The Key First Step to Successful BI Dashboards

Guest Blogger

By Mico Yuk and Anita Gibbings

Ask yourself this question, “What’s the first step in building a successful business intelligence (BI) dashboard?”

If you’re like 95 percent of our readers, you said, “Scoping, of course!” But you’re wrong!

The starting point of any successful dashboard is identifying the who, what, and when. This planning phase is actually before scoping – and, unfortunately, it’s one of the most overlooked phases in the dashboard development process.

  • Who: Who is the dashboard for, and who will pay for it?
  • When: When is the dashboard due? Is there a major milestone attached to it?
  • What: What problem will it solve, and what high-level key performance indications (KPIs) do you need to track to reach them?

In this article we will focus on “what.” As part of the planning process, “what” is the second most important part of the dashboard planning process after “who.” Why? Some companies spend tens of thousands of dollars, with good reason, to hire management consultants to help them identify and analyze KPIs and transform their business. The real problem? Most companies simply don’t put enough effort into determining their KPIs.

Often companies use generic KPIs, like revenue, costs, and margins, which are lagging indicators that don’t always result in business transformation. You might notice a drop in revenue, but unless you identified the right metric, you might not realize that you need to revolutionize the way your sales people handle their accounts. A dashboard with revenue by product would only indicate a pre-existing problem; whereas leading-indicator KPIs would likely track where sales people spent their time or how long accounts were spending in one stage of the sales cycle. This type of information would allow you to correct the issue before it had a major impact on revenue.

Depending on which KPIs are selected, a business can take an innovative path as individuals respond to what is being measured. This is similar to the company that wanted to grow sales and began tracking the number of net new customers. Without realizing that many of them were actually consuming more resources than revenue creation, the company’s margins dropped.

Successful Dashboard Stories

A successful dashboard should tell a four-part story for each of KPI:

1)      Current State: Where you are today

2)      Trend: How you got there

3)      Forecast: Where you’ll end up over time at your current run rate

4)      What-if: What you need to do to hit your targets

Sales Dashboard that “Tells a Story” – Credit:

Note the storyline at the top right: Scorecard, Performance, Trend, What If that allow you to first recognize that you have a problem, diagnose the issues and decide on the appropriate action.

Click images for larger view

Another thing to consider is that most KPIs are useless without the use of alerts or statistical functions such as probability. Successful dashboards contain KPIs that provide direct answers to questions like “Will I hit my target?” Instead of showing this in the form of a bar chart that displays actual vs. target, consider using a simple probability formula that displays a single percentage to target on a real-time basis throughout the month.

For instance, if it’s the middle of the month and the probability of you hitting your target isn’t at or above 50 percent, then a yellow alert should display on the dashboard for that KPI, indicating that unless you implement some changes to your business now, you’ll miss your targets at month end. This is way more efficient for running a business and measuring the appropriate targets as opposed to simply displaying data.

So before you bring in IT, business leaders need to spend significant time getting to the core business goals or challenges. This allows for a clear understanding of the purpose of each metric and how it will drive behavior in your organization once it’s published broadly.

Mico Yuk- Founder of the Xcelsius Gurus and popular weblog , SAP Mentor, and BI Influencer, will be teaching the above strategies and many more in her new online coaching series titled “The BI Dashboard Formula,” which will kick-off in September 2012. Here’s a complimentary download of one of the 10 templates that she will offer in her training. Don’t miss her early bird specials (including a free Blackberry PlayBook for the first 50 that sign up).

Register now  and watch for the next blog post in August, covering the second step of Mico’s seven-step formula.


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Klout CEO Gets Sauteed at LeWeb London

Timo Elliott


At today’s LeWeb London conference, Alexia Tsotsis of TechCrunch interviewed Joe Fernandez, Co-Founder & CEO of Klout.

The company rates people’s online social influence, and some real-world organizations are now using the rating to determine how to treat their customers, with perks for those with the highest status in the hope that they will praise the experience. Attendee Sertaç Doganay revealed, for example, that he had been invited to the LeWeb because of his Klout score of over 70.

Fernandez explained that the company’s goal is to “help people be recognized for what they are influential about,” and he claimed that it is providing a valuable service in a fast-changing world.

“Think back ten years. Competence on PC used to be a critical life skill. Then it was being comfortable on the internet. Now being effective on social media is a critical skill, and we’re helping people benchmark their effectiveness”.

As might have been expected from the author of an article called “Nobody Gives A Damn About Your Klout Score,” Tsotsis didn’t give Klout an easy ride. She subjected Fernandez to a slow roast of pointed questions that attendee Adam Tinworth called “the hardest grilling I’ve seen at a LeWeb conference in over five years.”

The dual started with Fernandez warily circling the question about whether a Klout score actually represents anything useful. “Is it just BS?” asked Tsotsis. “Are you just a PT Barnum, with a random number?”

Fernandez replied: “I think about it like this: a Klout score is the tip of the iceberg. It’s easy to understand, very consumable, but the challenge is that it doesn’t tell the whole story. You also have to include what people are influential about, what geographic region, etc.”

