Business intelligence, minus the dashboard?

Business intelligence, minus the dashboard?

For over 30 years, the dashboard has been the delivery paradigm of choice for decision support and executive information systems. It started with Business Objects and Cognos, and today Qlik, Tableau, Power BI and other vendors are still using dashboards as the medium of data delivery. Rather than thinking about whether there’s a better way to deliver insights, dashboard dinosaurs just keep using the same paradigm.

Some vendors are locked into dashboards

When you walk past any BI vendor at a trade show, you’ll see a large picture of a dashboard. Every vendor is marketing a rectangular device with some charts on it. This means that users perceive dashboards as being the only way to deliver information to the business. As a result, vendors have tried to use dashboards for many use cases that they’re not suited to.

Dashboards are good at monitoring a business. They help users consume a known set of data easily and that’s their primary use case. But vendors have tried to jam more and more functionality into dashboards. Take mobile as an example. The first BI mobile applications were just dashboards on a mobile app. Rather than thinking about the user experience, vendors just created another dashboard. Another example is Tableau’s storytelling functionality. They’re not reinventing the model or the way data is being delivered to users, they’re just asking users to build another dashboard that tells a story. These dashboard dinosaurs are not thinking beyond dashboards and questioning whether there’s a better way to deliver information.

Discovering insights is another use case that vendors are now trying to fit into dashboards. But dashboards aren’t good at slicing and dicing data. For users to be able to discover insights they need something that helps them ask new questions. Those capabilities will never be best met through a dashboard.

The meteor is about to hit dashboards

There are already signs that the role of dashboards is changing. There are a lot of startup vendors in this space who are not shackled to dashboards. They realize that there’s no point entering the BI industry if you’re just going to build another dashboard because you’re not going to win. To win you have to do something radically different.

As more of BI is automated, I believe the vendor who wins will be the one who finds a clever way to deliver information to users in a way they want to experience it. For example, some of the smaller vendors are looking at innovative mobile and email methods of delivery. They know that users won’t need a dashboard to receive an automated insight. To truly innovate, vendors need to change the way they think and that’s not easy.

Like every other vendor, Yellowfin has been guilty of being too dashboard centric in the past. Our first attempt at automated insights was delivered by dashboard but we soon realized that the dashboard didn’t really add any value. The dashboard is great at monitoring a business but it can’t help users find new insights or investigate their data. With new vendors focusing on innovative ways to deliver insights to business users, it’s time for the dinosaurs to look past their dashboards and reimagine the data delivery model for users.


Read the paper and survey by Computing Research for more facts behind:

The Rise of Automated Analytics and the Demise of Dashboards