3 Easy Fixes for Better Big(ger) Data

Big Data

Big data, it’s all we hear. It’s in the news, social media and all over the internet. But what really classifies as big data and how do you utilize it effectively?

According to Gartner, big data is defined as “high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety of information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making.” The definition in itself can sound a little overwhelming. In other words, big data is data that you have access to on a daily basis.

How do we take your everyday data and turn it into information that can empower you to make better business decisions? The answer is CVS – not the pharmacy, but rather the method and acronym for Consolidate, Visualize and Share.

1. Consolidate It
Every piece of data serves an important role in your decision-making process and should be managed carefully. Similar to most companies, you probably have multiple databases, a CRM, an ERP, an accounting solution, a marketing automation system, and several Excel spreadsheets. If you’re pulling individual reports from each data source, it can be extremely time consuming – not to mention you’re not getting the most of your big data.

Find a data management solution that allows your data sources to communicate with each other. For example, Sleep Innovations, a large mattress manufacturer, was able to save over $1 million annually with a company-wide initiative to consolidate and visualize their data. By consolidating data sources, you’ll find hidden trends and outliers that you might have overlooked by just examining the one database– saving both time and money.

2. Visualize It
Ever look at a spreadsheet and wonder what you’re really looking at? I know I’ve gotten lost in a spreadsheet that I’ve even created! Our brains are constantly at work, craving color and action. What if you could turn your data into something that is engaging and interactive? Dashboards do just that. Dashboards are visual depictions of your data relayed in the form of charts and graphs that can be understood at-a-glance.

Look at the image below, which one allows you to easily determine the product that sold the most last year? Or which screen allows you to quickly find when sales were at an all-time high? My guess is that you picked the dashboard. By using data visualizations like dashboards, you can consolidate all your data sources into a single platform that enables you to see patterns and benchmarks throughout your department and/or organization.

Big Data Dashboard

3. Share It
You can discover powerful information in your big data, but if it isn’t shared effectively the insight will be lost. There are numerous ways to disperse information without worrying about data security. Spreadsheets, PowerPoints and dashboards are typically safe and effective ways to communicate goals.

Data can be shared by paper reports, displayed on internet or intranet websites, or promoted by digital monitors throughout your office. For example, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System uses LCD screens in each medical unit to promote transparency, improve accountability and enhance performance. They recently won the American Hospital Association’s Most Wired Innovator Award for their vast improvements in safety and quality care, which they’ve accredited to the dashboard LCD screens.

By using the CVS method, you’ll encourage healthy competition while allowing everyone to clearly see where thresholds lie. From that point, discussions will arise, helping determine the best way to obtain goals. Although the CVS method is not all inclusive, it is a great place to start transforming your big data into even better big(ger) data.

Interested in learning more about dashboards? Check out our resources here.


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Supply Chain Management: Using Dashboards to Make Better-Informed Business Decisions

supply chain management

With the amount of data available for supply chain management companies to utilize, it is easy to overlook the tiny, yet critical details. The vast amount of information received creates more of a challenge when determining vital information to use for business decisions. To help reduce this complexity, dashboard solutions are using techniques to combine flexibility, transparency and power.

Dashboard technology streamlines processes to identify problems, increase efficiency and improve the clarity of data, making it easier for everyone to understand. A dashboard helps consolidate data sources while executing more detailed results, leading to stronger decision-making capabilities.

What makes dashboards effective?

Successful dashboards are visually appealing. A robust dashboard solution combines several components of critical information all together at once. This adds value by increasing productivity without spending unnecessary time gathering and sorting data. Defining objectives and evaluating milestones are progressing due to decision-makers having quick and efficient access to the data they need.

What are some best practices for selecting and implementing a dashboard solution?

  • Metrics and measures system
    • Include specific metrics in your dashboard that drive your organization.
    • Focus on essential information; a powerful dashboard relies on the information it has access to.
  • Personnel and priorities
    • Know your audience! Many executives will focus on big-picture metrics, while other professionals would benefit from a more tactical set of information.
    • Dashboards have the ability to design portals or categories tailored to specific people and/or departments.
  • Presentation and clarity
    • Dashboards should be understood with a single glance. The information should be easily accessible to make timely decisions.
    • Data should be straightforward with visuals that are clearly comprehensible. Choose charts that best depict your metrics and allow for accurate measurements at-a-glance.
  • Flexibility and customization
    • Flexible dashboards are essential to customize and distinguish the specific needs of an individual company or department.
    • Guarantee the selected dashboard is capable of integrating all data sources.

