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Microstrategy Previews Web 2.0-Style Dashboards

To bring BI insight to the masses in an engaging way, Dynamic Enterprise Dashboard tap the power of Flash and Ajax.
Promising dynamic interaction, rich detail, portability and ease of use, MicroStrategy has unveiled Dynamic Enterprise Dashboards, a free upgrade of the vendor's Report Services module that will be bundled with MicroStrategy 8.1. Set for general release in the first half of 2007 and demonstrated today at MicroStrategy World 2007 in Las Vegas, Dynamic Enterprise Dashboards are built on rich Internet application (RIA) technologies that support engaging, animated visualization capabilities that help users better understand data and related trends.

"We've combined the best of BI platforms, the best of specialty dashboard products and the best in Adobe Flash development environments in one offering," said Mark LaRow, MicroStrategy’s vice president of products, in an interview with IntelligentEnterprise.com. "Making these dashboards dynamic was our number-one goal, but the real challenge was being able to compress all of the data stored in, say, eight to ten different reports and deliver it into a single dashboard. Lots of vendors can build simple dashboards -- three gauges and one bar chart billed as an executive dashboard -- but decision makers need to see many sets of data in parallel without changing context or focus."

Dynamic Enterprise Dashboards let users drill down on underlying reports from diverse data sources with mouse-over magnification, enlarged views of graphs and grids as well as toggling between graph and grid presentation modes. This functionality can be delivered with thin-client Ajax development or interactive Flash, but the latter adds the advantage of offline-portability so users can view and interact with dashboards in meetings or while traveling. MicroStrategy is also using Adobe's Flex Builder integrated development environment (IDE) to offer a library of prebuilt visualization "widgets," including time slicers, animated bubble charts, area charts, heat charts and spark lines. The vendor will include a software development kit with extensions to the IDE so customers can build their own custom data visualization features.

"MicroStrategy has elevated the functionality and visualization capabilities of its dashboards to provide users with a tremendous amount of information in an easy-to-use and compelling manner," stated Wayne Eckerson, director of TDWI Research and author of "Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business."

While mobile-device delivery and real-time data access have been the subject of a more than a few announcements from BI competitors, Dynamic Enterprise Dashboards are designed for desktop and laptop viewing of what LaRow calls "near-real-time" data.

"We don't have the ability to detect a data change and automatically change the display, but we can periodically update the display every half our or every 10 minutes if need be to get the latest data," he said.

MicroStrategy's dashboard capabilities are aimed primarily at meeting the demand to give broad swaths of business users access to BI insight. As such, it makes sense that the offering is bundled with a reporting module at no extra charge and that it's part of a platform that can be purchased in a per-CPU, as well as named-user, licensing approach, the former tending to be more affordable in broad deployments to hundreds if not thousands of users.