Friday, November 12, 2010

What is a Dashboard and how to build a dashboard report

What is a dashboard report?

Stephen Few offers the most pragmatic definition of a dashboard that cuts through the marketing hype.

A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives; consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance. This is the fundamental nature of dashboards.

In addition, a dashboard can have these supporting attributes to do its job effectively.

- High-level summaries.
- Concise, clear, and intuitive display mechanisms.
- Customized for a given person, group or function.

Other items that are mentioned when discussing dashboards such as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), real time displays and use of the web browser for viewing the dashboard - are nice to have but not pre-requisites for a dashboard to be useful.

What are the different types of dashboard reports?

At a very basic level, dashboards can be divided into three types:

- Dashboards that show data snapshots, with alerts and milestones highlighted.
- Dashboards that look like scorecards showing trends and performance over time.
- Dashboards that are a combination of the two.

Using ActiveReports to build a dashboard report

The following screenshot is a good example of how you can use ActiveReports by GrapeCity or your existing .NET reporting tool to present data in a dashboard format. This particular sample is taken from a healthcare reporting application developed using ActiveReports. It uses lists, bar charts, line charts and surface charts to show both snapshot data and trends in the data.


Dashboard report with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Data Dynamics Reports is a .NET business reporting tool by GrapeCity for Windows Forms and ASP.NET. It includes built-in Key Performance Indicator (KPI) controls such as spark lines and bullet graphs that give users an instantaneous view of how a KPI or other statistic is currently doing—all in a space-saving display. Data Dynamics Reports can be used to custom develop Windows Forms dashboards and ASP.NET dashboards.

The dashboard samples below use bullet graphs and spark lines and other elements. Learn more about Bullet Graphs and Spark lines and watch a video on how to develop a dashboard.


Dashboards that use data visualization

Unlike most OLAP and analysis products that are either primarily pivot tables or primarily charts, GrapeCity ActiveAnalysis grasps data at its fundamental level and offers a wide array of OLAP, data visualization and business intelligence capabilities. With the click of a button, you can turn a cross-tab pivot table into a trellis display of feature-rich charts and turn it back with another click.

The dashboard sample below is developed using ActiveAnalysis.



Another benefit of using ActiveAnalysis is that you can develop Silverlight dashboards, Windows Forms dashboards and ASP.NET dashboards using just one component.

See the code walkthrough and Learn how to develop this dashboard.

Happy dashboarding!