Implementing dashboard technology makes it easier to see the full scope of your supply chain management organization. By providing enhanced efficiency and a complete breakdown into specific data points, supply chain management dashboards can lead to stronger decision-making capabilities and overall improved business.

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iDashboards Academic Edition: A Free Dashboard Tool for Professors

Academic Edition
In the academic world, no matter how interesting your conclusions are, you’re not serving your students well if your presentation of those conclusions is boring. That’s where data visualization via the new iDashboards Academic Edition comes in. Created exclusively for professors and your upper level and graduate students, the Academic Edition is designed to help bring disparate data sets to life in colorful, compelling and interactive dashboards.

A free download, the iDashboards Academic Edition is easy to learn and employ. With its intuitive design and drag-and-drop interface, the Academic Edition can quickly be integrated into your programs. Most importantly, the insights you and your students will discover can have a substantial impact on their course of study.

“In my Master’s classes, I emphasize that if you want to get into management, you have to get the board of directors’ attention, find the main objectives, research your competition and use services like iDashboards to prove your point through data visualization,” said Academic Edition participant Harry Hurley, professor at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. “It’s amazing when students apply these factors to their final presentation and take on the role as if they were presenting to a real board of directors.”

The Academic Edition provides an easy way to create custom dashboards to fit any project. It also offers:

  • Access to chart, graph and map elements
  • Fast and easy data collection
  • Viewable on mobile and tablet devices

Data is a driving force in the classroom and the boardroom. Data visualization is the most effective and efficient way to glean insights from the great influx of data within the academic world. Bring data visualization into your classroom and your students’ presentations with a free download of the iDashboards Academic Edition.

To get started or to learn more about Academic Edition, visit


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Boone Hospital Realizes the Power of Data Visualization with Healthcare Dashboards

Healthcare Dashboards Boone Hospital

Many healthcare systems have begun collecting mass amounts of data about patients, services and employees. This data can be used to improve efficiency and patient care, but it can be difficult for healthcare organizations to muddle through thousands of numbers to understand how best to address key performance indicators (KPIs).

Located in Columbia, MO, Boone Hospital Center (a part of BJC HealthCare) provides progressive healthcare programs, services and technology to people in 25 mid-Missouri counties. With nearly 400 beds and a 24-hour emergency center, the hospital boasts more than 2,000 employees and 350 physicians on the medical staff.

The HR department at Boone had collected data for several of their KPIs, such as turnover, premium pay, vacancy postings and other core HR metrics. However, they lacked the ability to quickly access their data and leverage it to identify trends or patterns. Boone’s HR department needed a convenient, comprehensive way to gather all of their data into one central location for decision-makers to utilize. It needed to be easy to use, could connect to their existing data sources and would allow them to drilldown into key metrics.

After vetting several potential solutions, Boone identified the iDashboards Enterprise Full Suite as the best product for them. Our healthcare dashboards solution allows Boone to connect multiple data sources, including existing Excel workbooks, into one hub—creating one central source for data. Boone also appreciated how user-friendly, flexible and dynamic our product is, while still providing the ability to effectively drill-down into key metrics like turnover and vacancy postings to identify trends or patterns that need to be addressed.

Another positive point was that Boone didn’t have to rely on their internal IT team to generate additional code to drive information through the healthcare dashboards—the head of the HR department was able to manage the process autonomously. The IT team only needed to be involved when server space was needed.

Instead of having several separate data sources, our Enterprise solution allows Boone to successfully pull their data into one central location that can be accessed by employees and decision-makers alike. The ability to drilldown into important data also allows decision-makers to immediately identify patterns or trends that can impact operations—ultimately leading to better decision-making capabilities.

Boone knows they have just begun seeing and utilizing the benefits of their healthcare dashboards and plan to further leverage them in the coming months as a tool to help achieve department-wide business goals—with the possibility of rolling out iDashboards within other departments of the health center in the coming years.

To view more healthcare dashboards and iDashboards client success stories, visit

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The Power of Dashboards & Storyboarding: Getting Your Data’s Real Story

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Our team is constantly introducing new customers to iDashboards and our software, so we’ve heard almost every question possible. One way that we like to answer our new customers’ questions is through our storyboarding process.

