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"More than 1,200 customers worldwide use Noetix to quickly and cost-effectively access the enterprise application data they need to make important business decisions every day. Noetix provides software that automatically generates metadata from enterprise applications, enabling immediate access to data."Source : Noetix
Dashboard Development and Deployment—A Methodology for Success
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The successful implementation of a dashboard is complex and requires a step-by-step process—a methodology that considers all aspects of the project life cycle. This document outlines the process necessary to effectively plan, design, build and deploy a dashboard. The tasks (and their order) will be similar, regardless of the technology that is chosen or the vendor providing that technology.
Dashboard Development and Deployment
A Methodology for Success
A dashboard is a vital tool for monitoring the daily health of your organization. From a single interface, decision makers have access to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)—ac- tionable information that can be used to actively guide business performance. A dash- board is like an executive intranet, a site where everything of interest to you is displayed in logical groupings. At a high level, it may seem relatively easy to build one. Companies that have a good handle on what performance indicators are of strategic importance to the organization, may feel collecting and summarizing supporting data and putting it in one place shouldn’t be that difficult. However, such oversimplification can lead to a failed project before it ever gets off the ground.
The successful implementation of a dashboard is complex and requires a step-by-step process—a methodology that considers all aspects of the project life cycle. This docu- ment outlines the process necessary to effectively plan, design, build and deploy a dashboard. The tasks (and their order) will be similar, regardless of the technology that is chosen or the vendor providing that technology.
All of these steps must be completed to ensure a successful dashboard implementation and deployment. When comparing proposals from multiple vendors (or the cost of a “do-it-yourself ” project), it’s important to ensure that all of these steps are included. Correctly designed and implemented, a dashboard has the potential to bring immediate ROI to your organization.
- Dashboard Implementation Methodology
- Requirements Gathering and Prototype
- Front End Implementation
- Query Implementation
- Configure Scheduling, Refresh, and Security
- Build vs. Buy
- The Noetix Dashboard Advantage
- Requirements Gathering and Prototype
- Professional Services
Dashboard Implementation Methodology
The need for faster access to business information
The planning phase is where it all begins. Make sure to allocate enough time in your project schedule to ensure this critical step is not rushed. First, the project team mem- bers must be identified and their roles clearly defined. Who will be the executive spon- sor? What are the overall project objectives? It’s not uncommon for the primary users— executives or line of business managers—to play a limited role in the dashboard develop- ment. Therefore, the team members must have access to and gain insight into the needs and wants of this group.
In the planning phase, team members determine the scope of the project. What KPIs are important to the primary users? What data is needed to support the KPIs and where is that data located? A dashboard is most useful if the metrics will be measured against predefined conditions and thresholds. What are these conditions and thresholds? What is the timeline? If you’re working within a tight timeline, populating the dash- board is of utmost concern. Take care not to underestimate the complexity of the data- bases in which the data resides. The tremendous flexibility enterprise applications pro- vide for customizations results in data tables that are very complex. Accessing the data from a myriad of tables is not a simple task, requiring technical resources with detailed knowledge of the underlying table structure and SQL skill. It can take days to gather the data relevant for a single KPI, so plan accordingly.
What is the project budget? Budget plays a major role in defining the scope of the project. The work required to create custom queries to provide the desired metrics might be out of budget. Set realistic goals for your dashboard project by striking a balance between the primary users needs and what you can afford to deliver. Determine up front what KPIs are critical and keep to the plan.
Requirements Gathering and Prototype
Once the scope of the dashboard project has been defined and the plan is in place, the process of requirements gathering begins. Interview the key stakeholders to determine their needs and expectations for the dashboard. To keep the project within scope, these needs and expectations should map to the KPIs already identified.
Discuss the options available for dash- board presentation and functionality. A dashboard provides the user with a number of different ways to graphically display the data. This is the time to cover personal preferences—top level navigation, use of bar charts, gauges, etc. For each dashboard, the desired data elements must be identi- fied. Relationships between them must be defined so that drill down and drill-to capa- bilities can be provided appropriately.
Some tools and technologies lend themselves well to prototyping and iterative develop- ment. Taking advantage of those capabilities can increase the likelihood that the final dashboard meets the users’ expectations.
Once the requirements for the content and appearance of the dashboard have been agreed upon, major aspects of the design must be completed.
