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What is a Dashboard really ?

I recently presented at the UK&I SAP User group Data Visualisation SIG ( on the topic of “What is a dashboard really, and how to select the right SAP tool for the job” and I wanted to share the content to a wider audience.

What is a dashboard Really ??

I believe that when individuals use the term “dashboard” they can very often have different ideas and interpretations as to what they mean.   In my experience these opinions can be as wide apart as a one pager with a few Key Performance indicators (KPI’s) to what you could call a fully featured Enterprise BI Application with Drill, Slice & Dice and Printing

What’s your definition of what a Dashboard Really Is ?


  • “An easy to read, often single page, real-time user interface, showing a graphical presentation of the current status (snapshot) and historical trends of an organization’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to enable instantaneous and informed decisions to be made at a glance.“

  • document presenting the most significant information about a subject on a single page

SAPI recently saw this interpretation at an event I attended …   A DASHBOARD is…

  • A visual display of…
    • Information for strategic decisions down to operational for daily decisions
    • Multiple dashboards can be linked based role to provide a storyline
  • Created for the purpose of…
    • Alignment of organization to objectives
    • Monitoring of KPIs
    • Decision making and actions to improve business results

What definition does your company agree on ?Why not try the twitter approach and define a dashboard in less then 140 Characters.  This can be harder than you think but the academic view from the author Stephen Few ( is only 34 words but 163 characters

A visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives that have been consolidated on a single computer screen so it can be monitored and understood at a glance.

For those of you that know me personally will have heard me refer to myself as a “ Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me.”  (A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh) so I have tried to simplify this further

A display of “Grids and Graphs” that have been attractively displayed so they can be read and action identified in seconds.

By way of explanation I mean the following when I say “Grids and Graphs”

What is Right tool for “Grids and Graphs”

In the PPT presentation at the end of this blog I have screenshot lot’s of different dashboard style visualisations that were created and presented using SAP Business Analytic tevhnologies including Web intelligence, Explorer, Exploration Views, Design Studio (Zen) and Mobile BI.

You could say each of the visualisation examples meet my simplistic dashboard definition.  So how many tools does SAP BusinessObjects offer that can deliver a “Dashboard”  I counted at least 5, but if we include the SAP BW technologies we can increase that number even more

What to do when you are asked for a dashboard

In a previous personal blog I shared my thoughts on Kicking off a Dashboard Project and I have summarised a few of them here

  • Always Ask WHY a dashboard is needed
    • Keep asking Why, Why, Why, Why, Why until you drill down to the real requirement
    • The key point for me is always ask what ACTION are they going to take as a result of using the dashboard
  • Always Ask for “Mission Statement”
    • A dashboard to XXXXX
    • Then start asking around the following areas, as it will drive out the most appropriate technology to deliver the defined dashboard.

So my take away thought is ..

When thinking about Dashboards don’t limit yourself to the SAP product called Dashboards

What Is A Dashboard Really : Link to presentation

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