Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty

On my daily commute, after one of Michigan’s most brutal winters, I have the opportunity to encounter multiple pot holes. Those nasty, alignment-altering holes that go deeper and deeper from the surface until they get to the nitty-gritty layer that was once the original surface.

Drilldowns in a dashboard work much in the same way. In a drilldown, you are moving from one layer to another, ultimately working your way down to the nitty-gritty information you are looking for.

In creating a successful drilldown, there are a number of things to consider.

Start with the source chart for your drilldown. Let’s say we start with a column chart showing sales figures tallied by country. When designing the drilldown target, which will show Sales by City for the selected Country on the source chart, I will start with the original source chart side-by-side, because I will use many components of the source chart for the drilldown target.

In what will be the target chart, I right click, choose Chart Data and Cut and Paste my original x-axis as a new y-Axis label. I will use this label copied to the clipboard again shortly. I now put in my new x=axis label of City, as shown in Image 1.


With the new x-Axis, it is a quick trip through my data source connections (assuming we’re working from one data source) to the point where I now map my new x-axis to City and my newly created y-Axis to Country. I also now create a pivot on Country as shown in Image 2.



Once the target chart is created I like to change the chart to differentiate it from the source to give the visual appearance of change. This chart will ultimately be a chart filtered by City for the selection made at the Country level.


At this point I save the new chart by right clicking and choosing Save Chart As to choose the new chart name. I save the chart with a Sales by City name, and make the chart title Sales by City from ${value:Country} (this is where I can paste the filtering selection from my original cutting of the x-axis label from earlier). That label from the pivoted y-axis needs to match the Value Macro in order for it to work in the title of the target chart.

The final step in creating the filtered drilldown is to go into the Chart Properties on the source chart and choose the Drilldown tab and the Drilldown to Chart option from that tab. See Image 4.



Note the simplicity of creating a drilldown. The application understands which axis values need to be sent to the target chart automatically. The x-axis of Country is automatically selected when the drilldown is chosen.

Now, when the chart is saved and the drilldown selection is made, the target chart appears and is filtered for the selection that is made (Image 5). Also, note that the Country label is shown in the title, so we know which country we selected by looking at the filtered chart.



At this point we can do one more level of filtering to get to our granular details of knowing how many units have been sold per city (the nitty-gritty details!).



We see that again in the chart title, we’ve pulled in the selected values for both Country and City. This has been accomplished by using the following syntax in the chart title – Units Sold  – ${value:Country}, ${value:City}.

It’s no surprise that drilldowns are invaluable in the world of iDashboards. This was after all only one of the many type of drilldowns available. It’s a matter of how you want to show your filtered metric. We could have just as easily set up a drilldown to a dashboard, to a report, or to a website. It all depends on how you wish to see the nitty-gritty details of your data.

Jerry Stowe -Senior Technical Consultant

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Advanced Filtering Technique

In this blog, you will learn an advanced filtering technique with the ‘Data Source Column’ method.

Image 1 below shows a sales dashboard with 5 input parameters as follows:

• Start Date
• End Date
• Product Line 1
• Product Line 2
• Product Line 3

The three controls for Product Lines allow a user to either select ‘ALL’ in the first, or up to 3 distinct values to filter the dashboard. If you are a well experienced iDashboards user, you may notice a typical roadblock here, “how can I have an ‘and’ as well as an ‘or’ operator in the ‘WHERE’ clause using the data source column method?”

Image 1

The standard method when creating input parameters for filtering purposes is that each input parameter results in one filter referencing that input parameter. So, assuming this to be true and knowing that each of the charts on this dashboard have 5 parameters, we can conclude that there are at least 5 filters.

Image 2 shows our list of input parameters on the charts, but if we take a look at the filters, we would expect to see at least 5 filters including the 5 for the input parameters.

Image 2

In looking at Image 3, this is not the case. Rather, there is only one filter which includes reference to each on the 5 input parameters. The ‘Filter’ interface is simply used to create the ‘WHERE’ clause in the SQL Query that iDashboards is configuring for the chart. What this means is that you can simply use one filter to configure more complex filter criteria than simply creating a unique filter for each input parameter and also can combine ‘And’ as well as ‘Or’ operators without needing to use custom SQL.

