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June 8, 2009

What is a Dashboard?

Filed under: definition — Dan @ 11:41 am
Tags: ,

As our institution is close to kicking off a Data Council, defining data terms is on my mind lately.  Found an excellent quote of how to tell if a Dashboard is doing its job, which I wanted to post here for myself for future reference.  This comes from Stephen Few’s most excellent book, which came to me with multiple recommendations, and I have finally started reading, Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data (O’Reilly, 2006).  Here is Stephen’s definition of a Dashboard, which I will give first, for context: “A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives; consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance.”  This definition originally appeared in Stephen Few’s article “Dashboard Confusion”, in the March 20, 2004 edition of Intelligent Enterprise.

The statements that really caught my attention, from his book mentioned above, “The dashboard does its primary job if it tells you with no more than a glance that you should act.  It serves you superbly if it directly opens the door to any additional information that you need to take that action.”  Nice, really nice.  I like that because it tells you how to know if the dashboard is functional, providing its primary function, and then it tells you how to know if the dashboard is really excellent, taking service/functionality to the next level.  Thanks, Stephen!

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September 17, 2008

Data Term: Snapshot date

Filed under: definition — Dan @ 11:32 am
Tags: , ,

Ok, so you need a ‘snapshot’ of your data or database.  You’re institution has decided on a Snapshot Date.  Sooo….do you just take a copy of your data any time during the business day of the snapshot date, or when?  This, of course, depends on your definition of Snapshot, which I’m not going to focus on, but will just say it refers to a ‘set of data’ (i.e., transactional database, reporting database, data warehouse, spreadsheet, ….. or whatever).

So here’s the definition: Snapshot Date – data as-of end of business day.  It would be safe to say, technically, the Snapshot could be taken anytime between end of business day on the Snapshot Date, and beginning of business day on the next business day.

So practically speaking, we have a weeknightly ETL process that ‘refreshes’ our Operational Reporting database (OpsDB) from our transactional system.  To take a snapshot of OpsDB, any time during the business day following the Snapshot Date a copy can be made of it and be considered a valid snapshot-date Snapshot (of OpsDB).

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