Sunday, April 22, 2012


A dashboard is a business tool used to get a high level general view of the status of the business.  Dash boards are used to monitor the status of key performance indicators of a business. Dashboards use visual, at-a-glance displays of critical data pulled in from disparate business systems to provide warnings, action notices, next steps, and summaries of business conditions.

Specialized dashboards can track all corporate functions. Examples include human resources, recruiting, sales, marketing, operations, security, information technology, project management, customer relationship management and many more departmental dashboards. Scorecards are a subset of dashboards with fewer graphics and more text.  Like the scorecard you would see in a ball game.

The key to an effective dashboard is to allow any stakeholder in a business to see their results at an effective level of detail without a lot of distraction about what doesn’t concern them for their job at hand.  They need to quickly see what they need to do in order to get their job done.  To be most effective a dashboard should allow a user to drill up or down to the level of detail they want to see in what created the current state in their view of the dashboard.

Key Performance Indicators (PKI)

Dashboards do not exist in a vacuum.  Dashboards depend on having data collected by the other business systems in place in an organization.  In order for a dashboard to be effective Key Performance Indicators (PKI) must be collected at regular intervals.
Key Performance Indicators are quantifiable measurements, agreed to beforehand, that reflect the critical success factors of an organization. They will differ depending on the organization.

A middle ware process performs analysis on these PKIs and publishes this data to the Dashboard.  The data is pulled out of all the systems that has the data at regular intervals and published to the PKI database.  The PKI data base is an important tool that can be used to perform historical analysis of the data.

An important thing to consider is how reliable these performance indicators are.  If the numbers being generated are either inaccurate, or have a bias, then any reporting being done based on these numbers will be incorrect.

Autonomic Computing

The same mechanism that is being used to update the dashboard  can be used to generate and publish Reports and numerous other warnings and alerts, including email, pages, screen pop ups, and instant messenger messages.  It can also take independent action for the enterprise and report on the results of those actions.

Digital dashboards and the PKI collection systems that are behind them are being interfaced into Autonomic Computing efforts by many big companies, such as IBM, HP, Sun and Cisco.  IBM coined the term “Autonomic Computing.”  HP calls it an “adaptive enterprise” strategy.  Microsoft speaks of their “Dynamic Systems Initiative”.

Once you have collected the information and created processes to happen when certain information is present, then it seems a shame to not respond to that information automatically, with humans just supervising the events.

Put simply, Autonomic Computing is about enabling enterprises to handle and manage an ever increasing complex environment consisting of  software, hardware and communication infrastructure with fewer and fewer and ever more scarce and costly resources and especially specialist people. Or in other words: how to do more work with fewer resources.

This means that there is a need to have systems that, according to IBM & others, are self-managed, self-healing, self-organized, that are ultra-reliable, robust, and so on. You may be interested to visit the IBM web page to read about the Autonomic Computing Manifesto. But we hasten to add that there are many players in this novel area, e.g. SUN and Microsoft, and HP:

Key Performance Indicator Web Resources

Autonomic Web Site Resources

Dashboard Web Site Resources

For a collection of enterprise dashboard screenshots see The Dashboard Spy a blog dedicated to monitoring digital dashboards.
This is an associated web site to The Dashboard Spy Called Enterprise Dashboard

Giving The Boss The Big Picture - Business Week
This article is an excerpt from the book Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business by Wayne W. Eckerson

Scorecards and Dashboards Portal

Corporate Performance Management (CPM) Portal
Driving ahead with Enterprise Dashboards
Dashboard Books
Implementing dashboards
Enterprise Dashboards: Design and Best Practices for IT
The design issues with visual communication in a Dashboard
Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data
Creating Effective Graphs by Naomi-Robbins
Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten
Many of the Tuftle books are good at describing how to present data in an easy to understand attractive manner
What to measure for an average business
Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business
What to measure in a marketing business
Marketing Metrics: 50+ Metrics Every Executive Should Master
“Marketing by The Dashboard Light” by Pat LaPointe
Other books from amazon with a “dashboard metrics” keyword match

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