In making the ROI case for any IT project or application development project, we like to talk about the productivity that the new system will bring. The usual case was to count up how many hours a task or workflow takes if done manually and compare it to the drastically reduced number of hours it will take when the system goes online. Well, most critical business processes have already been automated and how the discussion of productivity is measured in a finer fashion. We now count clicks and measure usability.
Let’s take a look at the issue of productivity when it comes to business dashboard use.
We begin with a look at productivity as defined in 1776 by Adam Smith in the famous book, The Wealth of Nations.
Smith defined productivity by dividing labor into two broad categories – productive labor and unproductive labor. According to Smith, productive labor was work which fixed value into tangible objects. Unproductive labor, on the other hand, was any work where the value was consumed as soon as it was created. The example given by Smith was the role of laborers in a manufacturing plant (who transferred their value through work into their output) versus the tasks of a servant (unproductive work).
Now let’s apply this to software applications in general and business dashboards in particular.
For a case study, let’s use the Google Analytics service, the wildly popular free service offerred by Google to allow tracking of website visitor analytics.
With its vast user base of web masters, the Google Analytics Dashboard is probably the most often-used business dashboard. Certainly, outside of the enterprise, it is often the first real BI dashboard encountered by the general public.
Here’s a screenshot of the first page of the Google Analytics Dashboard:
Yes, that’s Avinash Kaushik’s Google Analytics Dashboard. Avinash is Google’s web analytics evangelist and a real fan of dashboards. We previously posted a video of Avinash on Dashboards.
Anyway, the dashboard allows drill-down to many different views. Here are a couple of little thumbnails.
Getting back to the idea of productivity of dashboards, the Google Analytics Dashboard has evolved quite a bit since the introduction of the service back in 2005. If you dig out some older dashboards, you can see how advances in dashboard design has incrementally increased productivity for users of the dashboard.
But what about larger jumps in productivity?
Well, take a look at this third-party offering by Serence called the Klipfolio for Google Analytics.
Here’s a screen shot of their desktop dashboard:
Uh, well… so what?… you may ask. There’s nothing earth-shaking about this little dashboard. It’s simply a summary dashboard with the typical red/green/yellow status lights.
Actually, the big deal is where this little dashboard goes. It’s a desktop dashboard.
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