Image 3

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Foreclosing on Past Due Reporting

In a time of fast membership growth and even faster growing regulations, it’s more important now than ever for credit unions to get a handle on their KPIs and metrics. With dashboards, understanding KPIs and metrics is far faster and easier than with traditional reporting.

By turning standard row and column reporting structures to visualized dashboards credit unions are able to:
• Eliminate / Greatly reduce hours currently spent generating and formatting reports
• See trends
• Identify outliers
• Understand relationships in data

Dashboards have been a key resource for credit unions for years, allowing them to better understand the key metrics driving their organizations, including, but not limited to:
• Collections
• Members per county/state
• Member retention rates
• Employee performance
• Call centers
• Branch scorecards

Branch Scorecard
Branch scorecards have proven very effective at helping credit unions decide which regions have the best opportunities when times are good and which branches are under-performing in bad times.

Financial Drivers

By visualizing the financial drivers, credit unions can help board members who aren’t familiar with standard accounting practices and finance understand these concepts and how they impact performance of the credit union.

Michael Soave- Sales Manager, iDashboards

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Quick Tip: Matching Colors = Effective Branding

The little things are often what matter most.  Things such as adding a company logo to your dashboard and branding it as your own – but why stop there?  By applying corporate colors, logo colors, or colors from other sections of your website, you are able to improve your dashboard branding. 

Most modern browsers include “web developer tools”, and (perhaps surprisingly) Microsoft Internet Explorer* has a built-in color picker.  When activated, the color picker shows the exact colors in use in different parts of a webpage.

Here’s an Easy Tip for Copying a Color from a Website – Let’s Get Started

  • Open Internet Explorer
  • Click on Tools -> Developer Tools
  • Select Tools -> Color Picker from the next screen. 
  • The color picker tool appears and, as you move your mouse cursor around, the color of the underlying item is shown as both RGB and hexadecimal values. 
  • Click on the “copy and close” button to copy the hexadecimal value to your clipboard and close the color picker. 
  • Paste the color code into iDashboards and voilà – you have the exact color from your website! 
  • Save the color to your iDashboards personal or enterprise-wide color palettes for easy access next time.

Matching colors this way is quick and easy.  The smallest changes to your charts and dashboards can go a long way toward improving the user experience.  Here is a screenshot of the process in more detail:

How to Match Colors Exactly

* The color picker tool was removed from Internet Explorer 11.  Similar functionality can be added to other browsers through downloadable add-ons or extensions.

Warren Singh – Senior Consultant, iDashboards

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Tom, Technology Ignores Us

Recently I had the pleasure of hosting our local Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) chapter at iDashboards’ world HQ for a symposium of sorts. Most members in this chapter are Controllers at local country clubs, so the purpose of our conversation was to discuss the use of dashboards within the club setting. This arose out of a complaint I had frequently heard from chapter members: “Tom, technology ignores us”.

They’re right.

In the traditional scheme of things, the biggest technology vendors playing in the club space (or small businesses of 100 different varieties) have traditionally been smaller organizations catering only to that setting. In one sense, this is good, because it means the players in this space have a history in the space. But in another sense, this has been detrimental – severely detrimental – to progress in this space.

Right, Tom, so what’s your point?

My point is this: the big players in the Business Intelligence world – those with the funds to push through stunning developments and advancements – have ignored these spaces because traditionally, any Business Intelligence (BI) rollout required a strong IT backing.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way?

Even if you don’t have a robust IT team (as with many clubs and small businesses) you still have data, and a lack of IT doesn’t mean you don’t have a need for good BI. After all, the purpose of good BI is to take data (for which no one is lacking) and turn that data into information.

Whether you have 5 or 500 employees, your need to leverage data in the day-to-day operations is present. In fact, you could easily argue that the smaller an organization, the more crucial it is to make the right decisions. Without data – no – without information, that can’t be done effectively.

Let’s do dashboards without IT. Let’s take your sales figures; labor and payroll; membership stats; and more, and turn that into a dashboard. In the past, the complaint may have been that it wasn’t affordable, or that the expertise didn’t exist within the staff to handle such an implementation, but it’s 2014.

Our answer: do it without IT. Do it within your budget. Do it right.

