Big Data dashboards and how to make them work for you

  • Richard Thelwell
  • April 12, 2016

big data dashboards work for youWith the rise of Big Data, organisations are faced with the rather daunting task of handling more information than ever before. Whilst this presents businesses with great opportunities, it can also cause headaches when it comes to reporting. Big Data dashboards can be a great way to make sense of all this data and bring it to life – provided of course, that they are implemented correctly.

The problem with ‘Big’ Data is exactly that… it’s Big… in fact, it can be VERY big.

With businesses now storing terabytes, and even petabytes worth of data across multiple systems and sources, it can often be difficult to access the information you really need, when you need it.

The challenges caused by these large and varied data sets, combined with an overall mandate for self-service analytics, have placed an increased importance on the use of data visualisation and business dashboards. These Big Data dashboards can be a great way to provide end users with a holistic overview of enterprise performance in a quick, easy-to-interpret and user-friendly manner.

Big Data dashboards can be a powerful tool for key decision-makers within an organisation, allowing them to identify trends, communicate vital information and monitor performance against strategic business goals.

Big Data dashboards: getting the back end right

A Big Data dashboard may be the ‘glitz and glamour’ focal point of your reporting process, but it is important not to neglect what lies behind it. After all, this is where all the important work is done. When it comes to data quality, the rule of GIGO applies: if you put garbage in, you’re likely to get garbage out.

big data dashboards back end
Big Data dashboards are only as good as the data ‘under the hood’

A business dashboard is only as good as what’s behind it, and what you really need behind it is a data warehouse. To gain any real value from your dashboard, it’s essential to clean up your data, get it into the right shape, and apply the right business rules. Only once this has been done, can you have complete confidence in the data that you are analysing.

If your data is already in this shape then you’re good to go – but, if not, you’re likely to need a more complete business intelligence solution as opposed to simply a front-end reporting tool.

Big Data dashboard design

Once you’ve got the back-end data sorted, it’s time to focus on the design of your dashboard.

If information is important, it deserves to be well communicated, and effective dashboard design is critical in order to ensure the insights you have gleaned from your big data is conveyed appropriately.

There are a lot of key decisions to be made in this respect, but here are just a few important factors you need to take into consideration.

  • What information is included? And how much of it? What are your most important KPIs?
  • What is the layout of your dashboard? What information is prioritised? Can the user drill-down further?
  • Which charts, tables and data visualisations best suit your requirements?
  • Are colour and imagery used appropriately and justifiably throughout?
  • Will your dashboard still look good on different screen sizes, resolutions and on different devices?

For more advice on creating best-practice dashboards and data visualisations download our free guide How to Create Compelling Business Dashboards

Having the right software can significantly improve your ability to create brilliant Big Data dashboards. However, even equipped with great dashboard software, it’s still possible to create poor dashboards.

To illustrate this point we did a Google search for ‘Qlikview screenshots’

big data dashboard qlikview

Qlikview is a top-of-the-range data visualisation tool, and comes with a price tag to match. However, the example above commits many of the cardinal sins of best-practice dashboard design. The pie charts are overpopulated, the colours are conflicting, there is little context in the data, and the overall appearance makes the dashboard look extremely cluttered.

Promoting usage across the business

So you’ve sorted out your back-end data, and now have a stunning Big Data dashboard on top of it. The final step to getting the most out of your dashboard project is using it and exploiting the benefits that it can bring to the day-to-day reporting processes across your organisation.

To exploit the greatest benefit from these dashboards, it is important to democratise these tools and promote their usage across the whole business, as opposed to only using them within certain functions. By making dashboards as user-friendly as possible, you break down the technical barriers to entry for users who want to conduct data analysis in the business.

big data dashboards
Big Data dashboards are easily accessible across a range of different platforms

The great thing about dashboards is that they are easily accessible. Big Data dashboards are now inherently designed to be used at-a-glance and on-the-go, meaning busy executives who are constantly on the move can access these dashboards wherever they are, on a range of different devices.

To find out more about using Big Data dashboards in your business, download our free e-Book below