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jmunoz

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Posts: 60
Reply with quote  #1 

Hi all,

I've been checking out some dashboard tools to try to find the best one to use to create a clear, simple, and informative dashboard where I work. By "best" I mean easiest to implement combined with high quality graphics capabilities. My initial dash will incorporate data from a current report in a way that, I hope, will help make the case to move from number-laden, low-res, information-thin MIS to graph-rich, high-res, information-dense dashboards. 

I've used microcharts from Bonivista for a few hours and have found it a bit cumbersome to use. I also have concerns about Microcharts holding up in a production environment. I've used some of Rob Allison's SAS/Graph code (I've been coding in SAS for 10 years and am pretty good with SAS/Graph), but think that revamping the code for my purposes will eat up too much time. Perhaps, for the long term, SAS is the way to go, but for my initial dashboard, I need something to show quick results. 

I think the problem with SAS and Microcharts in Excel is that they use workarounds in Excel/SAS to create bullet graphs and sparklines (the world owes Few and Tufte for those two inventions). I've checked out the other usual dashboard vendors but don't see one package out there that makes use of the aforementioned graph types and is a quality tool.

My question is, what tools have you used that you found:
A. most effective for creating the visualization and
B. easiest to use

I recently purchased and read Stephen's Information Dashboard Design book (a coworker of mine just ordered the book too). Anyone know what tools were used to create the 4 dashboards at the end of the book?

--John

bernard

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Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #2 
Excel still holds in my view the best polymorphic capabilities : data storage, data crunching & graphic restitution.
In terms of sparkline & bullet graph in Excel, i'm using the UDF (user designed functions) versions created by Fabrice Rimlinger.
His free add-on can be downloaded at http://excelidees.blogspot.com/
grasshopper

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Posts: 245
Reply with quote  #3 
I believe Stephen used a drawing package to create the 4 dashboards
at the end of his book.

This is both a major strength, and a major weakness, of the book, imho.

A strength because that way he isn't limited to what an existing software
can do (and he isn't showing a preference for a particular vendor).
A weakness because you can't immediately/easily go out and start
creating dashboards like the ones he proposes.

jmunoz

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Posts: 60
Reply with quote  #4 

Thanks Grasshopper. Just last week I was checking out the excellent work you've done using SAS to recreate some dashboards.

I tried my hand at altering your wine dashboard, to see if I could get what I needed, but, alas, my SAS/Graph skills are not even close to yours.

I'm checking out Corda's Centerview, per one of Stephen's recommendations. They sure do look flashy, with chart junk everywhere, radar graphs, pies, and gauges (with reflections on just about every one of them no less!) all over the place. Perhaps this beast can be tamed. If not, looks like I'll have to bury myself in SAS/Graph, greplay, and annotation code for a few days.

My 120MB download from Corda just finished so I'm going to give them a try.

DSA

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Posts: 7
Reply with quote  #5 
Ahhh, the age-old question.  What software to use...

I agree with Bernard.  Excel still beats just about everything I've seen.  One software that intrigues me is Tableau 3.0.  However, Tableau is more data analysis than dashboard.  I'm not too impressed with Dundas, Xcelsius, etc.

The software mentioned have some good capabilities, it's just that they use a lot of Chart Bling and do not really let you customize. 

If you have already read IDD and Tufte, then you are leagues ahead of the rest.  Just think simple and effective and the rest will fall into place.


grasshopper

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Posts: 245
Reply with quote  #6 
Hi jmunoz - If you're new to SAS/Graph, using greplay to do the chart layout
might be a bit challenging :)  Therefore I would recommend maybe starting
out with "ods htmlpanel" - it allows you to easily place several graphs on
the same page (with simpler layouts), without having to get into the
tricky greplay code.

Here are a couple of dashboards I did with "ods htmlpanel" layout:

   http://robslink.com/SAS/democd28/google.htm

   http://robslink.com/SAS/democd5/flight.htm


camoesjo

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Posts: 32
Reply with quote  #7 
jmunoz
I think there is no single solution. It depends on the infrastructure, the data, the user profile, etc., etc. You must sketch what you want (using pen and paper...). Then select two or three tools that could be used in your environment,  and be sure there are no issues with data access. Then design a basic layout using each tool, compare the results and select the best one (listen to your audience).

What I want to say is that you should have a kind of benchmark to compare comparable things. That's something I am trying to accomplish with my dashboard, about which you can read in another thread.

Anyway, if you want a name, I would say Excel 2007, and use the camera tool to create sparklines.
laddy7690

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Posts: 1
Reply with quote  #8 
I recommend SiSense Prism ( http://www.sisense.com ).  You can create dashboards over one or multiple data sources, in an Office-like environment.  And the best thing is, you get extensive multidimensional capabilities, including Time Analysis, WITHOUT having to create an OLAP cube.
sfew

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Posts: 805
Reply with quote  #9 
Laddy7690,

As a tool for communicating information, SciSense looks typical (i.e., not particularly effective), based on what I can see on the website. The dashboard examples exhibit several graphical communication and visual design problems.

Our focus here at Perceptual Edge is on effective data visualization for analysis and communication.  The  features of SiSense that you mentioned as favorable (multiple data sources and time analysis without an OLAP cube) fall outside our focus, but I nevertheless am aware that neither of these features are unusual in dashboard products.

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Stephen Few
Sumeet

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Posts: 1
Reply with quote  #10 
Hi

We are SaaS provider of HR automation solutions focusing on very price sensitive emerging markets. I have come looking for a good tool to use in building reports and dashboards for our software product. We are built on J2EE (IBM Websphere)and IBM DB2 database. What tools/product both in the commercial and open source world would you recommend we look at. Also if there are any places on the web where we can find more info on this do let us know.

Thanks
sfew

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Posts: 805
Reply with quote  #11 
Sumeet,

I wish I could help, but I don't pay much attention to the technical foundations of dashboard products, so I don't know offhand which of the best tools out there will work with your platform. Perhaps some others who participate in this forum have the information that I lack.

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Stephen Few
nixnut

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Posts: 69
Reply with quote  #12 
I don't have any experience with those myself, but http://www.pentaho.com and http://www.jaspersoft.com have open source bi platforms available and both are build on j2ee as far as I know. The good part of that is that you may be able to integrate parts of such stacks more easily (and with less legal issues) than proprietary solutions like Cognos BI (also largely java based). I haven't worked with their 8.x series yet, but I don't hold my breath for it being good tool to develop dashboards. ReportNet 1.x is certainly a total disaster in that regard. The bad of the open source solutions is that they are not nearly as mature yet as the big commercial boys.
infocaptor

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Posts: 9
Reply with quote  #13 
I am not sure if you have tried this Dashboard Designer

You need SQL knowledge in order to select, group by etc for fetching data out of Excel or any database. It has good graphics, no glassy or glossy charts.

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https://my.infocaptor.com
sfew

Moderator
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Posts: 805
Reply with quote  #14 
Infocaptor,

The Dashboard Designer graphics that are shown on the website look might fluffy to me--lots of 3D and poorly designed gauges. In other words, fairly typical of dashboard products.

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Stephen Few
shantanudixit

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Posts: 15
Reply with quote  #15 
Hi,

This question is quite old but still I would like to reply to it. Every after year the technology is changing very fast and software people are producing more dynamic and user friendly tools. same thing applied in BI industry also. Now a days Flash dashboards are becoming very popular because of its dynamic functionality of showing large amount of data very effectively. I have used MicroStrategy's dashboard tool and found it very useful.

I would like to know your views on Flash enabled dashboard and i would be very happy if you could give me some best examples of flash dashboards.

Best Regards,

Shantanu

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