January 28, 2009 | Leave a Comment
Let’s face it. Dashboard development tools are still in their infancy. While promising, today’s tools are too rigid in their configuration options, do not conform to a standard implementation approach, and are often heavy on garish ‘bling.’ Though the predominant voices in visualization and dashboard design (Few, Tufte, etc.) espouse a best practice approach that can be summed up as ‘less is more,’ there still seems to be a fairly large gap between tool capability and best practice approach.
While we have had success developing dashboards for clients with dashboard development tools, the good news for those that don’t yet own such tools is that you can still have a well designed custom dashboard with the technology you probably already own.
Recently, I’ve come across quite a few ‘best practice’ dashboards emerge in the field, including those developed by our own consultants. The best thing about them is that they have been developed using tools that many organizations have already adopted including, Excel and SAS/Graph.
The Dashboard Spy points us to this Few inspired manufacturing dashboard done with SAS/Graph. Not only are the visualizations minimalist in nature while displaying maximum information, but they are incredibly ‘lightweight’ from a performance perspective. In addition, a tremendous amount of information is represented in a relatively small footprint.
In this example, our consultants put together a dashboard in Excel based on OLAP cubes developed with SQL Server Analysis Services. Not only is Excel used as a front end for a dashboard, but it also serves to integrate the key performance indicators for additional ad hoc reporting and analysis.
So you see, not only is it possible to have a dashboard without additional investment in tools, but in some cases it may even be more desirable.
January 26, 2009 | Leave a Comment
Gartner is out with it’s annual Magic Quadrant ratings of Business Intelligence Platforms. I must say that there are no real revelations here – all of the big names are bunched fairly closely together in the leaders quadrant. 2008 was clearly a year of regrouping for the major players, as IBM, Oracle, and SAP ‘digested’ their acquisition of major BI vendors from the year prior.
I am a little surprised that Microsoft doesn’t rank more highly on the visionary axis as they do seem to be moving quite aggressively toward offering a platform for ubiquitous BI. Perhaps, 2009 will be their breakout year?
My takeaway – The platform is the least of your worries. It is important from the standpoint of fit within the organization’s IT strategy. But don’t forget that the platform is only an enabler. When deploying a BI platform, your focus should be on understanding the organizations goals, identifying the right views of data, and providing greater access to actionable information.
So go ahead, pick a BI platform, any platform. All of the leading vendors provide excellent tools. Just don’t forget that once the technology is in place it’s people and process that make it useful.
January 21, 2009 | Leave a Comment
A couple of weeks ago I read an interesting article from Inside Higher Ed about College Affordability. This led me to investigate the work of the Delta Project, a non-profit organization examining the costs and accountability of higher education. While I am still digesting many of the reports on the Delta Project website, one table showing enrollment market share by Carnegie Classification (.pdf) jumped out at me.
The authors of the study note that there is a shift in market share toward private institutions during a five year period from 2002 – 2006. So why did such a shift take place?
According to the Delta Project:
- At public research universities, nearly all of the revenues from student tuition increases from 2002 to 2006 (92 percent) were used to offset revenue losses from other sources, primarily state appropriations. At public master’s institutions and community colleges, all of the revenues from increased tuition during this period replaced losses from other sources.
- At private colleges and universities, tuition increases fueled increased spending. Nearly three-quarters of educational spending increases at private research universities from 2002 to 2006 can be linked to increased tuition.
Thus, the argument is that private insitutions are providing greater value for the dollar as they increase services with revenues from tuition dollars, while public institutions are only modestly improving services as they are forced to use tuition revenues to offset declining state revenues.
While I have not yet read the entire study, I’m intrigued by this proposition. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if there are other forces at work that the authors may or may not have considered.
What are the macro-economic forces at work during this time? How do increases in adult enrollment factor in to the equation? Are helicopter parents more likely to send their children to private institutions than previous generations of parents?
These are some of the critical questions that I’ll have in the back of my mind as I read through the rest of the report. Meanwhile, if you are interested, you can find the full Trends in College Spending report here.