What on Earth Are You Doing With Your Business Data?

Business Data iDashboards

Now you see it, now you don’t. Scientists are getting closer to the Romulan’s cloaking device portrayed in Star Trek. This ultra-thin invisibility cloak is made of microscopic rectangular gold blocks that, like skin, conform to the shape of an object and can render it undetectable with visible light. Similarly it seems, many business intelligence (BI) vendors have essentially built cloaking devices into their offering, making many business data elements invisible to users.

Just the word “cube”, when it relates to data, sends chills down my back. I become frightened when people speak of ETL applications that may even come from another planet. With data warehousing, data marts and data mining, I need a pick and shovel just to get to the data. All the disparate data sources lack a consistent structure, causing chaos to run the business.

But what if you could mix it all together? For instance, I love my blender at home. I put in fruits, vegetables, nuts and yogurt to create a delicious smoothie. This same concept can be applied for disparate data sources. I can now bring in my business data from Excel, SQL, flat files, Oracle and blend it together in order to make a smooth data framework where I can point various applications to create business intelligence for the organization. This mixture is not only healthy for an organization, but your systems and production environments will find it more palatable not to mention bypassing the expense of a DBA.

BIG DATA is overstating all the small pieces of data that actually have value within. We’ve all heard that big things come in small packages, but arguing if one’s data is bigger than another’s data doesn’t matter. It’s what one does with one’s data that speaks to the expanse and breadth of what the data is worth. In the words of Albert Einstein, “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.”

What are you doing with your business data? Are you serving the analyst or the organization? If not the organization, you need to rethink your purpose. The business should not be bogged down by getting the data out of the vault.  Instead, it should focus on the performance of people, processes, programs, and the trends that dictate either corrective action or additional focus. This can easily be achieved with a dashboard visualization tool which is on the front end of the BI ecosystem. There are many flavors of dashboard solutions, some which we will not mention that are cleverly disguised and pretend to serve a dashboard purpose, but are solely based on reporting or analytics. As Gordon Gekko stated in the movie Wall Street, “The most valuable commodity I know is information.” If he only had quicker access to that information, the plot could have changed drastically. That is how a proper dashboard avails to the business user.

Buyer Beware – if the real goal is to serve the business user, make sure you perform your due diligence. Remember the informational needs of the many, most certainly outweigh the data analytical needs of the few. Bottom line – any front end dashboard solution is still reliant on how you manage your data. So manage your data well and your organization will prosper!

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iDashboards Making Strides Against Breast Cancer with Kroger Company of Michigan and American Cancer Society

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we partnered with Kroger Michigan and the American Cancer Society (ACS) to create a unique Making Strides Against Breast Cancer dashboard.

This special dashboard showcases Kroger’s statewide fundraising campaign in Michigan for ACS Making Strides, displaying each Kroger store’s progress towards their ultimate goal of raising $600,000 throughout October and November.

In addition to seeing each store’s progress, the dashboard offers a visually engaging, easy-to-read insight into Kroger’s overall progress towards their fundraising goal. Users can easily see the amount of money raised in each county throughout southeast Michigan and the top 10 teams that are participating in the Making Strides event.

22 of our employees participated in the Detroit Making Strides event on Saturday, October 10 in Hart Plaza. Our goal as a company is to donate $5,000 and we’re hosting a handful of internal events to get us there:

  • Pink Day
  • Employee bake sale
  • Ping pong tournament
  • Loose change drive
  • Field Day

We’re eager to support this great cause and apply our data visualization software to help raise funds and awareness, while allowing people to see the true value of the data!

To follow along with Kroger’s progress and view the dashboard, click here.


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How to Effectively Measure Your Social Media Data with Data Visualization


social media data

Social media marketing has quickly revolutionized the way marketers think, and how businesses approach their consumer interactions. The largest result from this shift is the vast amount of data the target audience can produce. Mining, analyzing and utilizing this data to fuel your social media strategy is the difference between keeping up with the Joneses and getting lost in the shuffle.

