More than ever, business intelligence and data analysis is the key to profitability for businesses, from small mom and pops to the largest multinationals. Welcome to the era of big data. Previously, taking advantage of this data meant tens (if not hundreds) of thousands in specialized equipment and an entire department of analysts, the modern big data movement collects information from standard equipment that can be found at any small business, and the analysis has largely been automated.

Choosing Your Business Intelligence Dashboard

One of the major developments that has allowed for the automation and subsequent ease–of–use for all this business intelligence is the rise of the business intelligence dashboard. These dashboards allow business unit leaders and other stakeholders to quickly and easily see what’s going on where and (often, though not always) what they need to be doing about it. This immediacy of information has helped to push even the smallest businesses into being able to make instant, data–driven decisions. Choosing the right business intelligence dashboard can be a difficult task, and can consternate busy executives with sometimes confusing–seeming options and the sheer amount of customization can overwhelm some shoppers. Here, then, is our guide to selecting a dashboard that best fits your need.

Identify Your Needs

The first step towards deciding on a Business Intelligence dashboard is to identify why you’re looking for dashboards in the first place. Most often, organizations have one of two reasons for wanting a dashboard tool—either they are interested in collating and analyzing past data to draw conclusions, or they need to be able to see at a glance what’s happening today. The former, often called analytical dashboards, focus on synthesizing and interpreting data to highlight trends and provide forecasts. Operational dashboards, on the other hand, are geared towards showing immediate key performance indicators and the exact status. Determining your exact needs is going to be the key to which analytics tool will be most important and effective for you.

Who Uses the Dashboard?

The next question to answer is who will be responsible for building out the dashboard itself and what their technical competency level is. Many popular dashboard platforms now offer everything from point–and–click interfaces to the type of heavily customizable programmatic solutions that require a full development team to produce and execute. Knowing who will be working most often with the dashboard and putting views together is critical in knowing which solution you pick. For example, if the primary users will be your marketing team and they do not have development experience or access to your organization’s developers, your choice of dashboards should focus on those that provide the easiest set–up and view generation.

What Visualizations Will You Need?

The next determining factor in deciding which dashboard software will work for your organization is the data and visualizations you need. Almost all commercially available dashboarding and analytics software have built–in widgets like bar charts, trend and sparklines, gauges, and so on. However, if you have any specialized data visualization needs, you need to be sure that the analytics suite you are interested in purchasing can accommodate your needs. Similarly, you need to find out where your data is being sourced from and what format it’s coming in. If you have any non–standard data types or non–standard connection formats, verify with your dashboard vendor that they can accept those connections and types.

Many organizations have been slow to adopt business intelligence dashboards and other analytics software because they perceive it as being too difficult a purchasing decision. Still, missing out on the opportunity to accelerate your decision–making ability, while making decisions more accurate and beneficial, is not the kind of opportunity that you should miss out on for fear of making a purchase.

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