Many people hear “storyboarding” and think of a film set and the way a director plans his shots and frames, and the iDashboards storyboarding process is similar. Just like when a director is framing a movie, our goal is to drilldown from endless possibilities into the best charts for our client’s key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics. There isn’t a formal set of rules for creating a logical, intuitive or insightful dashboard – so how do we go from a blank canvas to powerful insights from data? The storyboarding process is the answer.

Here’s a high-level overview of how we can help you get started with your new dashboards by storyboarding.

Our storyboarding process begins with gathering the dashboard project stakeholders in the same room, in front of a whiteboard. It is imperative to have everyone present so we’re aware of everyone’s goals and are able to be more efficient.

The next step is to agree on the dashboard’s purpose and audience – the two most important key considerations in a dashboard’s design. Knowing the purpose, what insights the company is looking to glean, and who will be using the dashboard will help in selecting the correct metrics.

Then begins what most of us think of as storyboarding: dividing the whiteboard into 4 frames and beginning to think about data in a more visual way. The group will decide on a metric to be displayed on the dashboard and establish “Product, Group and Timeframe” for the metric.

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For example, if you would like to show current month’s average sales versus the same month from last year for each sales manager in the company, using the PGT method will ensure you capture all information. This process is repeated for every metric to be included in the dashboard. We typically recommend clients include 4-6 metrics per dashboard.

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We will then assist in determining the best chart for each metric. With a library of more than 100 types of charts and graphs, there is an option for any possible metric! Include a sketch of these charts and graphs on the whiteboard so you begin to understand how the dashboard will really work.

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The final step is adding color to your charts. We recommend consulting with your graphic design team to ensure brand colors are used according to your organization’s brand standards. Also, think about using color in familiar ways – we often see clients use red, yellow and green, typically seen in traffic lights, for metrics to indicate success or failure.

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Our storyboarding process allows clients to take a deep dive into their existing data sources and take the time to really determine what they want to measure. This allows dashboards to be built into exactly what you need and will lead to highly successful implementation.

Storyboarding can seem a little overwhelming but it is much easier to create and make changes on a whiteboard than an actual dashboard. If you’re interested in diving in more to the storyboarding process or hands-on training, please contact us at

How have you used storyboarding? Could you see how storyboarding could help your organization?

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Dashboards For Your Customers: They’re Not Just for Internal Use

dashboards for your customers blog

You can’t bore your clients into better understanding. It’s important to get data to your clients when they need it, and it’s important to put data into a format that is easily understood by your client and moves them toward positive action. Accountants, consultants, analysts and Fortune 500 clients are having great success by reporting back to their clients with interactive dashboards.

Here are three examples:

  • The world’s largest distributor of technology products had been sending weekly reports to its largest 2,000+ customers regarding their purchases; however, their customers were drowning in the well-tabulated data contained in these reports. The company realized their customers would be better served with insightful dashboards displaying data graphically, with drilldown options and visual analytics so they made the switch to those dashboards. They built a single set of dashboards and using the “filter by user” function now provide customized dashboards that their customers can access live from any Internet-enabled device.
  • A large travel-related services organization had been reporting travel spend to thousands of accounts in massive spreadsheets that didn’t really tell the most important story: how much money were they saving the client? These reports provided travel spend aggregated by department, location and region, all broken into various categories – air, hotel, cab, auto-rental, meals and entertainment. One of their client managers decided to break the status quo by championing a set of dashboards for his select few clients so they could see the value of the relationship with the service organization. The manager worked with iDashboards’ cloud-based offering and had dashboards to his client in about a week, starting with a dashboard that clearly shows the cost savings provided by the vendor. When rolled out at a client meeting, the manager and his team got a standing ovation and the initiative was so successful that other client executives have persuaded their leadership to adopt customer-facing dashboards for other key accounts.
  • An accounting firm was looking for a meaningful way to report back to their clients. They wanted full mobility so their clients could grab a dashboard on their iPad, as well as the ability to customize dashboards for specific clients. They used iDashboards to build a “suite” of dashboards that are standardized (again using “filter by user”) but also have complete flexibility to create custom dashboards for specific clients as needed.

It’s 2015. Are you still reporting in Excel like it’s 1985? (Did you know Ronald Reagan was President when Excel was introduced?) Whether you’re a single consultant or a Fortune 100 company, you probably share the same issue as the clients mentioned above: How do we get data to our customers in a meaningful and insightful way?

Interestingly, in all the examples above there is a great IT staff and meaningful reporting, but when it came to sharing information with their clients, IT wasn’t able to make the desired changes. In each case, it was someone outside of IT who became the champion of getting data into a format that was more meaningful to the client.

