Print Management Insider Blog

Why Business Intelligence Dashboards Are Killing Traditional Reporting

Posted by West McDonald on Jul 9, 2015 3:15:55 PM

What is a BI dashboard?

Essentially a BI (Business Intelligence) dashboard is an interactive way to move through important business metrics and data points.  You can start with a global view and then “drill down” to get more specific insights.  The goal is to take a mountain of data; possibly from different sources like Excel and SQL; and marry them in such a way that actionable intelligence is created.

screenshot 1 - car dashboard

A BI dashboard is kind of like the dashboard in your car.  As you are driving along you can quickly scan the dashboard in your car to determine how fast you’re going, how much fuel you have remaining, and what the temperature is outside.  The key to a good vehicle dashboard is to provide information quickly without undue distraction to the driver.  Keep your eyes on the road!   Good BI dashboards have the same qualities in that they should provide meaningful insights without any mental calisthenics.

Not all BI dashboards are created equally.  Some are downright awful.  What separates the good from the bad?   A good BI dashboard should almost feel like an Infographic.  In other words, the person viewing it should very quickly be able to garner useful insights and relationships between different data points.  A good BI dashboard is much more than a pretty face.  It  goes much further and allows you to drill into a particular metric to get more granular and meaningful insights.

insight 1

As an example, one of the things Print Audit has done with their Insight dashboard is to show total color printing volume for an organization and then allow the person viewing it to drill down to view top 10 employees who are printing color. Want to know more?  The user can drill even further to discover how much color is being produced by application (pdf, email, web printing, etc).

insight 2

This flexibility of choosing between a global view and more granular analyses on the fly is extremely powerful.   Being able to parse information in a visually pleasing way to understand things like expensive and excessive color printing (and who is doing the most of it!) is invaluable.  I’m sure you can think of examples more particular to your own industry!

What are some common visual elements of a BI dashboard?

How a BI dashboard is laid-out to present data is as much art as it is science.  From one dashboard to the next the layouts are extremely varied and individual.  That being said, most incorporate visuals that people are already familiar with.  Here are some of the most common:

  • Map Charts:  If you are comparing data sets from different geographical locations there is nothing better than visualizing on a map.  Print Audit Insight does this for a dealer’s market share compared to the market at large in different states and countries.
  • Column & Bar Charts:  Great for doing comparative visuals for things like monthly revenue or spend.  The Print Audit Insight dashboard uses bar charts to illustrate spend by top 10 office employees.
  • Speedometers/Gauges:  These are excellent for showing a client how particular activities compare to an average.  Print Audit Insight uses gauges to illustrate a dealers CPP rate vs. the industry average.
  • Pie/Donut Charts:  These are great for showing ratios of similar behaviors or things  from a limited number of variable producers.  For example, the Print Audit Insight dashboard uses pie charts to illustrate how much networked vs. locally connected printing is being done.
  • Pure Textual/Numerical Input:  Sometimes pure text or numerical input tells the best story of all.  Print Audit Insight uses numerical inputs for total print spend for the assessment period.

What are some of the best uses for BI dashboards?

I find BI dashboards are really useful in any assessment process.  From my own experience that comes from analyzing an office’s print behavior, generating reports the old fashioned way through excel and manually creating a report is both time consuming and wrought with opportunities for errors.  A traditional spreadsheet usually requires a great deal of hand holding and explanation for the receiving party to get any good use out of it.  Traditional report generation often leads to more questions which entail more work to answer.  A good BI dashboard allows for questions to be answered on-the-fly simply by drilling further into information sets.

google analytics

Other great uses for Bi dashboards abound!  Almost all industries and verticals are collecting mountains of data these days.  Some common ones are for healthcare facilities review, executive briefings, marketing reviews, sales pipeline reviews, supply chain analyses, and social media metrics.  There is hardly a vertical or industry that would not benefit from using BI dashboards to improve their understanding of critical business elements.

What are some good examples of effective BI dashboards?

A good BI dashboard is a thing of beauty!  It should be clean, offer insights without much coaxing, and allow for lots of ways to dive deeper into points of interest.  Here are 5 of my favorite BI dashboards:

  • Print Audit Insight:  This has been developed to provide current state assessments for customers looking to better understand the who, what, where, when and why of office printing.  Print Audit Insight combines device, user, and document datasets to tell a holistic story of office printing behavior.
  • Sprout Social:  If you make heavy use of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, Sproutdelivers some powerful insights from one central dashboard!
  • NewfieldIT’s User Analytics:  This dashboard is another great one designed to help customers better understand their print behavior and also offers some handy “what if” scenarios to help craft future-state improvements.
  • Google Analytics:  Google is everywhere and BI dashboarding is no exception.  They have done a very good job of providing great dashboard views for web page statistics and analyses
  • Fitbit:  Fitbit has one of the coolest dashboards around for tracking and monitoring your vital exercise and fitness measurements.

How do I get started creating my own BI dashboards?

If you want advice on how you can begin to create your own BI dashboards you can simply Google “Business Intelligence Dashboard” to start exploring your options.  There are a myriad of companies that provide the tools necessary to begin creating dashboards that are visually appealing while providing incredible insights to your structured and unstructured data.

If you would like to learn more about getting your own BI dashboard for helping you to reduce your office print spend please feel free to message me privately and I will be happy to assist you by putting you in touch with a resource in your area.

To learn more about our BI tool, Print Audit Insight, please watch the video below:


About the author: West McDonald is the VP of Business Development for Print Audit ( and the owner of FocusMPS (

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Topics: business, business strategy, Business Tips, managed print, Managed Print Services, MPS, new business, Office Equipment Dealers, print audit, Print Behavior, print management, print tracking, printers, printing, reporting, sales, selling, Service, Social, Social Media, strategy, success, Technology, technology, tips

West McDonald

Written by West McDonald

West McDonald is Vice President of Business Development for Print Audit.

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