Make us look more modern
I recently was given a task of helping one client take their current SAP Dashboard and make it more robust, dynamic and more modern. Essentially, the client wanted me to mimic Windows 8 styling in their current Dashboard, something they saw while shopping for tablets in the store.
The current Dashboard that was being used to present was bulky, loaded with graphics and confusing to a novice user. Cluttered with multiple tabs, it was not clear which direction one should click on to get the required information. The client wanted to convey to any audience that views this Dashboard that ‘we are modern, on the cutting edge of technology and are current with our data’. With many executives viewing the dashboard, the urgency was immediate.
Dreams and Desires
It is not uncommon for me to hear from a client that they want their report to perform similar to something they saw somewhere else, with live graphics. The challenge I had was taking an already existing Dashboard and modifying the excess data to get to this point. The existing Dashboard was not built according to our standards and was riddled with errors. The other challenge with doing this is that Dashboards is built upon Microsoft Excel, and many of the formulas used to encode the changes were hidden.
- I took the following steps to proceed with the project:
- Mimic the user by watching them use every function and see where the weaknesses in the Dashboard were and note them. At times I was required to click on every link or graphic and move from ‘Section A’ to ‘Section B’, until I covered all bases.
- Create a list of all available desired functions. In this case, the customer wanted to start with a Windows start menu, where all icons are laid out for the user to click on in a series of ‘Tiles’. Once the user clicks on one ‘Tile’, the user would be taken to a specific ‘Tab’, such as Global usage of a product. This ‘Tab’ would have a graph, indicating usage per region and have an exact number that is taken from live data.
- In some cases I had to find work-arounds for the client to enable things like map navigation.
My next steps to tackling this challenge were identifying my timeline, what tools I have to work with, who I can call upon for help should I need assistance, and finding any working samples the client wants me to work from. If there are no samples, I can draw up a simple mock up and present to the client just the basics of what they are looking for. During this process, I literally would draw up the Dashboard, make a change to a new version and show them status and results on a weekly or bi-weekly basis or as requested. This kept the client very happy in knowing that I was working very hard on helping them get to their goals and that I was very serious in my commitment to them.
After many weeks of work on this, I presented my online Dashboard to the client. I noted that there were some things I could not assist them with, namely making some components of the Dashboard mobile, but they were okay with this. Not only was the client impressed with how this turned out, but I had gained a valuable learning opportunity. The client is now going to use this new Dashboard to display real-time metrics to all executive staff in both graphical and tabular format. The Dashboard is available 24/7 and is automatically updated when the client updates their numbers.
What’s even more amazing is that I started from essentially a broken and bulky model and streamlined this with cutting edge graphics, clickable tiles that looked like a Windows 8 tablet and kept all this data fluid and live. I look forward to future projects where I can take my expert-level Dashboard skills and see what else I can do.