The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

systematicHR Avatar

Not all of us have fancy business intelligence tools and cool dashboards with great graphs prepared for us in our business environments yet.  If we’re lucky, we belong to organizations that have spent millions of dollars figuring out how to get us analytics when we log into self service environments.  Or perhaps we have bought into a cool talent application tool that already had the functionality.  We’ve been prophesying that business intelligence would go directly to the manager/end user rather than having requests for ad hoc reports that would have to be processed for days before the end user ever got any data.  Even if we don’t have all the cool dashboards and business intelligence tools at our disposal, I’m hoping that many of us have used the cool image and graphing functionality in MS Office 2007.  Indeed, the software now presents all sorts of data in all sorts of new, flashy and easy to build ways.  From a consulting perspective, beautiful and sexy is a wonderful thing.

The problem is that…. well, there’s a problem.

Have you noticed that many of the charts you are getting are 3 dimensional?  From my perspective, they are beautiful, and the formatting is impeccable, but I can’t really tell where the top of the bar lines up with the axis points anymore.  Sure I can tell that the top of any bar in a bar chart is…. oh between $20-25M?  Yeah – that’s problematic.  I have a $5M effort rate.

I’m not sure what to do with the dashboards.  Managers want quick access and a visual regarding where they are and how their organization is performing.  But at the end of the day, don’t the want a data dump into Excel anyway?  (warning: data privacy problem, but that’s a different topic).

Hopefully when we build the BI environment, we were smart.  After building our flashy but not very useful graph, we spent another $100K and build the drill-through charts.  You know, the ones where you click on the indecipherable bar to get a chart that presents the real data?  What we really did was create something that was pretty to look at, and then force the manager to click to get at what she really wants.  And we paid for it.  Sounds like good, smart design based on great user experience principles to me.

Ok, I know that there will be a revolt if I actually suggest that everyone goes back to 2D charts.  We all love our flashy reports and dashboards.  But can we just make sure they are actually helpful before we publish the stuff?

systematicHR Avatar

4 responses to “Pretty is not Useful”

  1. Andy Scherer Avatar

    Yes, please. Read Tufte, then take a look at this clip, he uses it in his lecture. It’s old but on point.

  2. systematicHR Avatar

    Andy : I have $1000 or so worth of a Tufte box set sitting around. Have yet to have the time to crack them open. Soon hopefully.

  3. James | Employee Scheduling Software Avatar

    I could not agree with you more; something that is all looks and no meat inside is worthless. However, a combination of both usually is a great product.. especially if it flows good in user interface.

  4. […] HR JULY 26, 2010 Pretty is not Useful Not all of us have fancy business intelligence tools and cool dashboards with great graphs […]