“Top 5” approach to scope Dashboards

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Managing a BI project is unique in its own way and comes with its own set of challenges. As with project management in any industry, the most common problem dreaded by any project manager is “Scope Crepe“, which typically rears its ugly head only after few important milestones have passed. www.getserialkey.comIrrespective of following a Waterfall approach or Agile methodology, defining a project scope and ensuring that the project is delivered within the time frame specified as per agreed scope is a major challenge.

In all cases where a project is facing challenges, one can trace back origins of problems to “Requirement Gathering” phase.  IT teams face a tough challenge while interacting with business users during requirement collection and documentation. First, business users are not technology savvy and secondly they cannot provide all permutations and combination of scenarios possible in real world. If the target user base is wide spanning multiple departments, then the requirements get compounded with specific needs of each department.

This post focuses on Dashboard type of report that a business user uses on a daily basis. Different types of deliverables are suited for different user types. More on comparison of Dashboard Vs Infographic Vs Application here.

Dashboard can be viewed as an amalgamation of different reports, with an effective User Interface design that conveys right information to end users. Business users monitor a wide variety of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) based on various factors such as level in the organization, span of control, designation, role etc. Although users have a priority list of metrics that they are interested in viewing, if a dashboard is used by wide audience, the number of KPI’s and its related analytical needs will stack up. This problem arises because the requirement collection phase focuses on the the existing items that users are accustomed to in their usual routine. This approach is a re-packaging effort, where the content delivery mechanism alone has changed. Will this approach have a real impact? Very rarely, it seldom does have a wide range impact.

In order to manage the scope and provide a lasting impact, a slightly different approach to be adopted. The Top 5 approach basically restricts the number of items to five in the dashboard and instead of focusing on KPI’s, the questions should be focused on a business process and its efficiency. Business users can take real initiatives to improve the underlying processes, wherein inefficiencies can be weeded out over period of time.

Consider and example from Accounts Payable domain. Some commonly used metrics in any organization are related to cash flow and invoice processing such as Number of Invoices processed, Estimated 7 day cash required, Discounts in processing etc. A metric that would score the entire process as Processing Efficiency will qualify as a Top 5 item. This is a real KPI can has to be monitored by CFO and Accounting team from game changing perspective, whereas other metrics are just standard measures that are reported on daily basis. If the CFO is now interested Spend analysis to be integrated along with AP, a primary KPI has to be defined that will be in the main dashboard and other mundane metrics can be classified as secondary. If requirements grow very large, there is a trade off in performance and dashboards are typically broken down into multiple specialized dashboards.

Implementing this methodology is easier said than done. This is primary due to user base and myriad of requirements among different user groups. If implemented, it is very easy to realize and quantify Return On Investment (ROI) of the entire initiative.