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Dashboards, from at-a-glance to Interactive, the future of BI

past future.pngWhen they first became popular, dashboards were generally thought to be best for an “at-a-glance” overview of the current situation. In some situations (e.g. real-time dashboards monitoring operational facilities) this overview is sufficient, however, in the vast majority of cases more is required and it is now the norm for dashboards to have some level of built-in interactivity allowing users to drill into the data, to view it from different angles and to see new analyses all at the click of a mouse or a tap on the screen.

These new, interactive dashboards have quickly become critical to the BI strategy of most organizations as they typically offer the simplest and most effective way of delivering information to business users.

This trend has recently been accelerated by rise of the mobile application. Mobile applications have very similar characteristics to well written interactive dashboards (easy to use, no training required, task focused, interactive, connected to data and engaging). The more that end-users use mobile applications on their chosen device in their everyday lives, the more they will expect their BI to be delivered in the same way.

This evolution is almost certainly set to continue as dashboard delivery on mobile devices becomes more and more commonplace. Indeed mobile-delivered interactive dashboards could well be set to become a near-universal means of delivering BI to end-users in the not-too-distant future.

SAP Dashboards

None of this will come as a surprise to SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards users who have been at the forefront of this evolution for a number of years. This is because, uniquely, the great innovation of SAP Dashboards (formerly Xcelsius) was to provide the flexibility required to create these new interactive dashboards to people who simply know Excel, without them needing to learn a technical programming language.

However, as the data volumes underpinning dashboards have grown and user requirements have become more and more sophisticated, so too the dashboards and the projects required to deliver them have become significantly more complex.

Fortunately the ecosystem which has grown up around the product, driven by the partner SDK, means there are a number of extension products which can help curb this complexity.

One such product is XWIS Advantage from Antivia which embeds an in-memory cube engine to provide fully interactive, multi-dimensional (or OLAP) capabilities in dashboards whilst retaining “point and click” design simplicity. Not only does this mean that SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards can be extended to a wider set of BI problems (further enhancing ROI) but it also cuts dashboard development time and makes the process easy enough to open up the possibilities of end-user, self-service dashboard design.

To learn more about the how XWIS enhances and extends both SAP Dashboards watch this short video (here) or register for the “Breathe new life into SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards and Xcelsius” Webinar.

(This post is an extended version of one I co-wrote with SAP’s Adam Binnie, the original can be found here)

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