12 Avoidances in the initial dashboard design phase

There are many milestones through the lifecycle of a dashboards. The initial stages are the most important, in preventing headaches or failure. This list will hopefully give some guidance to start the ball rolling on a correct path to success.

1)      Avoid waiting for technology waiting for traditional BI projects to begin could take months or even years with delays. Find what technology you have available and start working on some implementations. Once you have started some ground work, the design can easily be applied to other BI technologies with little adjustments needed.

2)      Avoid underestimating time and resources – Though a dashboard is designed to be typically compact, it does not mean it will be quick and easy to create and maintain. Expect it to be an on-going, frequently changing process.

3)      Avoid static/stale data Having data automatically and frequently updateable is very important to the user and designer.  Static or stale data will lead to a false sense of confidence.

4)      Avoid limited access Making dashboards easily accessible is ideal. Making it easy for the user to access the dashboard will allow for more frequent uses and feedback; helping keep the dashboard current and useful. For example, distributing dashboards on the web can help keep data current and still adhere to IT protocols and security standards.

5)      Avoid choosing the wrong metrics Find the metrics that will end up answering the underlying questions.

  1. How does each metric contribute to the objectives?
  2. Is there data that can shed light on the objective?
  3. Is there a meaningful metric that measures those contributions?
  4. Are the metrics, chosen, necessary to contribute to the objective?
  5. Is the metric a continuous organized measurement?

6)      Avoid not knowing the goals and objectives of the dashboard. Some examples of the most common goals found in companies can be generalize as:

  1. Make better-informed business decisions.
  2. Improve customer interaction and satisfaction.
  3. Gain an overall competitive advantage.

The goal(s) usually can be seen having these characteristics at its core:

  1. Objective-focused
  2. Visual
  3. Relevant
  4. Current
  5. Accessible to its audience

7)      Avoid meaningless variety When starting, keep it simple and aim at 3-5 metrics. Never go above 10 metrics. Too many metrics will likely cause added charts and graphs that add no value to the dashboard.

8)      Avoid ignoring the target audience give the audience what they need (e.g. timely summaries, links to supporting details, what actions are applicable, etc..) The usual types of audiences can basically be broken down into 3 categories.

  1. Strategic (Executives) these users want a summary of the overall health, long term progress and goals, historical data.
  2. Operational (Department Heads) these users need a snapshot of the current operation, clear meaning, real time data, interaction and link to information.
  3. Analytic (Engineers, Programmers, Researchers, Lawyers, Paralegals, etc¦) these users need ways to do comparisons, review historical data, evaluate performance, drill into causes, needs feedback, established goals to course-correct.

9)      Avoid using metrics no one understands it is wise to avoid any unnecessary teaching of some new metric. Stick to the common and familiar metrics that the audience will know of and understand.

10)   Avoid using compound metrics Compound metrics are usually developed by using a formula comprised of a variety of measurements to come up with a single value. (Example: FICO, Klout, etc¦) The problem is that compound metrics masks insight and understanding making it hard to compare and contrast the real underlying numbers.

11)   Avoid blindly following easy measurements Easy measurements are great, but can cause users to lose sight of the bigger, more important picture. For example, SAT scores may be a great measurement of what a student’s potential will be at a college, it can also cause a blind spot on the whole life of the student.

12)   Avoid complexity Keep it simple. Focus on trends rather than point-in-time comparisons. Keep focus on the handful of metrics and design principles throughout the dashboard(s). Reduce, minimize, or eliminate non-data elements. Try reducing emphasis by changing the size, color, and borders; meanwhile, removing data that does not add insight. Draw attention and maximize the important data element.

Some helpful resources:


By |January 28th, 2014|Categories: Visualizations|Tags: , , |

What’s new in Reporting Services 2012 Free Webinar


We are starting our free monthly webinars with ‘What’s new in Reporting Services 2012‘ on Wednesday August 8, 2012 at 12 noon MDT.


