The Almanac

Dashboards: Not Just For Execs Anymore

When people think of management dashboards, they often think of what used to be called executive information systems (EIS). An EIS provides a fancy computer display of key financial metrics for the corner office. But research by John Hagerty, an analyst at AMR Research Inc. in Boston, indicates that dashboards (also called scorecards) are showing up at all levels of the company and provide data other than financial metrics.

Call it the democratization of dashboards. Hagerty says they're being used in a variety of departments, including customer service, manufacturing, sales, human resources and supply chain management. The big difference is that these dashboards provide operational performance metrics instead of financial statistics.

Message to Vendors: Don't Get Too Fancy

Skip the bells and whistles, and just give customers the core business-intelligence capabilities, said Gartner Inc. analyst Bill Hostmann in a recent warning to vendors. "A vendor putting all of its resources into the latest, trendy technology is usually wasting its time and money," he said.

Gartner's study of the business-intelligence software market found that IT managers "are unimpressed by technology hype" and that they want some fairly straightforward things, such as:

1. Ad hoc queries

2. Access to multiple databases

3. Scalability

4. Ease of integration with back-office systems

In other words, Hostmann says, vendors should steer clear of fads, make scalability and integration high priorities and make ad hoc queries easier to do.

Patent Watch

  • A bilingual translation database. The database stores pairs of sentences, one in English and its counterpart in French, for example. When the user enters a text fragment in English, the database retrieves the corresponding text in French. Inventors: Emmanuel Roche and Yves Schabes at Global Information Research and Technologies LLC, Boston. - U.S. Patent No. 6,535,842, issued March 18

  • A wide-area network of vending machines connected to a host computer, which collects sales and maintenance data in a data warehouse. Inventors: Thomas P. Howell and Kevin Ward, at The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta. - U.S. Patent No. 6,462,644, issued Oct. 8, 2002

  • A method of synchronizing two incompatible databases, such as a PC database and a handheld one. Inventor: David J. Boothby at Pumatech Inc., San Jose. - U.S. Patent No. 6,532,480, issued March 11



Data-Quality Perceptions

IT managers are a bit more skeptical than business managers are about the quality of the data in their business-intelligence systems.

How confident are you in the accuracy and reliability of your business-intelligence data?

Corporate management:

Not at all confident 3%
Somewhat confident 35%
Very confident 62%

IT management:

Not at all confident 4%
Somewhat confident 48%
Very confident 48%

Base: Online survey of 121 corporate managers and 363 IT managers.

Source: IDC, Framingham, Mass., January 2003


Hub-and-spoke data visualization: The “star tree” graphical user interface—powered by software from Inxight Software Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif.—helps users navigate large, complex hierarchies of information in a hub-and-spoke fashion. In this case, a user can navigate the taxonomy of dinosaurs by clicking or dragging the information “nodes” to see related species. The same data-visualization technology can be used to navigate Web sites or analyze text databases at intelligence agencies. More examples:

Hub-and-spoke data visualization
Please click on image above to view a readable version.

Special Report


Mining for Gems

Stories in this report:

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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