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Author's profile photo James CHARLTON

Designing Dashboards with SAP Analytics Cloud: A book to improve lives with dashboards

Dashboards should improve our lives. That seems an obvious thing to say, but when you think about how we get information and make decisions in our daily lives, this isn’t always as true as we’d like it to be. Why is this so?

Let’s take a simple bill for a restaurant meal. It’s a type of dashboard as it summarizes your evening food and drinks data and cost. It should be instantly understandable, but it is often a puzzling end to a great meal. It was just this experience that led a couple of designers at SAP to think maybe it was time to do something to spread the word that our experience of data should be easy, instant, and natural.

The result of that after dinner brainstorming is a new book called “Designing Dashboards with SAP Analytics Cloud” written by a group of SAP designers and data experts (including myself) that we hope will be an invaluable resource for any person creating dashboards with SAP Analytics Cloud. Our book takes the attitude that dashboards do improve lives, but only when the dashboard designer has a complete understanding of the user experience.

The six authors bring a diverse range of backgrounds to the book, including graphic design, research in psychology, physics, and psycholinguistics, as well as creative and technical authoring. We all work together in the Design unit of the SAP Business Technology Platform, and we’re often called on by SAP customers to help improve their dashboards.

Through the book we encourage designers to take into account the full end-to-end experience of a dashboard user, so data is understood immediately without having to waste any time thinking about the way it’s structured. As the dashboard is intuitive for the targeted business environment, users will feel empowered and inspired to make confident decisions.

The initial chapters of Designing Dashboards with SAP Analytics Cloud pedagogically show the value of user research and its application to design. You’re given practical tips and advice on planning and implementing a dashboard with SAP Analytics Cloud. Once the research is done, there are 10 design rules that help you choose the appropriate charts and tables for the data, and how to make them visually accessible and instantly understandable.

Designing Dashboards with SAP Analytics Cloud is also a hands-on guide showing you how to build dashboards step by step on different data sources including a local dataset for the self-service BI user, a live data connection to SAP BW, as well as SAP S/4 HANA cloud data.

You learn to adapt dashboards for the different needs of mobile devices, planning, and for presentations with SAP Digital Boardroom. You also have scripting samples for R visualizations and get to customize SAP Analytics Cloud using the analytics designer. There is even a chapter on using Qualtrics to monitor how dashboards are being used. Here is an example from one of the user satisfaction dashboards you’ll learn to design:


User satisfaction monitoring in a dashboard

Designing Dashboards with SAP Analytics Cloud is the full dashboard design journey for anyone designing and building dashboards with SAP Analytics Cloud. You get to follow the full design story from identifying users, understanding their data needs, then consolidating the user research results by designing and building dashboards on multiple data and scripting sources. The authors hope that by understanding design as a holistic approach to building dashboards, our lives will be improved at all business and personal levels, and we’ll never have a problem understanding the bill after a great meal!


You can order the book here: Designing Dashboards with SAP Analytics Cloud by Erik Bertram, James Charlton, Nina Hollender, Melanie Holzapfel, Nico Licht, Carmen Paduraru. Published by SAP Press 2021.

James Charlton is a User Assistance Design specialist with the SAP Business Technology Platform.

Have a look each of our co-authors talking about our experiences writing the book in these author featurettes:

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