Description: SQL Server 2012 introduces a new reporting tool called Power View which generates interactive dashboards.  Also new is a SharePoint only feature called data alerts that helps send users messages when a data condition has been met.  In this webinar we will demonstrate how to setup and configure data alerts in SharePoint. We’ll create and deploy: a Power View report which consumes data from a BI semantic connection; a SSRS Report using report builder 3.0; and a SSRS report using the report designer using a PowerPivot workbook on a SharePoint site.

Registration for this event now open.



DawaBI offers a series of training options to help you sharpen your data management skills.  We’ll also help you improve your understanding of data warehousing, advanced reporting, choosing the right software, and custom app development.

To keep up with the latest training offerings and schedule, sign up for our distribution list so you don’t miss out.


These 1 hour online meetings will occur the second Wednesday of each month and will be offered free of charge (pre-registration required).

Jump Start Series

The Jump Start series are courses we offer that provide a mix of demos, labs and lots of lessons learned and are offered online. The intent is to get you up to speed on specific areas within a short window of time.

Custom Training Solutions

Does your team have specific needs or challenges they face?  Do you need to get your team up to speed on a technology quickly?

We offer a variety of training packages for our clients, ranging from short-term consulting on using your existing tools, to learning how to use an entirely new data system.  In any case, our primary goal is to ensure that all users feel comfortable and can use the new technology with proficiency and ease.

We’ll work with you as closely as needed to ensure that your investment in DawaBI translates to better business practices and measurable growth for your company.

Contact us with the details as we’d love to help.

By |August 5th, 2012|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , |

Speaking at a SSWUG vConference

I was asked recently by Chris Shaw who is the site manager for, if I was interested in speaking at the upcoming vConference.   I was thrilled to have been asked as I’ve been wanting to do more community activities. I went out to the speakers list and my knees started to shake. There is an amazing list of speakers including Donald FarmerThomas LaRockBrent Ozar along with several local speakers such as Paul NielsenTed Malone and of course Chris Shaw. I am truly honored to be part of this event with these and all the other great speakers.

I will be giving 4 presentations, 3 on Reporting Services and 1 on Analysis Services. Here are the titles if you are interested:

  • Introduction to SQL Server Reporting Services 2008
  • Developing Reports with SQL Server Reporting Services 2008
  • Managing SQL Server Reporting Services 2008
  • Introduction to Analysis Services 2008

The SSWUG vConferences have been a huge success especially given the current financial condition we are experiencing. The vConferences bring high quality training right to you PC in your own office. No travel expenses or frustration with delayed flights. The cost investment to attend is very reasonable.

For more information on the upcoming vConference which will be held Oct 21, 22 and 23, visit the following site:

By |September 27th, 2009|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , |

Displaying Multi-select Parameters in SSRS

Including the parameter values to the physical report so they get printed with the business data is a best practice and for good reason.  I have seen several printed reports that you could not tell the date ranges, products, etc… the report was ran for.

The Join function in SSRS will allow you to add multi-select parameter values to a report.  The syntax is rather simple as below.  The delimiter is option and if not used the default is a space.

=Join(Parameters!<parameter>.Label, <delimiter>)

If you have a parameter of say ProductBrand and wanted the values to be separated by a comma, the syntax that you would insert as the text box expression would be:

=Join(Parameters!ProductBrand.Label, ", ")

By |May 2nd, 2008|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |

SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) Templates and Styles

Ever wanted to change the default template and style for the Reporting Services Wizard?  Just think how much time this would save of repetitive work inserting images, formatting colors and text.

Well there are two files that maybe of interest to you; StyleTemplates.xml and Report.rdl.  If you are familiar with style sheet concept of web development then the function of the StyleTempletes.xml is basically the same.  StyleTemplates.xml is responsible for the default font color, size, etc… of the report.  This file is used when you are selecting the style on the "Choose the Table Style" window of the report wizard.  You are able to create several different styles within this one file.  This makes it convenient especially if you are a consultant and developing reports for your customers, that use different fonts, colors, etc…

The Report.rdl you can setup headers, footers and any standard controls.  I’ve setup a report.rdl file that contains my company’s standard report header along with report details such as report run date, run by, etc…  One unfortunate downside of this is that you can only have one active default report.rdl file used by the wizard.  So if you have modified the report.rdl file with you a standard configuration, but need to cre