Written by Simon Hiel
Dashboards are great - web apps are brilliant!
From SMEs to international corporations, from CEOs to team leaders, every manager needs a source of data - a fact base - to make an informed decision. This source can be internal, e.g. past experience. Alternatively, this source could be external: ERP / CRM data, accounting data, HR data, market information, expert interviews, etc. The art of convincing employees, shareholders, investors or frankly any type of stakeholder to follow you as a manager in a specified direction requires an external data source, communicated with a healthy dose of passion and flare. These external sources are, however, unable to directly provide the desired insights, hence the design of expressive dashboards, where a selection of data is presented in a way that is more insightful for correct decision-making. But I am not here to talk about the history of dashboards. I’m here to talk about the next evolution in dashboarding, which is, if your organization wants future proof insight generation, to evolve to BrightWolves Digit’s web applications.
Long lasting dashboards require a combination of consulting excellence and technical expertise
The typical dashboards can (quickly) end up in the graveyard because of hasty implementation or bad maintenance.
They don’t generate the right insights
They are cluttered and imprecise, with too many visuals
They are just incorrect due to data quality issues
They are too expensive to share (licence fees)
You chose one solution and you are stuck with the supplier
They are hard to manage in terms of access control
They are not very expressive or not dynamic enough so users tend to go back to the source data
They were quick before, but now with all this new data, they have become too slow to respond
They are difficult to adjust when data sources adjust or change
They report on historic states and are not great for predicting what’s next
Dashboards may seem easy and straightforward to implement, but creating brilliant dashboards requires a combination of consulting excellence and technical expertise. Consulting excellence is more than listening to our clients. It’s about guiding our client towards the right insights, through workshops, discussions, strategic sessions, rapid co-development and is by no means linear thinking. Technical expertise is about recognizing and deploying the right technologies through and through. It therefore requires, within one team or person, a unique set of skills, to both be a strong communicator as well as a technical expert. At BrightWolves, we are unofficially dubbed “geek’s in disguise”, because you would never be able to tell that we are geeks, until we start talking about data. At BrightWolves Digit, we are Solution Engineers, because we solve your data challenges the engineering way.
Why we implement web applications instead of dashboards.
We are technical experts. We recognize that dashboarding can be great for some organisations but are not a one fit all solution. Web applications provide an alternative solution with numerous advantages over traditional dashboarding:
Independence - You own the source code and the ETL’s of our implementation. You are not bound by vendor lock since our solutions use robust and proven open-source technologies.
Flexibility - You have the flexibility to move to any infrastructure, change layouts & colours interactively, have unlimited visuals, etc. This means your dashboards are less likely to end up in the dashboard graveyard. But more importantly, you have the strategic maneuverability to change host (move to any cloud provider or on-premise hardware).
Scalability - You will be able to integrate any data source (move to big data) or scale to any number of users, with only increased resource costs to worry about and no per-user license fees to hold you back.
Brilliant expressiveness -Our solution uses open-source technologies to quickly build web applications, which allows deep & dynamic slicing and dicing of data. Our ETLs and visualizations are closely connected in an easy-to-understand script.
It’s not really a dashboard - Web applications are the next step in dashboarding because they are able to integrate with solutions to other data challenges:
o Data Quality Governance
o Advanced (Predictive) Analytics
o Process Automation
o Sustainability analytics
We use a simple three-step approach: Analys-ing, Prototyp-ing and Automat-ing.
In a first step, we sit with end users to identify their business needs. The goal of this first step is to set the scope, align on use cases and assess data availability.
In the second step, we use our development software laboratory to rapidly and iteratively prototype a solution. This allows us to collect essential feedback early on in the process to align on insights, layout and user experience.
In the third step, the aligned upon dashboards go through an automation process to create a robust and scalable application with automated data ingestion, consolidation and aggregation. For organization far-ahead in their data strategy, this includes an analytics pipeline allowing for predictive insights. Lastly, the application is fully reviewed and tested before final adjustments are made. This includes a data quality assessment, after which the application is deployed on our client’s desired infrastructure (cloud or on-premise).
When building a web application, BrightWolves Digit works in a true DevOps way, which means that we feel an incredible responsibility to deliver a long-lasting result, even after a successful implementation. Every implementation comes with an optional maintenance and enhancement contract, proving we believe in the robustness of our solution. Because we believe in the complete transparency of open-source technologies, our clients are able to maintain the solutions themselves or switch to other sources.
If you need help implementing future-proof web applications or if you want highly expressive dashboards that will support better decision-making? Do not hesitate to reach out to our partner and data expert, Luc Machiels, or the author Simon Hiel, at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.