Today, anyone who uses a set of online, mobile or software based tools knows what a dashboard is. But do you know the purpose of the original dashboard? If you’re like me, you might have thought that a dashboard that provides tools on your screen has its origins in physical control panels like those in factories and power plants. Those, in turn, are the descendants of the car dashboard. But did you ever wonder why it’s called a dashboard?
Back in the days of the horse-drawn carriage, roads were not paved. The front wheels and the horses that pulled the carriage would pick up clods of mud that would fly at the carriage driver and passengers. At first ad hoc and then as a standard feature in early 19th century carriages, a broad piece of wood or leather was fixed to the front of the carriage to protect the riders from being ‘dashed’ with mud. And the functional dashboard was born.
Once the horses were replaced by motors (still measure today in horsepower), the dashboard changed functions. Though they still kept the mud away from the driver, now the dashboard started collecting gauges and indicators. Today, the car dashboard, with drivetrain statistics, mapping systems, touchscreens and entertainment consoles have caught up to the look and feel of the smart BI dashboard.
But the new set of smart BI dashboards are not just a place to access tools like gauges, indicators, charts, tables and graphs. A smart BI dashboard is where you get work done – a workboard. It is where you keep up to date with trends, business goals and strategies. It’s where you collaborate with the best informed people and all to get to better, faster business insights that support better faster decisions. Since different people in an organization need to make different types of decisions, their BI dashboards should also be different. Personalization is another important element of smart BI.
The most useful thing about a personalized dashboard is that it displays the data discovery and analytics tools that you need to do your work and. Even more importantly, a smart BI solution will give you the flexibility to design your own dashboard so that you can customize the data views, combination of sources and the system-generated recommendations that you need to track for your own work.
Dashboards have come a long way since their humble beginnings as mud guards. But a dashboard should not just be a display. It should be an interactive workspace that delivers timely and personalized knowledge that lets you easily drill down into individual underlying data points to quickly gain insights into root causes and to find smart solutions to real-time problems.