Archive for the ‘Software’ 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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Thanks to Fergal Breen of IrishDev.com for visiting today to give me the heads up on an upcoming Silverlight event (free but registration required). Actually he asked me for a plug so here goes :

Time   19.30 – 00:00(vCalendar)   Phone   +353 1890 81 2100
Date   Thursday, September 27, 2007   Fax   +353 1 6614408
Venue   Cineworld Complex, Parnell Street, Dublin 1   Email   info@irishdev.com

Details  http://www.irishdev.com/EventDetails.aspx?id=888

The buzz :

In September,
Martha Rotter, from the original Silverlight crew, invites you to
witness how Silverlight can light up the web with Rich Interactive
Join her, free to learn how to use Silverlight at Ireland’s largest cinema complex. It’s Silverlight, on the silver screen.

If you’re even remotely interested in Silverlight and how it just might revolutionise the development of rich internet applications get yourself there. There’s a drinks reception and chance to do some after show networking too. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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Here’s 2 more examples of recent dashboard work with Xcelsius, both executive level dashboards with a view of key contact centre business metrics.

Images removed.

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I promised you a Sales Management related dashboard earlier this week, and here it is!


As it’s sales related, in producing this I’ve strived to introduce a new level of clarity and adopted what should be a best practice going forward of dedicating the most screen real estate to the metrics that matter most to the intended viewer. In the case of the sales manager, it’s all about the dollars, so figures like the value of sales for the chosen period and the no. of units sold are given prime position.

On loading, this dashboard runs any combination from a total of 18 XSQL queries and repopulates the gadgets with the results for the chosen date and period in under 5 seconds.

It also attempts to give an insight into how sales and marketing may be peforming as a whole with an insight into the trend for sales enquiries for the last 30 days. Armed with this as a sales manager, I can get a feel for whether or not any current marketing campaigns are working (i.e are we seeing a spike in enquiries taken as a result of marketing spend this week/month? ) and address the situation as the need arises.

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