Dashboards & Analytics

1. What is the difference between Dashboards & Reports?

First of all, we only talk about dashboards within Exply. Of course, internally we always debate the necessity of reports compared to dashboards. Therefore we want to point out the differences.

We recommend the book Information Dashboard Design from Stephen Few where he analyses a wide variety of different dashboards and gives the following definition:

"A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one ore more objectives, consolidated and arranged on a single screen so that the information can be monitored at a glance." (Stephen Few, "Dashboard Confusion," Intelligent Enterprise, March 20, 2004, S.26)

In contrast to dashboards, a report shows you a way more detailed data set.

Some of the main differences between dashboards and reports are:

  • Dashboards focus on answering one question at a time and give a quick overview on the topic (approximately one screen). Reports usually don't fit on one page and cover more than one point.
  • Dashboards show real-time data, reports only show retrospective data.
  • Dashboards tend to be more like eye candy and visually appealing with a variety of colourful chart types. Reports used to be mainly tabular in the past, but now also include charts.
  • Dashboards tend to focus on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Reports tend to focus on underlying data.
  • Dashboards are meant to be monitored at a glance. Reports require more in-depth attention (i.e. require reading through).
  • Dashboards communicate specific points. Reports tell, or potentially tell, a story.
  • Dashboards are simple. Reports tend to be more complex in nature.

2. How do I create a new Dashboard?

Following the advice given above, there are some things worth considering before starting right away.

Focus on Answers, not Raw Data

Thinking of reports and dashboards we associate them with a huge bucket of data, from which we need to draw the conclusions ourselves. Only the original creator knows exactly what the data means. Everyone else needs a lot of time to get a useful understanding of the provided data, and be able to interpret it.

A couple of years ago reports were basically tabular data and eventually supplemented with some basic charts and diagrams. New data visualisation tools showed that data can be presented in much more convenient ways - dashboards. What happened was that dashboards became more and more report-like, but shiny.

That's exactly the point. The best-readable dashboards are the ones that mix data with additional information in bullet lists and text, focus on conclusions and opinions, and answer the given question they were created for.

Just showing raw data isn't useful, especially when it needs to be read or is needed to answer the questions the report is trying to solve. It is a helpful addition to provide the information that led to the conclusion, if someone is in need of this.

Thus the first question to be answered is the question itself. Simply showing data in beautiful dashboards isn't the solution and doesn't help you to get a better understanding for your business and make better decisions. The first question you should start with is:

Start with a question, your data can answer

Dashboards should be designed to quickly provide answers, not questions. The crucial question is: Which questions do you want Exply to answer?

  • How many team members worked how many hours, per day/week/month on which project/task?
  • How many hours of the given budget have already been used?
  • How many hours need to be done within the next time period to accomplish the assured time budget with the given people?
  • How many productive hours do we have?
  • How many hours are billable and non-billable per project, team member, time period?
  • How much time did every team member work on a task list?

Start with answering only one question at a time (and dashboard). Making dashboards too complex by letting them answer more and more questions drives them into the state of early reports. The user needs more assistance looking at them and then they are not helpful anymore.

Know the limits

As mentioned above, dashboards give a quick overview for different KPIs. Completely customisable dashboards hold the danger of being "over"-done and that users end up scrolling "for forever" trying to find the relevant answers. 

Needing to scroll a lot in your dashboard may be a hint that the question you started with is too general. If it's hard even for you to dive in, it's not going to be read by anyone else. Try to be more precise.

Do you want to share your dashboard?

Sharing dashboards and insights is a great way to bring transparency to teams, companies, customers and build up trust and loyalty. But sometimes it is necessary to not show all data. Customer A should not see projects and related data of customer B and so on.

When you design a dashboard, keep in mind who will look at them in the future and choose the right data filters as well as permissions in the user management.

Chances of real-time data

One of the advantages of dashboards is their real-time approach. Having a look at a dashboard directly shows you the newest data. This empowers you to be pro-active, instead of looking at backwards directed reports where you have no chance to change the past.

Depending on the dashboard it is more or less important to check it repeatedly.

That's it

Now feel free to head over to the step-by-step guide at the Setup & First Steps section. There you will find a detailed description on how to set up your first own dashboard.

3. What are Data Filters?

Different dashboards require different data contexts so that it's efficient to work with them. For example, some dashboards are shared with a variety of users or customers and they shall only see the data they're allowed to see.

The complexity of data filters can be as simple as "just show project A" to "only show projects ending with B, starting with CE and contain not Z". Exply even supports the regex-format providing you the most versatile option to enter high-complex filter conditions.

Data filters can be applied in two ways:

  • via Dashboards
  • via User Management

3.1 Dashboard Data Filters

You can set Data Filters in Dashboards for every Widget Group and every Global Group (follow the links for more information). In terms of setup they both work the same way.

The important difference is, that global filters effect the whole dashboard, where as widget group filters only effect themselves.

After enabling the Edit-Mode you see the filter options right at the top of every Widget Group. Filters give you the option to select a specific document type and/or document field.

In contrast to document types, the document fields filter is a way more specific option to filter your widget groups and dashboards.

The classic example is that you want to get an overview regarding a specific project and you want to see all data. Therefore the document type field is left empty and "Name of Project" is selected as document field including the corresponding project. In this case the operator is set to "equals".

If you use specific naming schemes to sort your projects, customers or project teams and don't want to select them one after another you may use "starts with" to easily bulk select them.

3.2. User Management Data Filters

Besides the data filters within dashboards you are able to set individual permissions on specific document types and fields on user and user group level. 

In addition to setting permissions for specific dashboards and general permissions, you can also allow the user/group to see/work with the different data types available within the User Management. Setting data field permissions is as easy as setting data filters for your dashboards. Just enter the ones you want to grant access to.

Per default all permissions are deactivated. 

Data Field Permission within the User Management

4. How do I combine Jira data and Tempo Time Sheets?

Exply for Jira automatically detects your configuration and all necessary data. To add the Tempo Time Sheets you just need to add your individual Tempo API key, as described in the JIRA Configuration welcome screen:

Exply for Jira Setup Screen

Feel free to head right over to the Getting Started section to get more information.