May 2, 2008

Executive Dashboards and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture makes information visible to enable better decision making in the organization. One tool to help do this is the executive dashboard.

In management information systems, a dashboard is a executive information system user interface that (similar to an automobile's dashboard) is designed to be easy to read. For example, a product might obtain information from the local operating system in a computer, from one or more applications that may be running, and from one or more remote sites on the Web and present it as though it all came from the same source. (Wikipedia)

Dashboards help manage information overload:

  • “After three decades of aggressive computerization, companies are drowning in data and information. People produced about five exabytes of new information in 2002, twice the amount created just two years earlier” (Trend: The New Rules of Information Management by Jeffrey Rothfeder)
  • Dashboard are a way to take the fire hose flood of information that we get every day and make it more actionable by structuring it, focusing it, and making it more understandable often through visual displays. Note, this is similar to User-centric Enterprise Architecture’s use of principles of communications and design, such as information visualization to effectively communicate the baseline, target, and transition plan in the organization.

Dashboards provide business intelligence:

  • Dashboards, like enterprise architecture itself, contribute to translating data into business intelligence. EA does this by capturing, analyzing, cataloging, and serving up information in useful and usable ways to enhance decision making by the end-users. Dashboards do this by capturing and aggregating performance metrics, and displaying them in easy-to-read and often, customizable formats.

Dashboards generally focus on performance:

  • Dashboards generally are used for displaying, monitoring, and managing an organization’s performance metrics. Note, “performance” is one of the perspectives of the enterprise architecture, so dashboards are a nifty way to make that EA perspective really come alive!
  • According to DM Review, 15 April 2008, “Dashboards Help Drive and Improve Performance Metrics…Presented in highly visual charts and graphs, this data can provide each level of the organization with the information it needs to best perform…Dashboards also can be a key driver of performance improvement initiatives, offering a simple and graphical way to make key performance indicators (KPIs) visible throughout the enterprise.”

Dashboards typically provide activity monitoring and drilldown capability:

  • “The most effective dashboards allow users to drill down into the KPIs to find root cause or areas likely to cause problems. Some can even be configured to alert maintenance or support personnel when performance drops” or dangerous thresholds are crossed. Dashboard also help “make comparisons of multiple data sources” over time. These functions are called business activity monitoring, and when applied to the organization’s network, for example, is referred to a network monitoring.
  • The ability to monitor and manage performance using the dashboard is similar to ability to monitor and manage the organization’s track along it roadmap using EA!
  • The most effective dashboards, like the most effective enterprise architectures, are those that provide information in multiple layers of detail, so that the executives can get the high-level summary, the mid-level managers can understand the relationships between the information, and the analysts can drill down and get the detail.

Dashboards—an effective human-machine interface:

  • Dashboards done right, are an effective EA tool, and serve as a window into the organization’s performance; they provides real-time, summary and granular information for making quick and specific decisions to positively affect performance.


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