But the more Fernandez talked about the multidimensional nature of influence, the more he seemed to be saying that people shouldn’t take their Klout scores too seriously, which prompted some unsolicited advice from Andrew J Scott: “Word to the wise: BEFORE going on stage make a list of questions you’d hate to be asked. Then work out how to answer them.”

Tsotsis discussed the “KloutApocalypse” episode last year, when Klout made some big changes to their algorithm that appeared arbitrary to many users. This generated a lot of user anger and Tsotsis read some of the plaintive feedback out on stage. She questioned whether this power should be in the hands of a third party at all: “Isn’t it way to much control over people’s sense of self-worth?.”

Fernandez replied he thought that it was inevitable for some third party to do it, insisting that social rating is a valuable service that requires somebody who can draw data from multiple sources. In reply to the question about power, he used a line could have come straight out of Superman movie: “We have comes great responsibility. We have to be accurate and transparent, and we need to give people appropriate controls, and we need to continue to work on that.”

Tsotsis’ barbs continued, delivered in a deceptively open tone of voice. The question “Who doesn’t think its stupid when you +K people?” resulted in a rumble of recognition in the audience. Joe positioning the ability to give a +K as a  “form of gratitude.”

Several people clearly thought that Klout “had it coming” for the controversial effects they have had on social media. Jeremy Wilson: “Alexia appears to relish slowly sautéing Klout. I’d be doing the same.”

I think it’s fair to say that Klout didn’t win the audience over, with reactions on twitter such as “before this interview, I thought Klout was bullshit. But now I think I seriously underestimated just how much bullshit.”

But the audience didn’t necessarily enjoy the spectacle. Brian Herron echoed other commenters with his reaction: “OUCH! She’s really getting digs in. This is slightly uncomfortable to watch”, and another referred to the interview as “buttock-clenchingly awkward.”

Fernandez soldiered on, explaining that “the history of Klout has been me and the team maybe not being smart enough to realize how challenging it would be.”

He addressed Alexia’s skepticism directly: “You hate Klout. That just makes me want to work harder, to keep building. After the KloutApocalypse I was worried that people would start bailing from the team, but instead it helped us bond. We love the challenge of the naysayers.”

Fernandez finished by giving hints about extensions of Klout in the future: “There are big changes coming, tying in the real world – I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but we’ve come up with the start of an interesting way to do that.”

By the end of the interview, people were clearly starting to feel sorry for Fernandez, and there were calls for “more balance.”  Joana Picq may have summed up the general opinion with her tweet: “Joe Fernandez of Klout lacks charisma but has a huge amount of humility to manage attacks with positive and constructive attitude.”


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Mobile and the Decentralization of Decision Making

Ian Thain

In a traditional modern enterprise, information can be a key factor in delaying business process control, as people who own information can own control over the process. Mobility is challenging this traditional process control hierarchy by making it easier for decision makers (this means decision makers at all levels of an organization) to have direct, un-delayed access to information. This means control will move away from executive levels and closer to the people who are hands-on with customers, processes and products… The Information Workers. Already more mobilized employees (and even customers) spend less time going through a hierarchical structure to “get” information, they need it immediately. Mobile information consumers find their own paths to the information they need. But will corporate authority structures allow this to happen? In a word, YES!.. Ricoh UK earlier this year completed a study which shows that nearly two thirds of business leaders in their market expect just such an evolution in decision making.

Mobility may be sparking a rush toward decentralization of decision making, and many mobile operations benefit with accelerated business processes, more effective tactical decision making, and high levels of customer engagement. The advantages are measurable and well documented, but even with all of the advantages, does the decentralization of decision making compromise business process control? Surely we still need coordination and accountability to maintain a robust, resilient, audit-able enterprise. For example:

  • How does an enterprise ensure all decision makers are accountable?


  • How does the business make sure the customer experience is consistently high when individual employees have so much latitude and discretion?



  • Does the decentralization of decision making impact brand coherence?


In fact the very mobile apps and mobile business processes that are driving the decentralization of decision making can also work as tools for regulating and maintaining the integrity of the process. In many ways, mobile apps are ideal for this purpose. The limitations of mobile devices put a premium on computing resources and data usage. That means the best mobile apps are tailored to the business purpose they are intended to serve (As defined by an Application Definition Statement ADS, possibly created via a Mobility Innovation Council MIC) . For example, a mobile application designed to provide its user with context specific data just when the user needs it is efficiently utilizing device and bandwidth resources. It is also limiting user choices to the tactical needs of the moment. If designed properly, those choices should reinforce the integrity of the business process.

Using mobile apps to govern business process in a decentralized decision making environment only works if the applications are compatible with existing corporate information systems. This is because business processes are not isolated activities. They are inter-dependent activities that share data with other business systems. Some business processes may also be served by a suite of mobile apps. That is why a platform based mobility strategy is so important to effective enterprise business mobility.

Please follow me on Twitter @ithain


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Where's the Tablet Banking for Business?

