Recently, we started offering prebuilt, out-of-the-box visuals with VividCharts Starters. This is something I was torn about because I know the potential downsides to out-of-the-box (okay, I’ve said out-of-the-box enough so I’m going to shorten to OOB going forward) visuals, dashboards, etc., but the positives finally outweighed the negatives for us. Below, I’ll highlight the cases against and for “cookie-cutter” reporting. Let’s get the bad out of the way first:
Square peg, round hole. I’m sure you’ve heard that before and I think it’s extremely relevant in OOB dashboards. Unless you are brand new to reporting in the area the OOB offering covers, you likely have specific metrics and indicators that are important to your business objectives. An OOB offering will likely cover more generic metrics and indicators to ensure they can reach a broad audience, but will rarely fit a given business perfectly. If you’re not careful, you can fall into the practice of making the square peg (OOB dashboards) fit into a round hole (your business objectives).
Another thing that can be frustrating when trying to use OOB dashboards is that you likely have some sort of customizations in your environment, but OOB dashboards by nature have to assume you don’t. When creating an OOB offering, you can’t guess how your customer base has customized their environment, you have to play it safe and proceed as if every customer is still OOB. This can lead to unusable OOB dashboard offerings for customers. I’ll give a real-life example: in the incident management process, categorization is very crucial for a many reasons which I won’t get into in this article. In most OOB environments, there are only a few preset categories which makes reporting easy. In most real life environments customers have many unique categories which makes many OOB visuals useless.
Alright, enough with the negatives, let’s talk about the good stuff.
First and foremost, OOB dashboard offerings can be a great way to introduce you to the tool you’re about to use. Learning a new reporting tool can be a daunting task and it’s nice to have examples to work off of. This can help you figure out how to navigate and configure the new tool, whether it’s the data collection, visualization, accessing, etc.
Secondly, if the OOB offerings are unique in some fashion, they can give you some creative inspiration for future visuals and dashboards. This can be invaluable if you’re trying to grab your audience’s attention. You can even take an OOB dashboard that you like that isn’t in the area you’re trying to report on, make a copy of it, and then add in your unique process area metrics and indicators.
As mentioned earlier, OOB dashboards typically try to adhere to industry standard metrics and indicators. If you and/or your organization are new to reporting on these process areas, these standard metrics and indicators can be a great place to get started. As you start using these standards, you’ll learn which ones work for your organization and which ones don’t and can tweak your reporting continuously.
To wrap it up, I think OOB dashboards can be great if used responsibly. Keeping the above points in mind will certainly help you evaluate which offerings you should use and how you should use them. Something that a lot of people don’t realize or forget is that reports, dashboards, and visuals should be viewed as a living, breathing entity that can always be improved upon. There should rarely be a situation where you publish v1 of a dashboard and then never look back.
Like I said right off the bat I was torn when we were deciding whether or not to offer OOB visuals and dashboards. A key piece to our approach that made me comfortable with the idea was that we set VividCharts Starters up to be opt-in. This means that you can browse these different offerings before activating them, and then can go back and deactivate as needed. We never want to push something on our customers under the veil of being “best practice”, because we know that can be a misleading and overused phrase.
As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments on the topic. I’d love to hear from you. Also, if found this valuable please don’t hesitate to subscribe to our blog and share with others.