Has the BI Dashboard Outlived its Usefulness?

A BI dashboard is an interactive visualization tool for displaying a variety of data for business operations. These usually include analytics metrics, key performance indicators (KPIs), and other data points that have traditionally played a role in decision-making.   

However, these data points usually focus on the past in an effort to predict the future. Given the virus-incited turbulence of the year we’ve just experienced (2020), a lot of data analysts are asking how relevant is last year’s data to what comes next.   

This raises the question; has the bi dashboard outlived its usefulness?  

The Virus Changed Things Considerably  

Sudheesh Nair, CEO of ThoughtSpot, builders of one of the most innovative analytics platforms extant, believes the use of historical, aggregate data is becoming less relevant given patterns of the past may no longer hold true. The problem is historical data is now skewed because we can’t consider 2020 a “normal” year. Because of this, Nair says companies need to stop looking back and start looking forward.   

Dashboards Aren’t Equipped for This  

Typical BI tools decide what users want to see in aggregate. However, what’s needed now is a hyper-personalized approach, similar to what we’re seeing in targeted marketing campaigns and individualized customer service initiatives. In other words, the approach needs to be based more upon specific use cases. As an example, Nair cites the circumstance of a bank trying to woo its existing customers to take advantage of a wider array of its offerings.   

The bank might pitch a car loan customer on taking a home loan with them. However, let’s say that customer is harboring resentment because the bank hit them with a late charge for a car payment that arrived one day past the due date. Now, let’s say that bank is using traditional BI dashboard tools to target potential customers for the offer. It won’t spot that and the customer will ignore the offer.   

However, if the bank had the ability to drill down into its data and find customers who are in that specific situation, offer them an apology and a refund, along with the invitation to apply for the home loan the outcome might be different. Says Nair, “Dashboards showing me how many people have missed a payment is not useful here. I want to focus on that one customer. Tell me everything about that customer.”  

The Solution  

ThoughtSpot’s analytics platform allows users to search raw data with questions in much the same way as Google allows users to search for facts on the internet. However, ThoughtSpot goes one step farther in that it leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to present the user with alternative questions along with additional results that are related to their initial query.  

This gives the user the opportunity to look forward as well as backward before making decisions. According to Nair, the traditional dashboard will not cut it as we progress. They only answer “what” questions when executives also need to consider “what if” and “what’s next”. COVID-19 has rendered looking to the immediate past for these indicators all but useless. Says Nair, “There is no historical precedent for where we are now. You need something that will tell you what’s happening week by week for the current year.”   

So, has the BI dashboard outlived its usefulness? As things currently stand, its efficacy is hampered. Discerning the future at this point is difficult, particularly if one is focusing on historical data for indications. COVID-19 has changed the ways businesses use technology. Agility and foresight are needed now more than ever and the BI dashboard, as it currently exists, simply does not measure up.   

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