Haridas Nair

Last week’s announcement that Microsoft plans to launch Surface is driving consumer awareness about the proliferation of tablets. Tablet computers are becoming the device of choice for banking on the go. Occupying a sweet spot between a phone and a PC, tablets bring together the ubiquity of a phone with a bigger keyboard and screen, intuitive interface and computing power much closer to that of a laptop—not to mention the camera, geo-location, and several different interaction channels (push notifications, apps and browser). Tablets that are 3G-enabled (about 10 percent of those in the U.S., according to this GigaOM article) also provide GPS, SMS and connectivity almost anywhere they go.

The downside is that online banking web sites, designed for mouse and keyboard, and native mobile apps, designed for small screens, don’t always translate well to tablets’ touch interface and larger screens, creating a poor user experience.

Forward thinking banks (less than 20 percent of the top 25, according to 2012 Tablet and Banking Report, by Javelin Strategy & Research) have already recognized the issue and responded by creating tablet-specific apps for iPad and Android tablets.

Today, most tablet banking apps are for consumers. It makes sense for the moment, as iPad owns the tablet market and consumers are the dominant buyers. But tablets are only getting more popular, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re standard-issue among executives, complementing or completely replacing laptops. There’s a big opportunity right now for banks to differentiate themselves to commercial customers by building web-based or native apps specifically for tablets. Freeing treasurers and CFOs from the PC-based interfaces they’re tethered to today is the promise of tablet banking for the corporate market.

In November 2010, RBS Citizens liberated its corporate banking customers, allowing them to authorize transactions from wherever they happen to be. The bank’s accessMOBILE corporate mobile banking app uses the Sybase 365 Corporate Mobile Banking solution, and runs on iPhone and iPad. Through accessMOBILE, commercial customers can get balance information, check on transfer status, approve and release wire transfers, receive alerts, and receive secure messages. The treasurer or CFO of a small or medium-sized business now doesn’t need to delegate authority for wire approvals. Now, they can perform approvals even while traveling. Enthusiasm and satisfaction have been high enough that RBS is currently planning new versions for Android and BlackBerry.

Although banks have typically been slow to embrace new technology, mobile banking solutions for consumers have been coming out at a good clip. With the advent of tablets and their popularity among the executive set, we should see an even faster movement to mobile for corporate banking functions.

And this is the time for banks to think not in terms of single-point mobile solutions, but instead of a comprehensive mobile platform strategy to mobilize their entire business.


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Chart: 260 Enterprises Have Deployed Samsung's Android Tablets or Smartphones

Eric Lai

Building my list of large-scale Android device deployments has been much harder than building my iPad one.(View my Android list here, my iPad top 50 deployments here, and my overall iPad list here.)

I chalk that up partly to the iPad’s overwhelming name recognition, which leads organizations to tout their Apple deployments publicly (especially governments and schools that need to in order to appear accountable to their taxpaying constituents), as well as frankly the iPad’s far greater success to date.

Thankfully, I was able to speak to Samsung Mobile last week and its vice-president for enterprise sales, Tim Wagner, during the launch of its augmented SAFE program for wooing enterprises to its Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets.

(Read about Samsung’s pincer movement strategy to making Android devices like the Galaxy S III smartphone win in businesses and large organizations.)

“We’ve had 260 marquee wins for our smartphones and tablets,” Wagner said. Besides the widely-publicized American Airlines use of 6,000 Galaxy Tabs as a replacement for in-flight entertainment consoles, the list includes well-known organizations such as Pacific Gas & Electric, which has armed 200 of its field service workers with Galaxy Tabs and Texas Department of Criminal Justice which has 950 field service workers using Rugby II smartphones, and lesser-known companies that are making massive deployments, especially in the home healthcare arena.

Take Bayada Home Healthcare, which has deployed 2,000 Galaxy Tabs to its nurses, who visit elderly and disabled clients in their homes. Using a specially-developed app, the nurses can fill out electronic forms faster and more accurately on the Tabs, leading to better care for the patients, less after-hours paperwork for the nurses and faster Medicare reimbursements for Bayada.

Besides Bayada, other home healthcare providers using Tabs include Homecare Homebase, which has 6,200 Tabs, Encompass Home Health with 2,400 Tabs, Brookdale Senior Living (300 Tabs and 2,500 Stratosphere smartphones) and Honeywell HomMed (400 Tabs).

Samsung was able to share its public device customers here:

Note: this list obviously excludes the many organizations where employees are bringing in Samsung Galaxy devices in large numbers on a Bring Your Own Device basis. It also doesn’t include the 44 enterprises that are pre-ordering the Galaxy S III smartphones in large quantities, according to Wagner.

Besides the Tab, enterprises are showing interest in the Galaxy Note phablet (phone/tablet). Its 5-inch size is similar to the ruggedized Windows Mobile-based field service devices that dominate today, though in a far more attractive and flexible package. PG&E is considering the use of the Note, said Wagner, because “they love the form factor,” as is another large U.S. company he couldn’t name. Healthcare organizations are also looking to arm their doctors and nurses with Notes, he said.


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