- Refine the user interface and control flow
- Confirm the data sources for each data element
- Determine how to “persist” data when historical trending information is desired, but not available from the transaction database
- Define the queries needed to retrieve each data element
- Determine drill paths
Build and Validate
The “real” development begins at this stage of the project. Several tasks occur here, typi- cally in parallel, closely coordinated with each other.
Front End Implementation
Create the dashboard user interface. Final user interface decisions must be made. Per- sonal preferences have been discussed, but now is the time to evaluate what graph and chart types best represent the data to be displayed. In addition, make decisions regarding grouping data to provide the greatest visibility for cross-analysis. What visual alerts, such as color changes when values exceed expected thresholds, will be defined? Have a game plan in place for when these thresholds are surpassed. What kinds of “summary-detail” options will be provided? What interactive drilling to other graphs or charts will be available?
Create the queries to retrieve the necessary information from the appropriate databases. This step can be particularly complex and time consuming, especially if there are mul- tiple data sources for the various data elements in the dashboard. Even more so, if those data sources include customized enterprise applications for ERP, CRM, or SCM— applications that generally have complex database schemas. Writing advanced SQL state- ments is a challenging task for even the skilled programmer. Creating queries can easily take more time than you may have allocated to this task.
Configure Scheduling, Refresh, and Security
To ensure the content of the dashboard is up-to-date, the queries created must be config- ured to run regularly to deliver information to the dashboard. In addition, security rules must be implemented in order for the dashboard to display the appropriate information for different users. To minimize the need for redundant administration, those security rules should take advantage of security frameworks that are already being managed.
As with any software project, when the effort reaches “code complete,” it must be tested to ensure that it meets the requirements and specifications outlined in the project plan. Some of this validation can be done independently by the technical team. Other aspects, especially ensuring that the data is correct, must be done by the primary users of the dashboard or their representatives.
Once the dashboard has been built and tested, it is deployed into production. Security requirements must be implemented in the production environment. Integration within a corporate network environment must be completed (including considerations for por- tal frameworks, extranets for partner and customer access, etc.)
With the dashboard in production or “live,” steps need to be taken to provide for ongoing maintenance. Over time, requirements and expectations for the dashboard will change. The dashboard solution should be flexible and open to allow for such inevitable enhancement requests. If the dashboard was imple- mented by a vendor or solution provider, knowledge transfer to the customer for ongoing maintenance is essential. To minimize reliance on external resources, tools to promote self-sufficiency are beneficial.
Build vs. Buy
Building and deploying an executive dashboard takes time, regardless of the vendor or technology that is chosen. Creating the graphical front end is relatively quick and easy, but that’s merely the shell of the dashboard. As the iceberg theory illustrates, what you actually see on your desktop pales in comparison to the hidden effort—80% of the com- plexity that lies beneath the surface. Populating the dashboard with relevant KPIs takes the majority of the development effort. This is no small task and is largely dependent upon the size and structure of systems where the data resides. Don’t be misled by prom- ises of an overnight dashboard solution. All of the tasks listed above require planning, organization, coordination, scheduling, and solid project management. When compar- ing proposals or considering a “Build vs. Buy” decision for deploying a dashboard, it is important to ensure that the entire scope of the project is considered.
The Noetix Dashboard Advantage
If you are considering a dashboard for your organization, the steps outlined in the dash- board methodology will provide a guide for you to compare development effort whether you choose to initiate an internal project or look to external resources.
With more than ten years of experience simplifying data access, Noetix leverages its Dashboard technology to bridge the gap between users and data. Noetix dramatically reduces the time, effort and costs associated with designing, building and deploying a dashboard. Specifically, in relation to the dashboard methodology previously discussed, Noetix provides the highest impact in the steps highlighted in the figure below—where most of the effort and cost is incurred.
Requirements Gathering and Prototype
While Noetix does not eliminate this effort, we provide a rapid prototyping approach which assists with requirements definition. Rather than start with a blank slate, Noetix provides pre-built dashboards based on functional areas such as financials, supply chain, project management and HR/pay that have been populated with KPIs common across most organizations. In addition, Noetix provides templates specifically designed for key verticals such as government and higher education.
The queries needed to support these KPIs are already defined and generated, based on a customer’s configuration of the Oracle E-Business suite. For financials, this means that a customer’s chart of accounts and organization set ups are reflected in the prototype dashboard.
The generation of this prototype can be completed in days and, therefore, provides a signi?cant head start. Although changes to these KPIs and queries are expected, organi- zations bene?t from reduced development effort and faster time to answers.
