How to build offline management dashboards

Old fashioned dashboard
Modern dashboarding tools?

A few months ago, I sat right next to a guy on a plane. Once we were up in the air, he pulled out a big stack of paper reports. He equipped himself with a ruler, a marker, a pencil and a calculator. All that on the tiny fold-down table in economy class. Didn’t look like fun. But to be fair, most planes still do not offer WIFI and we still have to get our work done. So, what is the alternative to paper reports? PDF is ok, but it is impossible to interact with the data. Excel is ok, too. But Excel is not secure and potentially too complicated. And none of these options are suited for building effective management dashboards.

 

OFFLINE MANAGEMENT DASHBOARDS

What can we do then? IBM introduced IBM Cognos Active Report with the latest Cognos 10 release. It basically allows report authors to develop interactive management dashboards and reporting applications for offline use. In other words: You can build effective performance dashboards with rich exploration features that can be used without network connectivity. That is pretty cool for a few reasons:

  • We can stay productive anytime & anywhere
  • We can leverage cool technology to explore our business information
  • We do not have to rely on antiquated and non-interactive tools like PDF and paper (or spreadsheets….)
  • The dashboards can be built using trusted data sources with the Cognos Framework

The applications run in the browser and are delivered through .mht files. Each application can include data sets ranging from small to medium.

IBM Cognos Active Report - Management Dashboards
A collection of different IBM Cognos Active Reports

SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL

When I was first invited to look at the early versions of  IBM Cognos Active Report, I was a bit skeptical. I expected to see a very limited tool. But let me tell you: I was more than surprised. Active Report first of all looks beautiful and you can build really rich and cool dashboards or reporting applications. There are a ton of awesome charts you can use (apart from the good ol’ cross-tabs and flat reports). You also have the ability to make them very interactive by including buttons, drop-down menus, filters, click-paths etc..  Take a look at two sample pictures below.

IBM Cognos Active Report
Notice the radio buttons, drop-downs and click buttons
Performance Dashboard
Various chart types: micro charts, bubble charts, etc.

NO SAFETY NET REQUIRED

Another thing I really like about IBM Cognos Active Report is that the dashboards are super easy to use. And they cannot break through user error.  I actually invited a member from the audience up on stage at the 2010 IBM Performance events to do a demo for the audience. Anybody who has done a software demo to a large audience would find this thought scary. But the dashboards are indeed that easy and safe to use. The volunteers were therefore pretty surprised. This makes Cognos Active Report perfect for different kinds of users: executives, sales staff out in the field, other mobile workers. Applications can simply be burst or distributed via the traditional mechanisms like email or folders.

TRY IT

If you haven’t had a chance to try these dashboards, go ahead and meet with one of our team members. We will also show the technology at upcoming events like IBM Performance , IBM BA Forum or our cool Business Analytics Experience workshops. If you cannot wait until then, take a look at the short video I recorded. You will also find a bunch of other demos on YouTube.