Fly your business with a dashboard!

Dashboard technology has been around for years and is now making inroads here. Read how to get the software and what to do with it.
Issue date : 14 November 2008

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Are you having to dig through stacks of paper to understand what’s going on in your business? Have you missed clues to key performance issues that are buried in paper reports and databases, and waited for critical information needed to improve productivity, quality and financial performance? Are you wasting time trying to reconcile conflicting numbers from different databases? Maybe it’s time you had a good look at your management information system (MIS). If it’s like ours used to be, it probably delivers reports that look a bit like the one below and arrive about three weeks late when they’re ancient history.

As computers started finding their way into our lives, we expected the paper flow to decline, the information to be more relevant and on our desks sooner. The opposite happened. Computers spewed out paper that buried us and previous simple handwritten or typed tables became spreadsheets with thousands of tightly printed numbers, all in small print. The quality of our management information went to hell. Computer technology was moving faster than our human capacity to keep up. But slowly we started getting the hang of it and reports started to emerge faster and become more useful. It was about this time that we dropped the term MIS and started talking about the executive information system (EIS). T ime has moved on and the EIS has become BI or business intelligence.

 And BI has come with an entirely new face – the dashboard. It’s a descriptive term, analogous with the dashboard of a car or aircraft. It presents the vital signs, and presents them in a way that gets your attention. We all know that humans respond well to visual data. Instead of the old, grey spreadsheets, we now see data presented in formats which are easy on the eye.

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The picture is truly worth a thousand words and graphics now catch the eye. the graph or picture is familiar and well-designed, we digest the information quickly. host of new software products are available to prepare these graphs and pictures, and in the hands of a capable dashboard builder, deliver information which cuts straight to the chase of running a profitable business. Just look at the range of charts on the opposite page – aren’t they so much more powerful than a grey set of repetitive numbers? But modern dashboard software does much more than turn business data into effective graphics – it enables the user to drill down and hover.

Place the cursor, or hover over a piece of data and like magic, a message pops up telling you the source of the information. quick click of the mouse and the table containing all the data on which this graphic is based, appears. Drilling down is like peeling back the layers of an onion – each layer providing as much detail as you might need. Much of the software available includes the feature of enabling the manager to redesign the dashboard and to tailor make the report. And to cap it, all this data is available in real-time.

As the source data is input, for example the record of milk produced for the day, it instantly transfers to the database and updates the dashboard. Sounds a bit like a dream come true, doesn’t it? It is. And of course, garbage in is garbage out applies, so a well-designed system delivering accurate and relevant data is a prerequisite for a good dashboard. here are many suppliers of dashboard software. It’s technology that’s been around for years, but it’s been slowly making inroads in South Africa and particularly in the farming world.

All the following companies are worth considering when setting up your dashboard: Cognos (, an IBM company has offices in Johannesburg. For further information call (011) 603 5700.

Intenda ( marketing LogiMXL software is based in Centurion. Call Johan Strydom on (012) 663 8815. V isual Mining ( is currently in negotiations with a Pretoria-based company to represent them in South Africa.
In the meantime, contact Kevin Meltdorf on [email protected]. McManus Consulting market

Dashboard technology has been around for years and is now making inroads here. Read how to get the software and what to do with it. Fly your business with a dashboard! by peter hughes ‘ Good dashboard construction is dependent on clear KPIs.’ Theoris software in South Africa ( Their office is in Johannesburg.

InetSoft (, a US-based software business has a wide array of dashboard software. They presently have no South African-based representation.

QPR ( is a Helsinki-based business that caught my eye. They too have no local representation but are worth looking at.

Quadbase ( have a wonderful range of software for building really striking charts. Most of the software available can be bought and downloaded from the web. Anyone with a basic level of computer literacy will be able to put together dashboards.

Good dashboard construction is dependent on clear KPIs or key performance indicators for the business, department or section which is being monitored. It’s dependent on accurate and speedy collection of data at source and finally, it’s dependent on the selection of the right gadget – chart type, gauge, picture or alert – to most effectively convey the message to the user. Isn’t it time to get your business intelligence system into the new millennium and get you and your management state-of-the-art dashboards? – Peter Hughes ([email protected] or call (013) 745 7303). |fw