Best Practice Guide
The ultimate step-by-step guide for analytic content creators.
Drill down, drill-through and drill anywhere
As a collection of reports, dashboards are represented by our analytics software in several ways, such as tabular, charts, and graphs. All have their own intricacies in how data is organized. Taking this fact into account, your users require effective, interactive elements to help them dig into the details of their key metrics, no matter their presented format. One interaction method available in the majority of modern business intelligence solutions is called drill.
What is drill?
Drill refers to the action performed by a user who clicks on a hyperlinked value or interactive element in a dashboard which brings them into more detail within the same report, or opens a separate report related to the value selected.
Drills require initial setup on part of the administrator to set the correct parameters for users to be able to access drill dashboard features as they are intended to be used. Additionally, the different types of drill styles cannot be used simultaneously on the report.
Knowing what drill is, how to use it and why it’s useful is key to getting more out of your data discovery and insight generation efforts. There are three distinct types of drill every BI user must know, detailed in the next sections.
A drill down is when a user goes through a pre-defined, logical hierarchy within their dashboard data to organize, view and explore specific information from different angles and levels.
Drilling down is done within the same report and involves stepping down from one level of data to the next, by clicking on a hyperlinked value or element. Upon drilling down a level, the report is refreshed to show the relevant data within the value selected.
Example: Region > Country > Location.
You might be looking at a sales performance result by region, and want to understand why one region outperformed another in further detail. Clicking on a region will make the dashboard report automatically refresh with the new detail updated – in this case, to display all countries within that region and their various performances. Each time you drill down, the value selected becomes a filter for the next level down. In our example, your user won’t see all the countries when you drill down – just the countries for the specific region selected.
Drill through is when a user might want to highlight a value or metric on a dashboard and go to a different but related report for a greater level of necessary detail. If the value or metric has a hyperlink embedded, drill through is properly enabled, and your user can use it to quickly switch to the relevant report without having to manually search or filter for it in navigation. Drill through reports require a bit more set-up on behalf of the dashboard and report creators to enable the feature for users who consume the final published dashboard and want to drill through reports.
Drill anywhere is when a user selects from a list of available dimension fields to drill. When clicking a drill enabled field, a list of dimensions will appear. This breaks the metric/value down further by a specific field to provide additional context in your data. Similar to drill down, the key difference is all column options are available from the start – some examples include location, categories, regions – and by selecting the desired field, the report will automatically refresh within the dashboard.