Putting the bullet chart to good use: designing a BW monitoring dashboard
If you have read my previous two blogs you know I was busy developing a bullet chart. First using panel components in design studio and in the next step with the help of the beta version of the SDK. In this blog I want to do a step back from the technology and show how such a graph type can be useful in a dashboard. I will show a design where I use that type of chart to visualize a lot of single numbers. A dashboard to monitor the quality of a BW system.
The dashboard .
First let me show the SAP BW monitoring dashboard,
In this dashboard you see that the dashboard has five main themes: User acceptance, Query Usage, Data loads, System and changes. Together these themes hold 24 key figures that are compared to a scale ranging from bad (dark) to good (light). As you can see sometimes less is better (light background on the right side) and sometimes higher is better. For comparison purposes you see a vertical line that shows a value that can be from a previous period or the same period last year.
In the top left you see a couple of menu items. At the top you see alerts, transports and notes. The number in de red circle shows that there are issues that require immediate attention.
Below that you see icons that allow the user to navigate to another section of the app where more analysis options are available across dimensions.
Design choices explained
The colors scheme is a very basic grey and the alerts are shades of red. The reason for this choice is that I only want to highlight something when anything needs addressing. As you can see you can easily identify where you need to focus on first. If I would use colors on every bullet (green,yellow, red for example) the red dots would stand out much less than they do now.
The themes and their relation to each other
The thought behind the design is that the most important question is “Are the users happy using the system”. At the end BW is a tool that helps the business. At the basic level a user is happy when the system offers help that is very valuable, easy to use and reliable.
The KPI choices reflect that. In the user section (that is on the top left as it is the most important subject) we see happiness, and usage as the main kpi’s. satisfied / dissatisfied are also present, but generally users show what they truly think with their feet. They walk away when they’re dissatisfied or want more when they’re happy.
The other themes are driver kpi’s that should support the result kpi’s in the user segment.
The query theme is your product segment. Your queries are an assortment of products that are in store to serve your customers or users. In the Dashboard we look at the queries in terms of usage. How often they are used, how intensive they are being utilized , how the newly introduced queries are doing and finally how many queries are near their end-of-life.
The data loads are important in terms of reliability. Basically you want to know how often they are on time and if you see trends that threaten to lower the chance of being ready every morning.
The quality of your change process is an indicator for the future value and reliability of your BW system. Projects on time and on budget means that the projects more or less go as planned. The other ones tell how many corners had to be cut to be able to deliver. Note that user acceptance isn’t on this theme, as I stated that users tend to show their opinion with their feet and thus we look at the usage stats and not official acceptance documents.
Finally the system. The indicators here tell something about the future reliability of the system. Warnings here will result in less reliability in the future.
This was an example of a dashboard made in design studio using the bullet graphs. I showed how it looked and the thought that was behind the design. As you can see you can invoke a lot of bulletgraphs in one dashboard without cluttering the screen. Further we chose to put the user acceptance to the left top of the dashboard to emphasize that those are the most important key figures.