glance, with the ability to review the data more in depth. The Dashboard makes updated information which interests workers and managers. For many years, these solutions have been an integral part of BI packages, but only through the portal becoming a popular tool was the subject leveraged and nowadays is a central tool which enables effective management by indication of abnormal events.

For example, an indicator may enable users to view the advancement of a central project on a daily basis, a presentation which keeps all company workers updated and focused on the objectives. When everybody is informed about the project's status, clarity is increased and in turn so is satisfaction. Apart from the indicators being visual and colorful, they have two central features which make them attractive to users- Drill-Down and Personalization:

  • Drill-Down is a feature which enables presenting elaborated information regarding data on which the indicator is based. It is also possible to allow exposure of the formula's results, calculations etc. according to the level of specification the system administrator is interested in exposing to users and to the information's added value.

  • Personalization- allows any user to present the information which interests him/her in a manner which helps the company workers to adapt the information system to their needs.

These features attract users since they view it as utility work tool.

The advantages of presenting data using Dashboards:

  • The system enables focusing on subjects that require treatment, while separating them from the rest of the organizational information and highlighting them through indication.

  • The system enables to present processed information from different systems in a manner which provides added value to the information in the origin systems. It also enables data integration and concentrates all the information in one place (which stems from the indication being linked to integrative databases).

  • Attractive graphics which encourages the users to review the presented information more attentively.

  • Dynamic data, updated automatically (with no need for manual update).

Despite the aforementioned advantages, it is important to remember that the visual and graphic features as well the success of the system's implementation over time depend on the right data's quality and flexibility. Furthermore, in order to ensure maximal friendliness and simplicity in usage it is important that the presentation decoding is understandable and intuitive. It is preferable to beware excessive indication so as not to overload the user.

Like any Knowledge Management solution, an efficient indicator should be adjusted to organization needs. It must reflect on the organization's core activities in a manner which will present the value added to the current status. It should be understood in a glance and provide in depth information as required. The manner of presentation depends on the type of presented information, the organizational need and of course the creativity of those concerned.

In order to adapt the presentation to the presented information one must be familiar with the current options. Hereby are some common presentation formats:

  • Stoplight: Alike a highway stoplight, red indicates a problematic situation, yellow is neutral and green indicates a very positive situation.

  • Faces: a sad face indicates the project hasn't met requirements and a happy face represents a satisfactory status.

  • Dashboard: just like a vehicle dashboard presents performances, so does the organizational dashboard.

Behind each presentation, one must define a formula to calculate results and the manner in which said results affect the presentation. For example, if decision implementation is presented over an extended time period, it is possible to calculate the percentage of decisions yet to be implemented and divide them to a period. At the same time, one must define how the result (implementing the decisions) teaches of the indicator. For example, if 0-40% have yet to be closed means a green stoplight, 41-80% of the tasks yet to be closed means a yellow stoplight and over 81% means a red light (or a pouting face, or any other appropriate presentation).

To conclude, in the past few years many organizations have quietly adopted organizational performance presentation using Dashboards, as they enable most users to locate and analyze information they require during the ongoing work. The purpose of presenting data in this manner is making business information accessible in a quick, simple and intuitive. We recommend the use of these Dashboards in order to provide the users with added value and attractive visual presentation yet note that in order to achieve the required results the presentation should be clear and be based on precise and believable data.

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