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Author's profile photo Donald Maccormick

The BBC Weather Page and the Future of Dashboards

sunny xcelsius.pngDrawing a comparison between a business dashboard and the BBC weather page might seem odd, but I am convinced it is valid and more than that points a way to the future of dashboards as we use them in business.

Over the past few years the world of dashboards has moved on from “at-a-glance dashboards”, which just give a summary overview, to “interactive dashboards” which allow the end user to click (or more recently tap) on the screen and navigate their data in an simple, intuitive manner.

So, modern dashboards give both a summary of the situation and the ability to easily get more detailed information through simple, intuitive navigation. Which brings us to the BBC weather page, as it also exhibits exactly these properties, as this 25 second video shows:

People say that the “consumerization of IT” means users want a Google-like interface to their data. I disagree, consumerization really means that people will want a BBC-Weather-like interface to their data. To my mind this means six things:

  1. Easy-to-use
  2. No training required
  3. Task focused
  4. Interactive
  5. Connected to data
  6. Engaging

And it is no coincidence that the first letters of these spell ENTICE, because the best dashboards have the ability to entice users into using them like no BI technology has ever done before.The fascinating thing is that the weather app is letting me do multi-dimensional (or OLAP) analysis on the data. E.g.:

  • More detailed forecast = drill down on time
  • Different day = drill across on time
  • Different Location = drill across on location
  • Map = slice-and-dice to view data by geography rather than by time
  • Hour-by-hour = drill across geographic view by time

So it is no surprise that this is exactly the type of navigation required in an interactive dashboard. For users of SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards / Xcelsius this is a double edged sword, because although Xcelsius was one of the first dashboarding tools to provide the flexibility required to create this type of interactive dashboard … with Xcelsius it can become complex to implement this cube-based, OLAP style navigation in the underlying two-dimensional Excel spreadsheet.

Fortunately, there is an answer to this in the form  of XWIS Advantage from Antivia. XWIS is an extension to Xcelsius which adds a cube of data and OLAP navigation capabilities simply and easily to any dashboard, based on data in the BI Platform.

For more details about the evolution from at-a-glance to interactive dashboards and how XWIS helps, watch the replay of a Webinar that I did recently with Adam Binnie and Jason Rose from SAP.

As a footnote, it is interesting to note that the BBC Weather “dashboard” is written in HTML and JavaScript and it also has something important to say about “big data” but those are stories for another day. (Update: the “big data” post is here).

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      Author's profile photo Andy Steer
      Andy Steer

      Donald, excellent article as always. I don't want to ruin your acronym but for me there is an additional important "thing" in personal. I expect the dashboard/app/webpage (or whatever) to remember who I am and to store my preferences, something which many dashboard solutions still seem to struggle with.