Dashboarding From The Bottom Up - InformationWeek
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Ted Kemp
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Dashboarding From The Bottom Up

If you're rolling out new reporting capabilities, think about empowering line-of-business workers first, before taking dashboards into the executive suite.

A heck of a lot of organizations are rolling out reporting and analytics capabilities to their so-called "line-of-business" workers -- those knowledge employees whose ability to make smart decisions impacts things on the operational level. In other words, the people who really make a business run.

As dashboards spread to more and more folks throughout the organization, one prominent business performance management executive has some advice for companies taking on new dashboard deployments: Start from the bottom, and work your way up.

CIOs, CFOs and CEOs need dashboards. They do, after all, make pretty important decisions from time to time. But Hyperion CTO John Kopcke advises his customers to deliver dashboards to the operational level workers first.

For one thing, it's easier. The number of data sources needed by any given line-of-business employee will fall far short of the data your average CIO or CEO wants his or her hands on. Integrating operational workers' more limited number of data streams -- even when you've got to duplicate that reporting functionality out to many people -- is easier than doing the same job for a CFO. Plus, higher level executives are, as Kopcke frankly points out, simply more demanding about what they want and how they want it. Taking dashboards to lower-level staff will be easier and yield a faster return.

"On any IT project today, you want big, fast ROIs," Kopcke says. "You want something as quickly as possible that has a much of an impact as possible."

Another reason to deploy dashboards from the ground up has to do with cultural issues. When you empower the hierarchy of an organization from the top down, operational staff may find themselves going into meetings with CIOs or CFOs who want answers to problems that the lower-level people didn't even know about yet. If, on the other hand, line-of-business staff are going to fix problems and take initiative, they need the insights that will give them the power to do that.

On to the week's news: Our biggest item on the vendor side was clearly Business Objects' announcement that it will gobble up SRC Software, a maker of financial planning and performance management software. BI giant Business Objects is trying to shore up its ability to take on rivals Cognos and Hyperion, both of which have made leaps in their performance management capabilities. In fact, Business Objects' move bears striking resemblance to Cognos' purchase of Adaytum back in '03.

We also got a look at some early vendor earnings this week. Hyperion sales rose seven percent in its fourth fiscal quarter, though earnings jumped a more impressive 40 percent. Data integration software vendor Informatica fared well in its most recent quarter, with both sales and earnings rising 21 percent.

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