Take the data you have sitting out in the ether in numerous Excel spreadsheets, point of sales systems, or other programs and turn that into business intelligence. By leveraging Excel as a “database” of sorts, you can take our patented no-programming tool and turn those spreadsheets into dashboards. You can take the data you have and efficiently convert that into information (and, might I add, automate most of your reporting process to save you time and money). All at the hands of, no, not a programmer, but your controller, your GM, your administrative assistant. Drag and drop or point and click. Then get on to running your club or small business.

Tom Butler – Hospitality Specialist, iDashboards

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The Best Questions are the Right Questions

When asked to think about results almost all of us want to think of doing well, we want to think of the success we’ve had in producing the results others are looking for whether it’s our employers, families, or even just those we meet casually through social interaction.  In most cases results are who we are, they tell the story of how well, or not, we tend to get a job done.  Often times though, I’ve come to realize results are subjective and their conveyance is all too subject to how the story is told.  Take interviewing as an example; ask a candidate how they are result driven and they’ll roll out a laundry list of accomplishments presumably to be taken at their word.  Take a moment to ask a few questions about each accomplishment, and maybe you’ll find their story doesn’t quite jive.

The same can be said for managing results in one’s business as well.  Although we all strive for positive performance and an opportunity to show growth and success, the data may not point to that, and we may not even know it not having not asked any of the right questions. So to keep this one short and sweet, hopefully having proved my point quickly, we shouldn’t just take what we’re given at face value.  The best of the best, ask the best questions.  It’s our job and our responsibility to ask the right questions, to be creative, and find the unique answers and the truth in the story we’re being told.

Jason Wolan – Professional Service Manager, iDashboards

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iDashboards ViPanels

In this blog I would like to talk about ViPanels. This functionality was introduced with iDashboards Version 8.0 and stands for “Visually Interactive Panel.” ViPanels are part of the iDashboards Panel functionality and are accessible through the iDashboards User Application (right click and select “Add/Edit Panel”) or through the iDashboards Designer (select the Panel icon  ). Once the “Configure Dashboard Panel” window opens, select the ViPanel icon and choose the ViPanel applications that you want to use.

Panels are defined as dashboard objects and are not chart types (see also, iDashboards User Manual). ViPanels are actually custom built applications and can be developed for a variety of needs. They can be placed into a frame of a dashboard by the dashboard designer and are saved as part of the dashboard. The ViPanel applications can be downloaded through the iDashboards Online Support & Knowledge Acquisition Repository website (called OSKAR ). After downloading, the application(s) have to be installed through the iDashboards Administrator (System -> Plugins -> Plugin Type “ViPanel”). If you are an iDashboards Cloud customer, the ViPanel applications are already part of your iDashboards Cloud environment.

Whenever I am at a customer site for an engagement and I talk about these panels, I try to engage my trainees into a discussion on how ViPanels can be useful, especially when developing dashboards. I have been using ViPanels when creating “Launching Dashboards,” but of course it is up to each individual dashboard developer on how to use ViPanels. The point that I am trying to make here is that this functionally is available and I encourage you, the dashboard developer, to consider ViPanels in your design process.

By the way, I purposely did not have any ViPanel examples in this blog. I was hoping though, that this blog would make you curious enough about the ViPanels currently available in your iDashboards installation. So go ahead and take a look. Maybe you will find this functionality very helpful and will use it for your current or next dashboard development project. Whether you utilize them or not, I think ViPanels are an excellent tool in the iDashboards development toolbox.

Aziz Sanal – Technical Consultant, iDashboards

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How to get Embed with iDashboards

For a long time, there have been rumors of iDashboards being embed with SharePoint. But lately, people are hearing rumors of iDashboards being embed with any web page!

iDashboards can be embedded into other web-technologies. This topic will provide examples on how to leverage various interfaces for delivering the dashboards you need to share. While this isn’t new functionality, it might be new information.

It is important to know two types of login options are available within iDashboards. First, there is a ‘named user’ login, which requires a specific username and password. And second, there is a ‘web license’ login, which acts as a guest user and bypasses the need for a password. The web license also allows a few parameters within the URL to control the display of the dashboard, chart or application options.

