Ventana Research CEO Mark Smith has an interesting blog post up with the subtle title “The Pathetic State of Dashboards”.
I’ve always been a bit of a dashboard skeptic. The fluff promoted by vendors (gauge-type displays for business metrics, for example) has always struck me as noisy and silly. A gauge-type display makes sense in a car, where second-by-second changes in pressure on the gas pedal create immediate changes in a gauge, that then feeds back to the pressure you apply (assuming you are paying attention) but there are few business requirements like this. Highlighting outliers is easily accomplished by conditional formatting. Using the “dashboard” as a metaphor – taking it from the real world of for example, a car, and mapping it to business activity – is an idea that in my experience doesn’t often stand up to scrutiny. The driver’s seat of a car is a different kind of place than the chair in a cubicle, and BI tools are generally too generic for the kind of moment-to-moment operational-level activity implied by dashboards.
Dashboards as an entry point to data discovery may make a certain amount of sense, but drill-through reporting has been around for a long time. Clear exception reports, the kind that can be created easily with out-of-the-box reporting software, are generally of far greater utility than the products of graphics-rich “dashboard” software.