Before I sign off for 2007, here’s some of my most recent dashboarding work with Crystal Xcelsius. Click the images for a larger view.

Images removed.
I hope some of these will get your creative juices flowing. If you’d like to know more about any of these, don’t hesitate to contact me via LinkedIn in the new year.

That’s all folks! I’m off out of Dublin for the holidays so Merry Christmas to all and here’s hoping for a prosperous 2008!


I recently looked into doing the foundation ITIL v3 certification in IT Service Management from EXIN, not because I’ve any desire to work in service desk management but thought I’d like to study something in the new year and it’s no bad thing to have on a CV in Ireland these days.

My investigating stopped when I discovered the fact that you’re not allowed sit the exam involved without having attended authorised training, usually 2-3 days, at a cost of about €1,500.

We at EXIN are doing everything in our power to develop good exams.
A lot of attention goes into quality insurance and exam evaluation.
This is why participating in an accredited training course for IT Service
Management Practitioner and IT Service Management Service Delivery or
Service Support is mandatory, otherwise you will not be allowed to
write these exams. However, accreditation of courses that lead to the
Foundation Certificate is voluntary. In any case, EXIN encourages all
candidates to take their course at an accredited training provider.

What a jip! If this is some attempt to preserve the value of this certification then EXIN are fooling themselves. In the past week I’ve acquired CBT training for ITIL v2, several copies of test prep software with actual recent v3 exams and multiple study guides that sell for $100 plus, all of which I paid ZIP for, including a complete ITIL v3 course from IBM.

Who’s to say I couldn’t use all the above to learn the material properly at my pace and receive a higher mark than I would have done after 3 days in the classroom having someone ram the stuff down my throat and thrusting me into an exam I’m truly not ready for?

Wake up EXIN. As the popularity of ITIL grows in 2008, at least in the case of the v3 Foundations exam, give people a damn choice as to how much they spend
and how and when they learn the material.

Update @ 16/01/08 – Never let it be said that I don’t admit my
mistakes! With the end of year madness over I’ve reread the above quote
from the EXIN site and it seems I jumped the gun just a bit. You CAN
sit the ITIL Foundations certification without course attendance.

However, I stand by the original arguments i.e.

  • far too many IT certifications today have become devalued too easily,
  • self
    study + sufficient practice is often a cheaper and better alternative
    to expensive class based learning in order to get certified,
  • and
    forced classroom attendance as a means of protecting the value of
    certain paths is naive as long as TestKing, ActualTests and the like
    are around.

As 2007 rapidly draws to a close, bloggers everywhere are writing lists of the year’s best and worst of everything, and I’ve finally found one worth reading to share.

Via RedmondMag, with everything from Most Influential Exec to Sharpest Microsoft Competitor and Coolest Hair, there’s something for everyone to ponder!

BTW, the Coolest Hair accolade goes to Ray Ozzie.

For those who work in dashboarding, you’ll know that it’s a constant struggle to provide real value and what the text books like to call “actionable insight”, meaningful information that executives can act on. We constantly strive to provide real context, something more than just a number on a gauge, and often the best way to do so is to provide trend information for the metrics displayed.

By now you’re wondering what the hell spark lines are, right? Well spark lines are the invention of data visualisation guru and author of “Information Dashboard Design” Stephen Fews of Perceptual Edge. (If you work in visual business intelligence / dashboarding and have never read Stephen’s work, shame on you!) Spark lines are Stephen’s preferred way to represent trend information and a good example can be seen below. The Spark lines are those wriggly lines you see in the third column.


So how can you get the look in Xcelsius?

  • Use a line chart without titles
  • Switch off the axis and labels
  • Make your font as small as possible
  • Leave the markers on or off according to your taste.

For an example of how it can look in Xcelsius, here’s a draft dashboard I did a few months ago that includes some spark lines.

Image removed.

Where’s the value? The AHT region not only shows the result for the chosen day but also gives an insight into recent performance. With the markers left on, the user can hover over any of the last 30 days and see which have been the best and worse days.

Ditto for the service level trend. With the markers left off but a second line representing a target added, it’s easy to see at a glance how often the metric results are above and below the desired target over a considerable period. This is a lot of valuable information in a small area but you take it a little further. You could save some screen real estate by combining the chart and gauge to display the trend underneath the arrow. A little imagination can go along way!

Hopefully both simple examples illustrate how using spark lines to display trending information can bring a new level of context and valuable insight to your dashboard.

Update (27-11-07): Oops, apparently spark lines are the invention of Prof. Edward Tufte!

Back …with more Byte!

Hi all! I’m back after about a month on pause. The last month has included a week long trip to Paris, a visit to our local zoo 😉 and a busy work life (almost) finishing an Xcelsius executive dashboard for a large UK client. Check out some holiday pics below.

100_0456View_from_SacreCoeur 100_0513Jim_at_Concorde 100_0652Mel_at_NotreDame 100_0570Inside_Louvre 100_0684Jim_DublinZoo