How do we dive head first into this data without drowning in it? Will knowing that 38-year-old Bob out in Alaska liked your post about cats at 3:23 am change the time that you post content? Perhaps not. However, when combined with 8,000 other data points, Bob’s Facebook habits might align closely with thousands of others. This could eventually lead to a shift in what, where and when you are active on the different social media channels.

There are generally three main areas of focus when collecting and analyzing data to back your social media strategy:

  1. Content: Anything and everything you post or share. Data relating to medium, sentiment and frequency will help you discover what time of day, how often and what kind of information you need to share.
  1. Consumer: Who is following your business? Demographics, fan count, interests, etc. This is where you can begin to flesh out who your key influencers are and begin to form a strong relationship with them.
  1. Engagement: An action taken by a consumer of your content in the form of amplification (liking, sharing, commenting), creating original content or simply viewing.

How we consume all this data is equally as important as what data we consume. Looking at 8,000 rows, you might not notice that Bob and 200 of his fellow cat enthusiasts are most active at 3 am. These correlations can be difficult to find when the data is stuck in rows and columns. For this reason, visualization is becoming a vital part of data analysis. Data visualization takes complex data and transforms it into an engaging and easy-to-read format, which allows you to easily see spikes and trends at a simple glance. Proving the best times for you to post your favorite cat animation and draw even more cat fanatics to your page. Try it free with your social media data! Bob tested. Cat approved.

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iDashboards 2015 Users Conference to Take Place in Miami with Keynote Bill Rancic

Users Coference

The iDashboards team is hosting the 2015 Users Conference from October 26-29 in Miami. We’re inviting iDashboards users from all around the world to come together and network with other users, customers and partners to expand their product knowledge and leave with insights into new and inventive ways to utilize the software.

Each day will consist of breakout sessions that include technical experts sharing tips and tricks for creating visually engaging dashboards, customer panels, case study track sessions, and a meet and greet with keynote speaker Bill Rancic.

Rancic, the successful entrepreneur and winner of the first season of “The Apprentice,” will be giving a speech on “How to Succeed in Business and Life,” where he will discuss the ups, downs and lessons learned in the business world.

We are excited to welcome Rancic to this year’s event and look forward to hearing his insights into business best practices based on his incredible success as an entrepreneur in numerous industries.

As pioneers in developing business intelligence solutions, our annual Users Conference was created as an opportunity for iDashboards customers and partners to connect, experience share, and learn new ways to improve data analytics and business operations—and Bill Rancic’s presence at the event will only further that mission.

After the conference, all registrants are invited to join us for evening activities on Monday and Tuesday for an unforgettable experience. Events include:

  • October 26: Opening reception at Turnberry Isle, Magnolia Courtyard
  • October 27: White Party at Nikki Beach in South Beach

Our Users Conference team also planned special activities for guests, friends and family for a small fee.

We hope to see you there! For more information on how to sign up for the iDashboards Users Conference, click here.

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Public Health Accreditation – Where to Start?


Public Health Accreditation

If you are a public healthcare professional working through the accreditation process you may be thinking, “Where do I start?” Going from good to great isn’t always easy. The Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) has put standards in place to advance the quality and performance of the public health departments at the state and local levels to increase accountability and transparency. The process includes collecting and maintaining data on the health status of the population, analyzing that data and providing the results to develop recommendations.

Why would you want to go through the aggravation of all this data collection and analysis? Consider the benefits and impact of Public Health Accreditation:

  • Better identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Promote transparency
  • Improve management processes
  • Stimulate quality improvement and performance management
  • Increase accountability to community members, stakeholders, and policy makers
  • Improve communication with the governing entity/board of health
  • Be more competitive in funding opportunities

The first thing to do is appoint an Accreditation Coordinator in your organization who will review the process, standards and keep track of all documentation. Your organization will need to participate in, or conduct, a comprehensive community health assessment. Your Accreditation Coordinator will need to take lead on partnering with other organizations in your area in order to access the data needed.