It shouldn’t take much imagination to put yourself into your customer’s shoes, because we are all customers of other products and services. If you’re sending reports and spreadsheets overloaded with data, are your clients finding them overwhelming and of little value? Every customer needs something that will deliver intelligence and insight into the products and services they buy and you should be providing that to them.

Wouldn’t it be nice if each of your vendors were to take the initiative to add value to the data they are collecting and present it in a graphical dashboard with quick insights? If your company is reporting back to your clients, wouldn’t it benefit them (and you) to provide that reporting in a way that is meaningful and creates positive action? Dashboards don’t just have to be internal facing – consider the ways they can help you as you communicate with your clients.

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Make Your Office Art Captivating and Intelligent With Dashboard Displays!


What kind of art is currently taking up expensive space on your office walls? Inspirational paintings? Quotes? City landmarks, modern art, employee accolades, company event photos, company awards? For every kind of workspace we share – from corporate offices to call centers to production floors – there’s a type of art meant to inspire, calm or simply communicate the company’s values.

Yet, no matter what message a company is trying to send, there’s one conclusion that it’s probably fair to make: after seeing the art on the office wall just one time, employees and customers may not ever notice it again. In fact, only its absence will be enough to evoke any response at all. Our subconscious filters out extraneous information. And nothing is so expendable, so fit to be lost in the background, as most office art.


Why waste all that valuable space with forgettable art? Today, with LCD display technology so affordable, and dashboard software so readily available, it’s possible to easily create a continuously updated dashboard display that compels attention while communicating key information. It’s art that’s as immediately relevant as it is interesting. And it’s a great way to communicate your company’s underlying values – that your company is modern, innovative and embraces the future.

The decision of what to display is as varied as the types of information you can display on a dashboard. Team metrics, customer maps, new employee announcements, employee awards, top sales performer scorecards, videos and any other digital content are all good candidates. In fact, there are some within the business world who believe that data visualization can be as artistic and engaging as the art you might hanging in a museum, according to a recent Time magazine cover story.


Content can be updated daily or weekly, and many of the metrics can even be real-time. For example, sales for the current period, number of calls made and sales in the pipeline can all be displayed in real-time when connected to respective origination systems, such as a CRM program or phone system.

In the main lobby or customer-facing areas, you can also install separate customer-oriented intelligent displays. Relevant content might include customer wait times, marketing announcements, current promotions, new product releases, product videos, customer testimonial videos, company awards, media coverage, etc. The advantage of a dynamic dashboard solution is that it can provide informative real-time information mixed with beautiful artwork in a slideshow presentation, keeping the display interesting without making it too self-serving.


Touch-sensitive displays can provide yet another level of interactivity. For example, a user can click on specific graphics to drill down and receive additional information, or pause and resume the slideshow, or can even perform a visual query using drop-down lists and sliders. It’s like having a computer browser at your fingertips.

For more information or to discover how others use iDashboards Display Solution check out:

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The Recent Hype Cycles of Business Intelligence


Having seen the last 15 years of business intelligence (BI) developments, one unmistakable phenomenon is the hype cycles within this segment. Hype cycles are like tornadoes – they start with a little shake-up in a few intellectual minds and then build up speed and intensity. Eventually, it consumes all of the tech masses in its spate. Everyone from thought-leaders, analysts, bloggers, tech leaders and their followers get swept into an irresistible hype vortex.

Here’s a quick timeline of the hype cycles of enterprise BI through the last 15 years:

2000-2005: BI for the masses

This hype cycle focused on the promising idea that BI should service all levels of an organization. The thought was phrased as from the mailroom to the boardroom. The growing data volumes should be leveraged, democratized and wielded as an asset for the entire organization. Ad hoc reports that can be generated from a meta-data layer by any user help to mask underlying data complexity.

2005-2010: Dashboards

The second major hype cycle included the next generation of graphical reporting, centered on ease of use for the masses. Technical and business users should be able to easily process information, perform what-if analysis, get alerts on their dashboards and be quickly informed through color-coded traffic light and speedometer look-alike graphical widgets.

2010-2014: In-memory Analytics

The notion that in-memory data retention can churn data at the speed of thought and give users instant data analysis from large data volumes was the central idea of the third main hype cycle. It included a set of proprietary data caching technologies (vendor-specific) sold on the idea that they were better alternatives to data warehousing, data marts and traditional (and complex) BI systems.