Moving on, let’s learn about three methods of sharing visual charts and dashboards. In SharePoint, embedding is achieved using a function called ‘Web Part’. Khuteja wrote a blog about iDashboards and SharePoint here. For websites, the basic HTML syntax for embedding is simply:

Embedding HTML

Click here for working examples. Unfortunately, over time, the dashboard ID used in the example is likely to change. If you have any problems, just let us know so we can help.

Dashboard via Browser

iDashboards can deliver the rich graphics of a dashboard using a simple web browser. This is the number one method used by our customers.

• Full screen capability, regardless of screen size/resolution
• Manually resize the browser window and the dashboard will automatically resize
• Users can navigate categories and open dashboards using search options
• Users have access to the iDashboards product documentation
• If using the named user login, users can change their password, language, dashboard display style and email address

• End users must be provided the URL or hyperlink
• Some netbooks and small-screen devices shrink the dashboard too much

Dashboard Embedded into HTML

Some companies really enjoy the added control of embedding iDashboards into a web page (or SharePoint). This is very popular within structured organizations or for those wishing to optimize the web license. The task only takes minutes to perform, but requires someone who has access to edit web pages.

• Users can easily find the dashboards ON the webpage without clicking on a hyperlink
• Dashboards developed to a specific dimension can be displayed to the exact dimensions
• Categories can be hidden, so can the application menu button
• Specific dashboards can be displayed

• Although only a few minutes are needed, a website (or SharePoint) designer must perform the embedding task


Chart Embedded into HTML

On a few occasions, it may make sense to embed a single chart into a webpage (or SharePoint). This is only functional using the web license.

• Useful when sharing a small amount of information

• Multiple charts embedded on a web page will not share common features like: Interactive Intelligence, Synchronized Pivots, Drill to Frame, or Dashboard Input Parameters.
• Dashboard background colors or images will not display behind the charts

I really hope you enjoyed this information over the holiday season. I’m going to get embed now and begin my holiday break.

Ken Rose – Product Marketing Leader, iDashboards

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The Big Bang or The Big Win?

Hi, I’m Brad Hines. I’m a technical services team member at iDashboards. I help clients with implementation and development of Business Intelligence projects by using the iDashboards software. I love what I do and do what I love.

I’ve learned a great deal this past year about implementing Business Intelligence projects. To round out the iDashboards blog for 2013, I’ve decided to share some of the best ‘lessons learned’ while on the road and share some of the experiences I’ve had. Some of the most rewarding, and the most painful lessons, are hard fought and will help with any organization that endeavors to improve its processes and transform its effectiveness in the marketplace.

I hope you will find these as insightful and humorous as I did. Let’s dashboard!

1) Don’t be afraid to start
So many organizations are worried about what their projects will yield or look like that they often agonize and never get started. Champions leave, organizational priorities change, and organizational changes can often make developed dashboards irrelevant. Change happens, and often quickly. I find a far more effective approach with BI design is realizing that dashboard designing is by nature iterative, never ending, and organic. Your designs will change constantly. It’s much more effective to design and get it close to right and correct than it is to never get started. Just know that this will be an ongoing challenge and there will always be a need to develop and change content. This often stems from finding patterns from the first-go round and asking new and better questions over time. To quote Yoda, “Let the dashboard flow within you. With each dashboard you become stronger. Use the Dashboard, and trust in the Dashboard Brad.” …Did I get that quote right?

2) Nobody ever gets it right on the first try – this is iterative
Folks whom are not involved with the dashboard process will change their minds or not articulate what they really need to make decisions. Someone isn’t going to be happy with a design choice. Someone will still mention a significant factor that wasn’t considered when a dashboard was built. It happens, and not only is it OK, it’s expected and welcomed! Build dashboards with designs that are repeatable and allow enough design room for changes. We also built the software to be flexible enough to quickly re-create concepts into completed dashboards. It’s OK if things change, your dashboards can adapt.

3) Recycle and re-purpose with Pride
I find that after I design a chart I am often repeating the same chart designs over and over again. I’m a huge advocate for re-purposing the charts I create and transforming them into new concepts. Steal with pride! Why spend all the extra time involved with re-creating designs when you could re-purpose a chart and spend less time working on design?

4) Create a template gallery
I save a lot of time by creating default templates for my development teams. So, when a new dashboard concept is developed I create a generic chart with design choices, and a generic dashboard layout. Then, when I create additional charts I just re-cycle the template charts and dashboards. This saves me hours of development work and repeating what is previously created.

