Archive for the ‘Dashboards & Balanced Scorecards’ Category

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!


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Here we go again folks, another sample Xcelsius dashboard for you to mull over! Based on the excellent July 2007 article “Top 10 Call Centre Metrics and What They Mean To You“,I’ve knocked this up in about an hour today for a training session I’m delivering this Thursday.

Quote from the article:

What follows are the top ten contact centre metrics that will allow you to:

  • Manage your workforce
  • Control costs effectively
  • Continuously enhance the client experience
  • Ensure the contact centre is a contributor the overall profitability of an organization
Image removed.

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While checking some blog stats this evening I came across some referrals from Xcelsius evangelist Ryan Goodman’s site. Ryan keeps an updated list of sites containing Xcelsius material (tips, examples etc.) and he’s linked me on there. Here’s what he had to say about Jim Bytes:

This is a great site with interesting information and some original
Xcelsius work that is well done. Always interesting information right
up my alley on here.

Thanks for the link Ryan! I hope your visitors continue to come my way, there’s some more great sample dashboards in my pipeline.

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It’s been quite a while since I did a “One to Watch” post mentioning a site you might want to check out, and since most of my recent work life has been centered around data visualisation, I thought it time I mentioned KPILibrary.

If you are what you measure, how do you know where to start with your BI / dashboarding project. Divided into categories by industry, it’s populated by user contributed KPI definitions and it just might get you off the ground. Do you know what you should be measuring? What are others measuring their success on and how often?

Check it out. The articles on the blog are worth a look too!

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A couple of days ago I had a blog visit from John Santic, Corporate Account Manager at Business Objects, and he’s now added me to his very prestigious blogroll on “Toward the Intelligent Enterprise“. The company includes author and BI & CRM veteran Claudia Imhoff of Intelligent Solutions!

John liked the ongoing sample Xcelsius dashboard posts, hence the link, so thanks again John, and hope you make it to Dublin again soon!

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