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Real-time Business Dashboards: What, Why and How?

3 April 2014 BY

Big Data. We’ve heard these two words so much over the last few years that we’re all pretty much sick to the back teeth of them.

For the majority of companies, Big Data is so far away from day-to-day accessibility, the value of that data integration just can’t be unlocked. How many have successfully joined together analytics data with CRM data with offline interaction and Lifetime Customer Value? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

One data tool that has been proving increasing popular is the All-In-One-Dashboard, also labelled the real-time business dashboard. The idea is to cut through the information overload and have a quick overview of stats that matter. These tools have  been around for some time really. Think of Google Analytics dashboards, or Netvibes, as the ancestors of today’s turbo-charged versions.  Traditionally, many companies have been forced to invest in bespoke dashboards when they’ve wanted to take the integration to the next level, especially when looking to combine multiple sources – however the heavy investment in these types of tools means it is now much quicker, easier and cheaper to subscribe – as well as providing at a glance, real-time stats.

NB.Business dashboards aren’t there to help you deep dive into all of your data. They are however a great tool to help feed back to the business/client at a top level, giving a bird’s eye view of key KPIs.

Here’s a pick of some of the most popular dashboard tools of the moment:

Sumall

Simple and smart design, Sumall is the new kid on the block having launched in 2012 to rave reviews. I see it as the first rung on the ladder when progressing from some of the popular social media focused monitoring tools over to the broader remit of business dashboards. 100% free while it’s still in beta, it allows you to connect up a host of different accounts including Google Analytics, Adsense, WordPress, Facebook, Twitter and much more.

Most of the popular names are there and it’s a great little tool to get started. The interface isn’t widget focused in the same way as most of these dashboards, meaning the charts are all in one place and so not necessarily as clear/intuitive. There are a few other drawbacks like it is not able to connect Adwords MCC accounts, only standard accounts. This would be a potentially major drawback for agency use.  However it is useful for comparison purposes, allowing you to compare multiple data sources within the same graph, and benchmarks. This is a significant USP.

A tool that would great for a small business using a number of popular analytics/CRM/project management/marketing services. It’s particularly good at the social media insight side of things. Sumall does have its limitations as you start to expand your data sets, users and business needs. As it’s still in beta, the opportunities could be endless though. Get in while it’s still ‘underground’!

Pros: 100% free for the moment (costs to come), very easy to connect accounts, great for comparison across data sources

Cons: Not equipped for MCC connection, possibly confusing when using a single chart when dealing with large sites and data sets.

Cost: None at present

Sumall

Cyfe

A long-standing member of the all-in-one dashboard community, Cyfe is easy to set up and provides a simple dashboard-within-a-dashboard system (like many of these tools). The widget system allows you to connect multiple data sources into a single dashboard within a few clicks. The free version allows you up to the five widgets, the premium version provides unlimited dashboards and widgets.

Widgets include:

  • Advertising:  AdWords (account or MCC), AdSense, Doubleclick.
  • Blogging: WordPress
  • Email Marketing: Gmail, Campaign Monitor, MailChimp etc.
  • Sales & Finance: FreshBooks, PayPal, Salesforce etc.
  • SEO: WMT, Moz etc.
  • Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, Klout etc.
  • Web Analytics: Chartbeat, Compete, GoSquared, and Quantcast.
  • Custom: Upload CSV files, Google docs, Feeds etc.

Pros: The free version is good to give you an idea of how these sorts of dashboards work, and the premium cost is still very affordable. Simple and quick to set up.

Cons: Perhaps less slick looking and more limited than others is its customisability, widgets are fairly rigidly defined. This means you can’t easily edit the type of view you get within a given widget.

Cost: Free for first 5 widgets, $19/month premium

Cyfe dashboard

Ducksboard

Founded in 2011, Ducksboard has seen steady growth since its launch. It’s the mid-range option from a pricing perspective, offering a number of packages depending on the size of your business and the number of dashboards required.

Duckboard offers a broader set of integrations than Cyfe, with 64 different options. These include much a broad ranage of categories:

  • CRM: Salesforce, Highrise, Zendesk etc.
  • Dev: github, twilio, New Relic
  • Project Management: Basecamp, Jira, Trello etc.
  • Web Tools: bit.ly, Flickr, Magento etc.

It also adds a few nice extras including ‘TV mode’ where you can dedicate a full-screen monitor to your dashboard  or share the dashboard with a unique URL. A nice touch to impress those HiPPos. Another available feature are its alerts, allowing you to set triggers for key indicators which then sends you an email based on your set targets.

Pros: Slicker-looking and more flexible than Cyfe, good support offering including with API use.

Cons: Costs can start to accumulate quickly, not as affordable for SMEs if you want more than one dashboard (think competitor monitoring).

Costs: Packages range from $16/month (billed annually) for a single dashboard up to $129/month+ for 10 dashboards or more.

ducksboard tv mode

Geckoboard

Geckboard is the daddy of the dashboards. Born in 2010 out of the Silicon Roundabout startup community of Shoreditch London, Geckoboard has found significant success and is backed by a plethora of investors. With some big brands, and equally large sites using it, the platform is robust, relatively simple to set-up and features a wealth of integrations.

Geckoboard provides the same widget integrations as the other dashboards mentioned above, with a few extra but also allows you to import your own data into their pre-built visualisations. There are also other simple, but useful extras such as the ability to have multiple accounts for any widget. This is very useful for the larger business or agency. All dashboards are designed to be multi-device friendly and an API is available for the creation of custom charts/widgets.

For features and integrations, Geckoboard certainly does seem to be a level above its competitors, and with another fairly recent round of investment, there’s likely much more to come.

Pros: High number of widgets and integration opportunities, API allowing for customisation.

Cons: Can become expensive if you’re looking for more than the very basic level of service. More focused on larger clients so SMEs may not receive same level of support.

Pricing: $17/month for one dashboard and user, going up to $899/month for Enterprise level subscriptions.

Geckoboard

AUTHORED BY:
h

Originally from the UK via France and Malaysia, Annabel Hodges is a digital marketer with long experience in the industry now residing in Sydney. She heads up the Digital Marketing at Next Commerce, working across an array of products, channels and brands.
  • Robin

    Very nice overview. I’ve been using Klipfolio for a while after testing out some other dashboards. The con is that Klipfolio doesn’t (yet) support RealTime Google Analytics. The Pro is that you can combine multiple datasources (e.g. excel file with Google Analytics revenue).

    I look forward to see some more dashboards explained in the comments.

    • http://www.annabelhodges.com/ Annabel Hodges

      Thanks Robin. I do need to have more a look at Klipfolio, I know it but haven’t used it much myself. Interesting options with raw data/API integration, possibly not as intuitive initially but the flexibility sounds very appealing.

  • http://andrescholten.net/ André Scholten

    Nice tools, I would also like to add: Leftronic, Dashthis, Measureful, Tableau and Sweetspotintelligence. All have their cons and pros, I often select a tool per business case. Does the company want to show numbers on some big screens, or are they using the dashboards for day to day campaign management.

    • Bas van den Beld

      Thank you, both Andre and Annabel for adding to my already huge list of ‘tools to test’. My next week is full now ;)

  • Jane T

    Great list! Though to be honest we’ve tried all of these and more before. The only one we found to be flexible and affordable for SMEs was Cyfe.com. They have less integrations but many more actual metrics to choose from (quality over quantity). Plus the ability to bring your own data in through CSV files is priceless.

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