Study: Dashboards Great for BI—If You Can Afford Them

Many CEOs and CFOs are looking to dashboards-the new darlings of business intelligence features-to steer their businesses through rocky and fast-changing terrain.

Many CEOs and chief financial officers are looking to dashboards—the new darlings of business intelligence features—to steer their businesses through rocky and fast-changing terrain, according to a recent study. However, a large portion of businesses are citing cost and lack of resources as reasons not to go for the technology.

Riley Research Associates reports that one out of four companies surveyed plans to plug in dashboards in 2005. Riley surveyed 51 top-level executives and IT managers in 51 businesses, all with revenues between $100 million and $1 billion.

The businesses were all in manufacturing—where process controls are key—and represented a variety of products, such as computers, machinery, food, metal, chemicals, refining and non-computer electronics.

Some 30 percent of those surveyed already use dashboards. They cited the top benefits as being up-to-date or instant information, one-screen information, problem identification, financials tracking and increased productivity.

Mike Riley, an analyst at the Portland, Ore., market research firm, said business managers face growing pressure to have instant results in hand, as opposed to waiting for 24 hours or so to get data rolled up from data warehouses. Dashboards provide snapshots of daily operations in a single desktop interface, allowing managers to pinpoint problems such as inventory or sales falling below given thresholds.

There are roadblocks keeping businesses from adopting such technology, however. Cost was the top reason cited by businesses for procrastinating on purchasing dashboards, with 25 percent of respondents citing this as an inhibiting factor.

Lack of resources to support dashboard technology is another hurdle. Sixteen percent of respondents said they lack resources, which could relate to cost or infrastructure. Riley said the lack of centralized data or a data warehouse is a key reason why businesses havent adopted dashboards yet.

Another 16 percent said relevance of data is an issue. Riley said databases are likely at the heart of this problem. "Having or establishing a centralized data warehouse where they can assemble all their metrics and having all that information on-screen are seen as key benefits, and a lot havent developed the capacity to centralize data in that way," he said.

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An inability to cite ROI (return on investment) is another thing holding businesses back, with 8 percent naming this factor as a roadblock.

When it comes to the length of time it takes to roll out dashboard technology, answers were "all over the place," Riley said, ranging from one month to a year. Twenty-two percent thought a dashboard deployment would take less than a month, and 2 percent said it would take more than a year.

Most respondents, 29 percent, gauged the rollout to be a one- to three-month project. Such a range likely has to do with the fact that the technology is fairly new, Riley said, as well as with the differing scopes of various deployment scenarios.

Measuring dashboard value revealed a wide disparity in responses as well, with responses ranging from $0 to more than $1 million. Thirty-seven percent thought it would be worth as much as $30,000, and 10 percent thought it would be worth $30,000 to $60,000.

For those considering adoption, 22 percent said they would jump on it in the coming year. Twenty-seven said it would be more than a year, and 10 percent said they dont plan to purchase a dashboard. Roughly 60 percent of those who intend to buy a dashboard already have one.

The survey was conducted on behalf of Noetix Corp., a BI application vendor.

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