Article

Dashboards: How to Make the Most of Your Data

IBM i
How to Get Started with BI Dashboards
Posted:
November 17, 2016

Data keeps evolving. It's gone from something to be collected and analyzed to something that should be treated as a strategic asset.

But how do you actually make data a strategic asset at your organization?

You and the rest of your IT team understand the data itself, but your stakeholders don't. So you need a way to give them visual access to information. And the best way to do that is through data-driven dashboards.

How Do You Look at a Lot of Data?

Consider how employees will actually see your organization's data.

Dashboards eliminate the time-consuming task of creating queries or looking through columns and rows of data to find a specific piece of information.

Dashboards are beneficial for non-technical users because they require little know-how to use. They also help IT staff access and understand information much faster, too.

Data dashboards are valuable assets across all levels of the organization. Here are some common ways dashboards help people out:

  • Executives can see a summary of the overall company position via the dashboard icon on their desktop.
  • Systems operators can view the status of several systems in individual ways, including CPU and disk space usage, and system message types and frequencies.
  • Plant managers can monitor the status of several individual production lines all at once.

Plus, some dashboarding solutions allow users to simply click a button to navigate to other dashboards. This gives employees the ability to easily move from high-level to detailed information.

Example: Dashboards in the Education Sector

The education sector provides a good example how dashboards provide significant value.

These organizations face a unique challenge when it comes to data access because of the diversity of people who need to make sense of it. For example, many schools have adopted web-based data access tools so that students, parents, and faculty can track the progress of individuals. Schools also use dashboards to see statistics on overall school performance.

This means that thes tools must accommodate a wide range of technical capabilities—from those that know almost nothing about computers to computer science teachers.

A report from the Brookings Institution explored how educational organizations have used dashboards to solve this issue without creating data privacy and security risks.

U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Education Department created a national dashboard that compiles data for schools across the country. The goal of the project is to track progress across key education outcomes.

For instance, one metric tracks the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who complete associates degrees. They actually track and publish a wide range of statistics through their dashboard software, including elementary school enrollment figures. 

Chicago Public Schools

Schools in Chicago provide an example of how dashboards can be used to effectively display general trend data as well as more specific information.

One district tracks four types of data:

  • Student information management
  • Curriculum and instructional management
  • Student services management
  • Student grades

The data is made available to the students, parents, teachers, administrators, and support staff. And these dashboards aid transparency. Parents can view academic benchmarks, standardized test results, and published lesson plans. 

"Dashboards compile key metrics in a simple and easy to interpret interface so that school officials can quickly and visually see how the organization is doing. Administrators automatically update dashboards based on data stored in student information systems."—Darrel West, Brookings High School

For those outside of the education sector, dashboards provide a way to lower the barriers between employees and organizational data. Users can more easily track information they need to do their jobs, rather than rely on technical teams to generate reports.

This gives everyone the ability to identify potential problems sooner, and make faster decisions. 

Getting the Most Out of Dashboards

Although different organizations have to satisfy unique needs, there are a few high-demand qualities needed in a data dashboarding tool.

For instance, real-time data is a crucial element in numerous operating environments to ensure that users have the most accurate and most up-to-date information available.

However, this means that the data access tool must be able to pull information from multiple sources and compile this data into an easy-to-digest format.

Thankfully, dashboards enable employees of all types to access important data without having to wait for IT.

Information is becoming an increasingly critical asset and business resource, according to Gartner. And it is important that all users within an organization can make use of available data. 

"The underlying message of all these examples is that information is an asset in its own right. It has value. Gartner calls this emerging discipline of valuating information 'Infonomics'. It is not something of the far future, in fact, this is happening today in various industries, in commerce and the public sector, in large and small enterprises."—Frank Buytendijk, Vice President at Gartner

Major trends in data analytics, such as big data, can lead to images of large-scale business disruption.

However, it is not always the biggest changes that lead to value. Making a small change—like providing data in dashboards—can make a big impact. 

How to Get Started with BI Dashboards

Interested in BI dashboards? Ready to learn more? Watch a 30-minute on-demand webinar to find out how to:

  • Visualize data in dashboards
  • Use dashboards to deliver data to anyone
  • Keep dashboards (and your data) secure

 

Ready to get started with data dashboards?

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