Business Intelligence applications such as dashboards have evolved into the ultimate analytics, decision-supporting tools for business leaders.
Empowered with ever-advancing data mining and in-memory technologies, a well-designed dashboard can help decision makers track every single aspect of business performance – past, present, and the prognosticated future. BI tools such as dashboards can serve as the primary tool used to shape the future strategy of an enterprise.
Nevertheless, there’s really no “one-size-fits-all” solution; a dashboard can’t fulfill its role if not designed with the right audience in mind. Unfortunately, a chasm often lies unbridged between technical dashboard-building skills, and an understanding of business decision-makers’ actual needs. This knowledge gap can cause building a dashboard to be a daunting task, because the users and their goals are not thoroughly defined from the start.
That’s why we are introducing the concept of “The Hierarchy of Decision Making,” It’s a very simple but powerful concept to help dashboard developers sketch out the end user’s general expectations and needs from the very beginning.
It’s a way to bridge the knowledge gap that so often leads to flawed, less effective BI tools.
The Hierarchy of Decision Making
In general, there are three primary classifications of users in every company. They comprise the decision making pyramid:
Each of the users in our pyramid has their own perspectives and goals. Each has different needs to support the achievement of their goals. Consequently, the amount of information required and the tasks performed are significantly different.
Let’s examine each decision-maker in detail:
1. Executive Role: CXO, VPs
Executives are at the top of the food chain. They’re the key decision makers in a company, and are often charged with overseeing multiple business units and regions.
Executives are evaluated by their top and bottom line achievements. They’re concerned about long-term goals, future strategies for growth, and market share attainments. Their job is to make strategic decisions and set goals that provide a big-picture direction, and that help align a company’s operation.
An effective dashboard gives executives the concrete overview of where the business is today, where can it be tomorrow, and the course it should plot for the distant future, according to their vision.
Put simply, an executive answers the question: “What do we want to achieve?”
What they need to see: Executives don’t want the forest to be blocked by the trees. They don’t need to see daily transactional details. Instead, they need solid big-picture intelligence: key performance indicators, indicators of growth or loss, top performers and trends. Executives are also interested in alerting visualizations and exceptions that point out problems and flag outliers. From a navigation design perspective, executives should have an overview of the company’s performance within one view, with minimal navigational requirements.
What tool to use: Among SAP Customers, an Enterprise BI tool like BusinessObjects Design Studio is the go-to tool for designing executive dashboards. Though an investment in time is required for professional authoring by IT teams, SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio offers functionalities that are the most important to executives. These features include:
- Data integrity (single version of truth)
- Data security
- Mobile enablement
When designing dashboards for executives, SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio is the ideal option for focusing upon delivering clean, content-focused, intuitive dashboards that provide highly customizable navigation and functionalities for strategic decision makers.
2. Managerial Roles: Regional or Functional Director and Managers
As managers are generally more aware of everyday operations, they are typically charged with making tactical decisions that align with executives’ strategies. Different managers may rely upon different tactics to implement a common strategy within their areas of responsibility. In addition, managers are often concerned with devising corrective measures for immediate and near-term problems, and less focused upon long-term solutions and strategies.
A manager answers the question: “How are we going to achieve our goals”
What they need to see: Managers need to closely monitor operational metrics to make sure they meet their monthly or quarterly targets. Benchmarking against budget and target numbers is of high importance to them, enabling preventive or corrective actions as needed when something goes south. Managers also need the ability to spot problems from an operational perspective, and require drill-down capability to investigate root causes.
What tool to use: In addition to Design Studio Dashboard with advanced filtering and analysis capabilities, managerial users need drill-down reports – either Analysis for Office or Web Intelligence / WEBI Reports – for performing root cause analysis. By leveraging OpenDoc Parameters, these drill-down reports can provide context-sensitive integration with the Design Studio dashboard for ease of use.
3. Analyst Role: Business Analyst
Analysts are functional players, typically charged with executing a manager’s tactical direction. Business analysts are focused on a specific aspect of business, such as accounts receivable, accounts payable, revenue cycles, etc.
Analysts are separated from the rest of the functional team by, logically enough, their analytical skills. Analysts combine their knowledge of the business IT systems and BI tools to ensure that operational tasks are performed correctly. They also frequently create periodic status reports and presentations for senior managers. In sum, analysts provide managers with accurate hindsights and insights, supporting the making of tactical decisions and the measurement of performance goals.
A business analyst performs routines or executes tasks assigned them by managers. A key question that dashboards should answer for analysts would be: “Are we doing it right and on-time?”
What they need to see: Analysts deal with daily transactions. Their responsibilities range from monitoring data integrity to creating reports for end-user consumption. They need the ability to manipulate data and functionalities as required to create multiple calculations and aggregations.
What tool to use: Analysts are the creators of reports and self-service data visualizations on tools such as SAP Lumira, Web Intelligence (WEBI), Tableau, QlikView, TIBCO Spotfire, and Microsoft Excel/Power BI. With some of these tools, analysts can perform basic data transformation and data blending tasks as needed. The tools are easy to use, which helps analysts to quickly create charts and graphs, and prepare ad-hoc reports. For Excel veterans, Analysis for Office is preferred among the SAP BI Suite, since it can serve as a powerful add-on for Excel while providing good connectivity integration with SAP BW and SAP HANA. When it comes to scheduled reports, WEBI can help analysts create pixel-perfect reports in PDF format for automatically sending to end-users. For quick data visualizations and analysis, tools such as SAP Lumira and Cloud for Analytics (C4A) can come in handy for analysts.
You can see that Analysts have many tools options at hand. But it is their job to determine business use case, and to select the proper functionality to use in catering to the needs of their end users, i.e., tactical managers and strategic executives.
Your Key Takeaway…
It’s important to remember that a dashboard can empower users only when it provides insights from the perspective of the user’s role, and provides meaningful information that caters to their job. So before jumping into the details of the dashboard design and the functionalities it will provide, it’s important to formulate a clear definition of the type of user that will be relying upon that dashboard.