Sunday, March 25, 2012

Engaging Your Users From Day 1

There is something very appealing about a report or dashboard that just speaks to you. There are lots of factors that contribute to this type of experience. For me the first thing that grabs me is the overall beauty of the layout. Is it using consistent formatting? Does the colour scheme appeal to the eye and make the visualizations easy to read? (white font headers on dark backgrounds are my favourite) Do I immediately zero in on an insight that I will take action on?

The funny thing is another person may look at the same dashboard and it doesn't say a word to them. Everyone's needs and insights are different, and we have to design our BI user experience to tailor to the end user. This is why it is so critical to engage our users at the earliest stages of the process.

My recommendation would be start with what business questions we are trying to answer, and what actions this will generate. Before the first mock-up or list of data elements is created, make sure we know what business value we are trying to deliver. Once you have determined the problem we are trying to solve, then understand what data you need to source. This is a critical step, at this point we should be working with our users on what data we need and how that data is generated. We can use this time to establish the quality of our data, and engage our business in ensuring that the data will meet our needs.

An interesting experiment at this point is to make the raw data available and allow the user to play. Let them at a cube or even an Excel pivot table, and see what insights can be pulled from the data. This will help us understand what key metrics and dashboards will speak back to the questions we are trying to answer and the actions we are going to take as a result.

If your users are engaged from day 1, you will save time and your users will be raving fans!


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