Developers not needed to build this dashboard

A vendor of a tool for building dashboards uses a collaborative workflow creation process and incorporates required functionality into wizards to eliminate the need for developers.

The primary goal of Dundas Dashboard is to let IT staff and business users rapidly develop and deploy dashboards without having to invest in additional resources, said Alexander Chiang, product manager with Toronto-based Dundas Data Visualization Inc.

The idea is that a collaborative role-based workflow will allow people with specific expertise across the enterprise to contribute to the building process. Database administrators can work on connecting underlying data sources, business analysts define the key performance indicators, “and, we are opening it up to business users to design the dashboards,” said Chiang.

The workflow is designed in three major steps: connecting underlying data, finding KPIs, and designing the dashboard. “You need IT staff but you don’t necessarily need a developer,” said Chiang.

Before developing Dundas Dashboard, the company was in the business of creating custom dashboards. Chiang said knowledge of dashboard components and building requirements have been incorporated into the first version of Dundas Dashboard, released mid-November.

According to Chiang, a typical engagement for a custom dashboard would take anywhere from 18 to 33 days, compared to a mere three to six days for a dashboard built in-house using Dundas Dashboard.

The difference can be credited to the fact that the tool offers creation wizards that cover basic dashboard functionality like drill-down, hover-over and filters.

The current version integrates with various data sources like Microsoft Sequel Server 2005 and 2008, Oracle Database 10g and 11g, MySQL 5 and Microsoft Access. Chiang said future versions will offer more in-depth integration capability with sources like Microsoft Excel.

George Goodall, senior research analyst, with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., said the initial absence of Microsoft Excel from among the possible sources from which users can pull data is not “tremendously damaging at the moment.” The reason, said Goodall, is that workarounds can be built, and IT departments are typically in search of ways to better leverage formal data sources like enterprise resource management and customer relationship management systems.

Tools for creating dashboards have pretty much the same functionality – a combination of data modeling, data management and data representation – and Dundas Dashboard is no exception, said Goodall. 

In the case of Dundas Dashboard, Goodall said the focus is on leveraging Microsoft SharePoint and SQL Server. “Basically, it’s saying, ‘Let’s let SQL Server do the heavy lifting so it can be the engine and we can focus on what makes it an appealing tool for us,’” he said.

Goodall has observed an uptick in dashboard creation tools in response to organizations wanting to get more out of the transactional systems that they’ve invested so much in.

But the risk is that with easy adoption of multiple reporting tools, the result can be too many products that do the same thing, like the existence of default reporting from an ERP system or Crystal Reports from legacy data, said Goodall. “People carry a lot of licences from these solutions even if they’re not using them,” he said.

While a variety of dashboard types can be built using Dundas Dashboard, Chiang said the company is expecting the tool to be particularly popular for executives wanting to monitor stats.

Prior to being released, Dundas Dashboard was in public beta for about a month-and-a-half. Version 2 is expected to be released end of Q1 2010.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter.

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