Interview with Alexander from Dashboard Insight

Dashboard technologies allow businesses to take in large amounts of data and rearrange the points in many different ways to help them get a clearer overall picture. Data related to your business is all around you, and using dashboard technology will allow you to take advantage of a relatively unknown resource that many of your competitors most likely don’t know about nor know how to utilize.

Alexander Chiang, the Research Director at Dashboard Insight, was kind enough to let us ask him some questions on the future of the business intelligence and dashboard industry, and how we can further take advantage of such an early industry that will be exponentially useful the sooner small businesses begin using it ahead of their competitors… What sort of progress has dashboard software made in the past couple of years?

Alexander: Vendors that provide dashboard software are able to handle larger sets of data now. They are also making it easier for less tech-savvy users to develop their own dashboards. It’s better known in the industry as self-service BI. In addition, some vendors are beginning to incorporate collaboration features to their offerings including Dundas, Panorama, and TIBCO Spotfire.

CCP: Can smaller businesses utilize Dashboard Software cost-effectively?

A: With the big push for Cloud BI (or SaaS BI in this case), there are definitely cost-effective solutions out there that range from 20 to 100 dollars a month per user. Companies that provide such dashboard offerings include Klipfolio, KPI Online, and MicroStrategy. Another option is Excel but it doesn’t scale well for enterprise wide dashboard deployments.

CCP: Do you need a statistics background to understand what the software shows you?

A: It’s important to state that dashboard software is just tools to build dashboards. It’s up to BI professionals well versed in data visualization and dashboard design best practices to use one of these tools to develop an effective dashboard. A properly designed dashboard should clearly display the data without the need for a statistics background.

CCP: What does the future look like for business intelligence software?

A: BI software vendors will start adding social media aspects to their products. It’s started, but only a few vendors have added it to their product offering. This would allow everyone to start sharing their discoveries on the data and to incite discussions on those discoveries. As a result, we will see an increase in corporate communication and better alignment between operational activities and strategic goals.  However, a company culture of sharing information needs to be in place first.

CCP: How will cloud computing affect the dashboard software industry?

A: Cloud computing can be treated as another data source – data can be pushed into the Cloud to leverage its computational power to perform complex analyses and the results can be presented by dashboard software. It’s great for dashboard software that don’t have a strong data processing engine behind it.

Whether it’s a new product idea, choosing between insurance policies, or deciding which credit card processor offers you the most for your investment, as a small business it is crucial to make your decision based on the information you gather from investigating the options and trying to dispel uncertainty. The way you make an informed decision requires you to gather data and organize it in a coherent way and it is no doubt that in the information age we have plenty of data and not enough organization.

The concept of making money from using data by exploiting the differences in what we know versus what others don’t, the uncertainty, is what gambling in the 17th century helped lead to the creation of what we now call probability. Probability is a mathematical discipline and tool that takes in data and creates a helpful model that lets you better predict an outcome despite the haze of uncertainty surrounding the future. If you know how to decipher your data using probability then you have a competitive advantage when it comes to making a decision today that lead to the best results tomorrow.

The age at which students learn tools like probability in school is younger each year and as the number of people who know a piece of information increase, the advantage that information brings gets divided amongst everyone who knows it. Being that so many people know and understand probability, at least intuitively, there is not much room for small businesses to capitalize on the discrepancy in knowledge without the use of specialized tools that the growing business intelligence industry has to offer.

Posted on Monday, December 19th, 2011