Business Intelligence Dashboards

An Interview with Business Objects' Colin Gray at JavaOne 2007

by Frank Sommers and Bill Venners
June 1, 2007

As enterprises accumulate increasing amounts of operational business data, developers must find new ways to make that data useful at every level of a business. In this interview, Business Objects' Colin Gray discusses the value of business intelligence dashboards as a decision support tool.

An often neglected byproduct of business process automation is the operational data the automation system generates and accumulates over time. Log files, transaction records, document archives, and virtually any sort of historic data can become useful competitive tools if used to measure and improve a process. Recent legislation mandating strict data archiving has only increased the types and amount of data available to businesses.

New techniques have been introduced in recent years to help companies make better use of that data. In this interview with Artima, Colin Gray, Director of Developer Marketing and Americas Marketing at Business Objects, describes one such innovation, business intelligence dashboards:

Dashboards enable a customer to take large amounts of data in an organization that has [come about] as a result of running the business, and look at it in a summary format. They can take key performance indicators for that business, and put that in front of executives to help make decisions... The key players in an organization get access to information in a format that's easy to read. They don't have to look through lots pages of reports... if they see a speedometer in the red, they know they have a problem and can make a very quick reaction, whereas if it's buried on page four of a report, it can easily be missed...

The [information in these dashboards] can be divided into two categories. The first is, How is the business running today? Do I have a problem today? The other category might be, What if I changed this key performance indicator a bit? What if I increased the price of the goods sold, or increased the salary I'm paying my sales reps? How is that going to impact the business? Some of the dashboards enable the users to interact with those variables, and to change the key element, and then see what the result is in the dashboard.

Click to download audio Colin Gray, senior manager of developer marketing and Americas marketing at Business Objects, talks about business intelligence dashboards, a new trend in enterprise reporting and analysis. (5 minutes 10 seconds)

What formats and techniques have you found most useful in presenting summary operational data to business managers? What do you think of the concept of business intelligence dashboards?

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About the authors

Frank Sommers is Editor-in-Chief of Artima Developer. He also serves as chief editor of the IEEE Technical Committee on Scalable Computing's newsletter, and is an elected member of the Jini Community's Technical Advisory Committee. Prior to joining Artima, Frank wrote the Jiniology and Web services columns for JavaWorld.

Bill Venners is president of Artima, Inc. He is author of the book, Inside the Java Virtual Machine, a programmer-oriented survey of the Java platform's architecture and internals. His popular columns in JavaWorld magazine covered Java internals, object-oriented design, and Jini. Bill has been active in the Jini Community since its inception. He led the Jini Community's ServiceUI project, whose ServiceUI API became the de facto standard way to associate user interfaces to Jini services. Bill also serves as an elected member of the Jini Community's initial Technical Oversight Committee (TOC), and in this role helped to define the governance process for the community.