Noetix automatically generates content from Oracle Applications and Siebel CRM. This provides a significant advantage for dashboards requiring access to data from these appli- cations. If all the information needed to build your dashboard isn’t contained within one of these enterprise applications, Noetix provides a framework to easily integrate informa- tion from any data source into your dashboard.
Leveraging Noetix QueryServer technology, virtual views and queries can be built to ac- cess any ODBC compliant data source. These queries can then be used to support key performance metrics in the dashboard. Once created, Noetix QueryServer can be used to manage both Oracle and non-Oracle based queries.
Build and Validate
Noetix provides the most significant impact in the Build and Validate phase. NoetixViews generates metadata based on specific customer configurations of Oracle Applications and Siebel CRM. This includes business set ups as well as security models. This generation occurs in less than one day.
Noetix QueryServer generates report templates and queries based on this metadata. Within two to three days, depending on the number of applications that are implement- ed, NQS will generate over 600 Answers based on key functional areas such as finance, sales, service, supply chain, etc. These Answers can then be used as queries to support KPIs.
Noetix QueryServer also provides caching, scheduling and refresh capabilities. This ensures optimum performance and allows dashboards to be updated as frequently as required. Scheduling and refreshing is completely controllable, ensuring that the content is updated and accurate as per user requirements.
Security considerations are a major concern during this phase. Noetix fully leverages existing security models defined for Oracle Applications and Siebel CRM. Unless other- wise required, users will have access to data from the dashboards based on these already defined security models.
In addition, if there is a requirement to incorporate the dashboards into an existing portal framework, Noetix supports most open portal technologies such as Oracle Portal, Microsoft SharePoint, Plumtree, etc., and can be integrated with little effort in less than one day.
Noetix offers a range of professional services that can assist during all phases of a dash- board project: from overall project management to assisting with user requirements, de?nition of key performance indicators, the design of the dashboard itself, to building deploying and training. Our service offerings are designed to provide rapid implemen- tations and to maximize skills transfer. Noetix has implemented successful dashboard projects in less than six weeks.
The Noetix solution accelerates the design, build and deployment of dashboards by au- tomating many of the key tasks that would otherwise have to be executed manually. The bulk of this automation occurs within the ?rst few days of implementation and can dra- matically reduce the project time and effort from months to days or a few short weeks. In addition to resulting in effective, intelligent dashboards, customers receive the added bene?t of an operational and ad hoc reporting solution that can be used across the orga- nization for day-to-day data access requirements, or to drill down from the dashboard. The Noetix approach is unique, as it focuses on the generation of relevant content, based on customers’ unique con?gurations of these applications. Other solutions focus pri- marily on the look and feel of the presentation layer, leaving the most dif?cult tasks of populating and managing dashboards to the IT organization. While the desired outcome is a simpli?ed and powerful view of enterprise performance, the path can be a complex and arduous journey.
We encourage you to consider Noetix when evaluating alternative strategies and tech- nologies.
References and Bibliography
• Frank Gens, IDC #31672, Business Priorities for the Dynamic IT Road Map, July 2004 • Frank Buytendijk, Government Computer News | GNC.com, Tools for Data-driven Management, July 2004 • Marcus Blosch, Gartner Symposium ITXPO On-site Coverage, Cost Pressures Focus CIOs on Business, November, 2003 • Dr. Marianne Broadbent, CIO, A Pivotal Role, July, 2003 • Cath Witt, Press Release, CompUSA Selects Business Intelligence Reporting Platform from Noetix, April 20, 2004 • Scott Renneke, DMReview, Noetix Unlocks Data for Telex Corporation, July 2001
More than 1,200 customers worldwide use Noetix to quickly and cost-effectively access the enterprise application data they need to make important business decisions every day. Noetix provides software that automatically generates metadata from enterprise applications, enabling immediate access to data. Unlike most business intelligence tools that require weeks of extensive manual mapping to be set up and maintained, Noetix uses patented technology to automatically discover and produce metadata based on customers’ specific implementations of Oracle Applications or Siebel Business Applications. Noetix provides this BI content with easy search and navigation capability, empower- ing users to quickly generate the ad hoc, operational reports needed to make critical and timely business decisions. Noetix’s proven technology is being used by industry-leading customers worldwide, including: CompUSA, Motorola, Starbucks, Toshiba, Visa and Xerox International Partners. The company is headquartered in Redmond, Washington, with international operations based in London.