Dashboards in Minutes?

Sep 23, 2010

Previously, I posted on a couple of higher education vendors touting their "out of the box" dashboards. Here's another example of messaging that should make every BI project lead or CIO cringe. "Data to Dashboards in Minutes" is the byline for the Pentaho Agile BI Tour that started recently. It sounds appealing: a half day workshop to help you "deliver successful BI solutions to users more quickly and at significantly lower cost."

But what part of the dashboard deployment process are they talking about? I doubt the half day seminar with hands on demo includes the challenging, up front, and most important part of the process. That is, to answer questions surrounding data governance, ownership, quality and integration. I also suspect it sidesteps the contentious debate that occurs during most dashboard design and deployment efforts on what metrics, goals and visual presentation should be made for the various user personas who will access the them. In my experience, every user wants their own view and metric definitions of what matters for their job responsibilities. Dashboards are notoriously difficult to create with the right level of detail and interactivity, except at the very highest levels of summary. And, those are often the least useful for real decision making.

So, I am curious as to how comprehensive the Agile BI Methodology is with respect to the people and process side of the BI equation.Ignoring this key aspect and touting "dashboards in minutes" or "out of the box" really does a disservice to everyone involved – the end user, IT, professional services, and BI vendor communities because it sets a false expectation of what is possible. It doesn't tell the whole story of what resources are required to get the organization where it wants to go. That leaves BI professional service companies like ASR having to do more education on the realities that go beyond just the BI technologies. The limiting factor is often the organization's own ability to deal with the internal transformations needed to understand and manage with data.

That is the big nut to crack.