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Stage 5

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F R A M E W O R K ™

Stage 5



Digital Dashboards

Digital dashboards take Stage 4 enterprise information portals a step further by integrating real-time or near real-time information from data warehouses and business intelligence systems into an intranet interface, usually one that is built on a portal package. Targeted toward senior members of an organization, these intranets highlight the key performance indicators with which a company or a business unit can be managed. But modern browser-based technologies have made business intelligence available to all levels within an organization. Successful companies have taken advantage of this capability and made sure that high-level metrics extend throughout the organization. Sharing data relevant outside of the senior members of an organization helps everyone in the organization align personal or department-level goals with corporate high-level goals. These intranets include all the features and functionality belonging to the preceding stages, but go beyond them with the digital dashboard functionality.


These intranets are mostly built on enterprise portals or business intelligence software packages. They are actively supported by Corporate IT departments and are seen in the largest and most dynamic companies. In fact, according to Forrester Research, 40% of the Fortune 2000 companies have digital dashboards in their enterprises.


Current State


Like Stage 4 intranets, dashboards are sponsored at the highest levels of a company—usually the CEO or the CIO. Executives should take this opportunity to make dashboards relevant to all levels in the organization and cascade key performance indicators (KPI’s) throughout the organization. In some cases, we’ve witnessed this at every level, from regional managers to employees working on the factory floor. As the sponsors also form the primary audiences of the digital dashboard, getting funding is relatively easy.



Digital dashboards target relatively small audiences, so the governance models needed to support them are quite basic. Invariably, new governance models aren’t needed when intranets mature to include digital dashboard functionality.


User Needs:

Dashboards are fundamentally concerned with displaying business information through an intranet interface. More often than not, the information displayed is of a confidential nature and targeted towards specific users at specific levels in an organization. Employees that make on-the-spot decisions based on data-driven factors like inventory levels, pricing fluctuations, raw material costs or competitor pricing need dashboards the most. More advanced dashboards include green, orange and red performance indicators that enable the user to view real-time results against pre-established targets.


Experience Design:

Digital dashboards assimilate mission-critical information from a variety of sources into a single, easily understandable interface. Since the primary purpose of a dashboard is to provide critical indicators to senior level executives who have little time, they have to be extremely well-designed.



Three types of technologies are used to drive digital dashboards. Enterprise strength business intelligence software (i.e. business objects, cognos, etc.) is used to integrate and visualize the information, which is then delivered through portal software on the intranet or the dashboard functionality is custom-built into the portal platform itself. Niche dashboard applications are increasingly integrated into the portal environment. Lastly, extract transformation load (ETL) tools are critical to aggregating disparate data into a suitable reporting location and model.



As with Stage 4 intranets, formal training mechanisms aren’t always called for with dashboards. The size of your audience may determine whether informal, face-to-face, manager-led training is enough, or whether formal, instructor-led training is required.



Dashboards meet the needs of a very small audience very well. In that respect, they’re similar to custom-tailored suits. Because they are designed uniquely and precisely for their audiences, they are adopted fairly quickly. Since they provide key business metrics in an easily understandable fashion, senior level employees are excited to use the dashboards and view them as tools to make their work lives easier.


ROI Metrics:

Though ROI numbers are hard to come by, these solutions enable employees throughout the organization to make better business decisions. The popularity of dashboards alone is a sufficient indicator of their relevance. Sometimes the ability to quickly spot problems with products or sales in a particular region is enough to demonstrate value. In other cases, increasing the quality of the data behind the metrics provides enough ROI. In the first week after rolling out a digital dashboard, a large beverage manufacturer identified $1M in cost savings through increased data quality.


Key Takeaways

Since they depict the financial and operational performance of a business or a department in a visually compelling and easily understood manner, digital dashboards are considered critical by many companies. These dashboards can give new significance to an intranet since they let employees not only communicate, collaborate or conduct business tasks but assess the performance of their business units. The one downside to integrating dashboards into an intranet is their sheer power, which can overshadow the other features on an intranet.


Moving forward, expect to see more dashboard functionality integrated into intranets. When tied to employee directories, collaboration spaces and synchronous communication tools, dashboards will give executives not only views into the business health of a company but also insights into which employees to leverage to solve business issues.


A February 13th, 2006, Business-Week article described dashboards as the ultimate CEO killer application. According to the article, dashboards are changing the very nature of management, taking it from an intuitive art to a science. For example, at General Electric, James P. Campbell, the chief of the Consumer & Industrial division, which makes appliances and lighting products, tracks the number of orders coming in from each customer every day and compares that with targets. Does your CEO track the health of your business through a dashboard? If so, what tool does he use?




External Resources


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