2014-2017: Self-service BI

The next few years will focus on the idea that business users should be able to seek answers on their own to typical data-driven questions. This is also termed as data discovery – how you connect data discovery software to your data sources and allow business users to discover enlightening answers, which help them in their work. Obviously, we are living through this hype-cycle and my prediction is that like its predecessors, it will begin to settle down in its third year. By 2017 the next hype will begin to take shape. The big question is – what will it be?

The negative impact of these hype cycles is how they leave behind shattered expectations, expensive unused software and include business-users still dealing with their spreadsheets – much like they did in the 90s, except the data volumes now are at a much greater magnitude.

The positive impact of hype cycles is that they leave behind some good technologies in their wake, which often get acquired and absorbed by the few huge companies in the software industry. Fortunes are made by a few, a lot of excitement is created and we all get to enjoy the adrenaline of the rising hype. There is something to look forward to for everyone – industry analysts, bloggers, event planners, tech enthusiasts and BI professionals.

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Do You Want Instant Insights Into Data or Data Discovery?

Intant Insight iDashboards

Per industry analysts, data discovery has experienced a meteoric rise within the last two years. Also referred to as “self-service BI,” it is the latest hyped concept within business intelligence (BI).

As the Director of Enterprise Sales at iDashboards, I receive information on hundreds of client conversations each week. We work with everyone from small non-profit organizations to large Fortune 500 clients across every industry, and most of our clients have evaluated or reviewed one of the data discovery tools. One common dilemma resonates through these conversations – the primary need for data discovery or instant insight to the end-user. These are two divergent needs, and there is no single solution on the market yet that can deliver both equally well. Data discovery vendors may claim that their solution delivers instant insight to business users. But, the presentation quality and usability for non-technical users doesn’t come close to the best-in-class benchmark.

On the other hand, they bring great power to the analytical users. Data discovery tools give them the ability to mine and explore large data volumes without dependency on IT or BI departments, which are responsible for maintenance of the databases. However, when they need to present their exploratory results to the decision makers and stakeholders, the presentation is far from ideal and they require different solutions for the final product.

Instant insight is the expectation of the business users who require credible intelligence from the voluminous data to improve their decision-making. They are not interested in discovering information, but simply want a good interface to quickly and succinctly understand the story being told by data. They have no time or inclination to be data discoverers. In any organization, typically more than 80% of the information users will fall into this category.

So, what the decision comes down to is the intended user-base. If end-users are non-analysts and simply need an intuitive presentation with a better alternative to their favorite spreadsheets and PowerPoint, they need instant insight. Some of the key capabilities these end users are looking for include richly animated dashboards, intuitive drilldown features, real-time alerts, what-if analysis and engaging infographics. A solution like iDashboards fits their needs best – an elegant and cost-effective dashboard platform.

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iDashboards Roadshow Rolls Out to 3 Midwest Cities for Complimentary Seminars

iDashboards Roadshow

The iDashboards team is traveling to three cities in June as part of the iDashboards Roadshow. Our Roadshow is a seminar that educates business and technology professionals on the benefits of and best practices for implementing and utilizing dashboards.

The iDashboards Roadshow will provide attendees with a clear understanding of how well-constructed dashboards allow users to better monitor, analyze and identify trends in their data. These seminars are free to attend and will include a presentation on the “Dashboards and the BI Landscape.”

One of the highlights will be the customer panel, where current customers of iDashboards provide real world stories and insight into their own experiences with dashboards. There will also be a product demonstration and a Q-and-A session. We’ll finish with a networking and cocktail hour at the end of each seminar so you can get to know fellow attendees.

For leaders looking for enhanced ways to make sense of their critical data and drive better business decisions, the iDashboards Roadshow is a perfect opportunity to see and hear firsthand about the power of dashboards. We’ll discuss how the business intelligence landscape is changing and how decision-makers can leverage dashboards to transform raw data into meaningful and useful information that helps identify trends and improve business operations.

I’ll be leading the three seminars this month. We hope to see you at one of our Roadshow stops!

The iDashboards Roadshow will visit:

  • Detroit, MI: Hilton Garden Inn Detroit – Southfield, 1:00 p.m. on June 22, 2015
  • Cleveland, OH: Crowne Plaza Cleveland South – Independence, 1:00 p.m. on June 23, 2015
  • Chicago, IL: Courtyard Chicago Downtown/Magnificent Mile, 1:00 p.m. on June 24, 2015

For more information on the iDashboards Roadshow, click here.

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