Smart BI Users Would Make Terrible Airline Pilots

Before we get nasty comments, let me qualify the headline by saying that SOME Smart BI users are probably very capable pilots. You know who you are. And I’m sure that the capable pilots are also not the type to send nasty comments. Regardless, stay with me for the sake of comparison.

BI dashboards have been around for a while now. No matter which BI solution you select, there will be a dashboard. But while most BI dashboards look nice and colorful, do they all do what they are supposed to do? For the BI wizkids who design pretty dashboards that look great on Websites and brochures, you need to take a step back from the stylish design and insist on knowing whether your dashboard will, in the end, help you to make faster business decisions.

Imagine, for a moment, the dashboard in a commercial airliner. Every single control, panel and gauge has a purpose. Remove one and the plane is less efficient or worse, less safe. However, there are two factor that make the cockpit dashboard suited to its job: standardization and training. Pilots train in simulators for hours and days and months to be proficient with the cockpit controls. The reason that they can fly in this plane or that one is that the dashboards are basically the same in all planes. Some have fewer or more elements and some are more technologically advanced. But the standards are what make the training relevant.

The problem with that model in the business world is that every business is different. Every information worker across various departments and units has their own goals and ways of working. So, while standards are good for the aviation industry and for the structure of data itself, uniform dashboards in BI solutions are obstacles to success.

BI dashboards need to be dynamic, flexible and customizable. These are some of the characteristics of Smart BI as opposed to legacy BI. Not all dashboards are alike. That is especially true of Smart BI dashboards which can be designed by each business user to meet their own needs and can be changed and tweaked at any time for any reason.

The BI dashboard should make it easier for you to find insights in business data so that you can make fast, constructive decisions. Firstly, to achieve that objective, you cannot be running to IT every time you want to connect a new source of data, or get a new chart or other visualization or to change visualization rules and filters. That control needs to be built into the dashboard interface. Then, you should be able to select from a wide range of friendly and reliable tools that best suit your experience and comfort levels so that you can get the answers you need through complex analysis without the pain, whether you are at your desk or on the go with a mobile device.

A Smart BI dashboard is interactive. When an alert appears or a data point catches your eye, you want to drill down into the data to see what is driving the trend or change. Click the part of the dashboard that needs your attention and you can get right down to the relevant cell or flow to help figure out what needs to be done to remedy the situation. If you need help figuring out what to do, a Smart BI dashboard will offer you the tools to collaborate with colleagues and share insights from right inside the dashboard. The smartest BI solutions will even suggest the most relevant people for collaboration based on the work on their dashboards.

It’s about creating a dynamic environment that suits your business needs and expectations. So, rather than underestimate Smart BI users’ ability to fly commercial airliners, I guess it’s more accurate to say that airline pilots, who are accustomed to learning how to work with what they are given, would not appreciate a Smart BI dashboard as much as you would.

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