Reliable data is extremely important for evaluating and developing programs in public health. Data must be gathered in a timely manner, as accurately as possible. One of the requirements involves retaining historical data in order to compare between populations and across time. A functional system is required for collecting data and for managing, analyzing, and using the data.

Once you have collected this data, how do you make sense of it? That is where dashboards can help. In a nutshell, iDashboards takes your information out of rows and columns and puts it into a visual format that is easy to understand. Data tells a story and you’ll be able to tell your story to accreditors, your constituents and stakeholders, and ultimately provide more accessibility and transparency into your organization. Dashboards will help you visualize and analyze your data to identify trends, show how your organization is progressing toward its goals, and display metrics from your continuous improvement plans.

Through iDashboards’ patented technology called interactive intelligence, you will be able to see correlations between related data points even if they are coming from separate data sources. This allows for better decision making when you are looking at data pulled from all divisions of your organization. When measuring meaningful use with your EHR/EMR, you can utilize dashboards to monitor all metrics in one location in order to improve healthcare delivery, quality and safety. Dashboards help with data sharing internally and provide timely electronic access to health information at a high level with the ability to drilldown into granular data.

The dashboards connect directly to your backend data sources in order to display the most accurate and up to date information. This leverages the investment that your organization has already made in business software and databases and allows you to reallocate your crucial IT/reporting resources.

Dashboards allow you to access reporting any time in a standardized, systematic manner. You can access your reports on your smart phone or tablet anywhere with an Internet connection. With a web license, you can display metrics for the public’s consumption on your external website. This will allow you to engage the community in identifying and addressing health concerns and promote their understanding of public health initiatives.

Photo credit: The Tennessee Department of Health

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Desirable Data: Does your Dashboard Charm the Business User?

Data Visualization Desirable Data

The rapid growth of data is astounding. Between our businesses, our electronic devices and our websites, data is growing by epic leaps every year. It’s a powerful asset that’s creating new and exciting opportunities, allowing us to track everything—from productivity and potential clients to our budgets and the quality of our customer service.

And yet, even with the recent eruption of information, many of us are still attached to our spreadsheets, thinking this antique can keep up with the pace of our data. Not only is this a waste of time, but it’s also creating this complicated string of information that we then have to communicate to someone else.

Let’s not sugarcoat it: Nothing is more of a buzz kill in a meeting than endless rows and columns in a spreadsheet. Data shouldn’t be boring. At its very essence, data is the call to action—it should be a rousing speech by which the company moves toward progress.

The Age of Data Visualization
Data visualization is the bridge between these gaps, giving companies an accessible option to analytics while simultaneously making the presentation stimulating. While a love (and understanding) of numbers may resonate among a select few, the vast majority of people are more receptive to bright colors, interactive pictures, and a clear point-A to point-B map of directions.

A Tale of Data
We love good stories. Whether they’re personal stories from our lives or the tales found in action-packed films, there’s something within us that embraces a story. Data visualization is perfect for illustrating your company’s goals through stories.

Storyboarding your objectives turns your data into easily consumable bites that people can understand and appreciate. You can show where you’ve been, where you’re going, and the challenges of getting there, all through bright and compelling graphics. A clear, start-to-finish presentation will have your audience following your every word and point.

Data as Art
Walt Disney – perhaps one of the greatest storytellers—once said, “Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.” Data visualization links your information with meaningful graphics, allowing you to engage the emotions of your audience.

Whether you’re aiming to be inspirational or trying to communicate your objectives, the artistic design of your data will inevitably allow you to effectively get your point across.

Customizing Your Data
While art and story are crucial aspects of any dashboard experience, you must also consider the audience. Presenting for a group of investors will likely be different than for a team of marketers. Data visualization gives you the opportunity to leverage data and connect it to the right audience.

If you’re ready to ditch the spreadsheets and experience data visualization, click here for a free 30-day trial.


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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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