O3 vs Power BI: When is a dashboard not just a dashboard?
By Josh Girvin, O3 Solutions CEO
A wise man once said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”. He could easily have been speaking about modern construction projects, which are often found to be drowning in a maelstrom of data. Some of this information is critical to understanding project performance and success, while some of it seems to have been created for reasons that are a mystery to those being asked to consume it.
In an effort to corral this data giant, a lot of companies are using dashboards to compile information from disparate sources and present it in an easy-to-understand screen display. There has been a huge proliferation in dashboards in recent years, both in terms of companies making their own, and third-party providers offering them as a service.
Most of these dashboards have gone a long way to simplifying and standardizing complex information within an organization, and have been a significant benefit to the users. But are all dashboards the same, and how can we use them to maximum effect?
The most critical element of any dashboard is knowing what information to display. Some dashboards can be enormous, and try to cram in far too much information. The person developing the dashboard can easily get carried away with the concept of what ‘can’ be shown, rather than what ‘should’ be shown. Just because you have the information available, doesn’t mean it belongs on the dashboard.
One of the key differentiators for dashboards in O3 is the ability to drill down into the information, and see the underlying data. For example, let’s say you have a dashboard showing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for AWP or Workface Planning. All of your KPIs are green, meaning they are at or above the agreed level, except for one. That one red KPI is keeping you from a perfect scorecard, and you want to know why.
This is where intelligent dashboards with sophisticated linked data can outperform the standard business analytics tools. In this example, you can simply click on the red KPI to see what the problem is. All of the source data is displayed, allowing you quickly find the root cause of the problem.
This intuitive, user-friendly system means your dashboards can be simplified to show just the critical data, knowing you can delve deeper into any aspect that concerns you.
Some other key aspects of dashboard creation to consider:
Data isn’t helpful if it can’t drive decision-making. When considering what to display, always question what the user will do with the information. If it is something they can act on, it is useful. If it is just data for the sake of data, with no meaningful outcome, it isn’t worth including.
Control who can see them. This sounds a little Machiavellian, but it is an important consideration both in terms of limiting access and ensuring data is useful.
If not, don’t waste their time with that information. Use role-based permissions to keep the right information in the right swimlane, and still foster the collaborative environment needed for AWP to work.
Results are great, but forward-looking information can often be much more useful. Make sure your dashboards consider not only what has already happened, but also upcoming events that can still be influenced, like constraint management.
Make them easy to create. If a new user can create a dashboard within minutes, and do so with real information that can support them in their role, then your structure is set up for success. If it takes days or weeks to train people, and they need to understand the complexities of the underlying data (and where to get it), your dashboard capabilities will always be limited and will remain in the hands of a few key individuals.
Lastly, make dashboards users want to read. Develop them from the perspective of the people who will be using them day-in and day-out. Give the workface planner what they need to do their job, or (even better) let them decide what they need to see. Don’t try to push a project management dashboard, for example, on someone who has no use for most of the data. And don’t try to give your senior management team a hugely complex dashboard with large amounts of information, when all they want to know is whether the project is on track to meet its goals.
O3’s dashboards are built with over 400 AWP and Agile best practice custom elements that can be set up and configured in minutes, and tie seamlessly to the underlying data. They can be used to support your project through all phases of its lifecycle, and put the power back in the hands of the people who are working on the front lines to make your projects a success.
Existing business analytics tools certainly have their place, and some of our clients still use them for reporting of certain peripheral data. But to take your reporting to the next level, leverage an integrated data approach and make sure you are getting the most out of the project information you are working so hard to create.