5) Choose dashboard building efforts based on value-added to the organization and the available skill set
Rather than focusing on an initial dashboard that adds a ton of value but is challenging to create, instead when you are first developing focus on the easiest dashboards to create first. The lessons learned about how team members interact and the capabilities of the organization will become apparent. I like to work on easier dashboards, then circle back to more complex and more value-added dashboards. I always end up saving time in the long run by tackling the easiest first and developing skill sets when training. My students then become confident dashboard sharks eager for their next organizational challenge.

6) Everyone’s data needs work. It’s OK …. Start with building the dashboards first, then provide the real data sets
iDashboards training is aimed at having an even split of users in the room: Users with data skills in Excel and/or database(s), and decision makers interested in making decisions. The synergy of iDashboards is that folks typically not involved in a software development lifecycle can create their own dashboards. By having decision makers use Excel to mock up a data set, when real data is available a user can easily change the source of data from an excel mockup to the real data. Thus, if we have a completed dashboard, and therefore a specific set of data requirements in place from a dashboard, data professionals can have a clear target that doesn’t change to hit. This also gives the data pro the freedom to decide if they want to hit an Excel spreadsheet, a view, a stored procedure, a de-normalized pre-aggregate batch table, data warehouse or everyday transactional table to display data. This leads to rapid churn time and many fewer revisions over time. It also means more people can contribute to the construction effort.

7) This is supposed to be fun
I have a blast coming in and working with folks every day. I love to see how iDashboards creates organizational value and leads to positive change. Make it fun and people will participate. The end goal is to make a fun product that makes life easier, returns millions of dollars in value to an organization, and helps people focus on adding value instead of being stuck in Excel purgatory. If the dashboards aren’t doing that, it’s because of one of three reasons: The organizational politics, the skills, or the dashboards aren’t answering the key questions users need to answer. Create a process for users to challenge data in the dashboard and provide an avenue for people to participate and the project will flourish.


8) The folks at iDashboards really do care.
I see it in every interaction. From sales engineers on the road, our tech support team, our sales people and our leadership, we want you to succeed. If we can do anything to help, realize that every project is different and we want to help you succeed. Some organizations need a bit more time to work on concepts. Others want to develop their data proficiency to add value. If your organization doesn’t have these things, it’s OK to lean on us and develop an action plan. We succeed because we care, and we care that everyone succeeds. We look forward to your comments and success in the coming New Year. Happy 2014 to your organizations and families.

Brad Hines – Technical Consultant, iDashboards

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The Product is the Process

A note to the Senior Executives – your “product” is the delivery of information and needs to be updated.

In a recent US Today article entitled “How CEOs are Nearly Illiterate about Technology”, Michael Wolff noted that politicians talking about the introduction of the web site stated the “product” was good, just the “process” was troubled. Wolff noted that for most people “the process is the product.” On a more general note he later wrote “there are few CEOs who can get their heads around the notion that their main value added and distinguishing products are not the cars they manufacture, or credit they supply, or hotel rooms they offer, or merchandise they stock, but the process by which consumers interact with what is being sold.

If you’re a Senior Manager, isn’t part of your “product” the ability to communicate relevant information that improves performance, creates positive change, or helps increase profitability?  If so, are you still reporting results to your stakeholders, employees, or customers the same way results were reported back in the early 1990’s when Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States?  In other words, are you still using Excel as your reporting tool?

As we approach 2014 we need to realize that “the process is the product” and if the numbers are difficult to understand, or if those receiving your reports can’t see the story behind the numbers because the story is hidden in rows and columns, you need a better process.

Dashboards provide visibility. Visibility creates accountability, and accountability creates positive change. Recently a manufacturer put together a dashboard based on Excel data they had looked at every week and noticed a trend that maybe should have been obvious to them but wasn’t until they saw the numbers in a picture. By making minor scheduling changes they almost completely stopped the need for overnight shipping and are now saving $10,000 a week in shipping costs.  After updating their “process” their employees were able to make immediate changes, and they added $500,000/year to the bottom line.  Take the rows and columns of data in your current Excel files and turn them into insight that will have a positive impact on your business.  Isn’t it time you improved your process?

Tim Barr – Director, Cloud Sales, iDashboards

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