Web-Based KPI Cockpit

Concept and Development of a Web-Based KPI Cockpit. Show data. But how? A web-based solution is particularly suitable for enabling access to KPI‘s and sensitive data for a specific range of diversified user groups.

During the course of restructuring our client was confronted with a task, how to give access to KPI’s and key facts and figures to his senior management team, and how to assist during the implementation and improving the process in general. A high acceptancy rate and support by the employees was based on the particularly high importance and significance of the restructuring measures taken. The client roughly sketched out what he had in mind and asked us to evaluate and scrutinize the possible implementation variations listed. The concept of the client was based on using Tableau for data extraction and visualization using the dashboard, empowering internal users to access all the information.

The tip of the iceberg
After studying the initial concept we started a dialogue with the decision makers and potential users of the dashboard. We collected valuable feedback from each business partner and information regarding additional features and further requirements crucial for the model. It quickly became apparent in our discussions that aside from the initial concept numerous additional requirements were needed, which only became clear while conducting the conversations and asking specific questions: Should external users from other institutions gain access to the dashboard? 

Can the data be automatically updated, or do we need to setup an admin group to handle? How much flexibility should we allow for the customization of data and graphs?

The Tableau Desktop and Tableau Public products are used to connect data with a graphical user interface per drag and drop. Data analysis can be compiled and interlinked using the dashboard. The browser based Tableau server with data warehouse integration capabilities ensures the support of large volume data and exchange of data and results.

Based on the feedback from the discussions, it quickly became apparent that a lot of the requirements could only be partially achieved or with considerable effort using Tableau. For example, it was necessary to ensure that users only had permission to access their own data. Using Tableau the implementation would have involved the setup of each dashboard per user group. This and other restrictions would have led to high operational and maintenance running costs for the Tableau Dashboard.

„Wisdom is to anticipate flaws before any flaws are detected.“
Sunzi (*around 500 BC)

Other solution approaches such as the development of a desktop application or an off-the-shelf solution were disregarded based on the limitations and requirements documented.

Web is the answer
Due to the numerous restrictions and client requests and focus of the client on user acceptancy and a user-friendly solution, we pushed for the implementation of a customized web-based application. Thereby fulfilling every feature and requirement specified, at the same time keeping the maintenance to a minimum and offering a solution that could be extended or upgraded at any given time. The main advantage for our client, it provided users with an extremely user-friendly platform that could be accessed by any user from any computer worldwide.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
In further client discussions our recommended web-based model was presented using design mockups with relevant user stories, which after evaluation the client authorized the implementation. Having built the design mockups we were able to use these during our discussions and work together with the client to document client requests and design requirements which resulted in the starting point of creating our specification for designing the front-end. 

Agile - the center of attention 
After our discussions the implementation of the  web-based application was handed over to the managetopia development team. In order to use the most agile solution for development possible and initially reduce the workload for the specifications, we selected JIRA and created a scrum board and workflow. This enabled access for the project owner, in-house QA team, development team but also the client that profited by accessing the board, so they could view the real-time status and progress of the development of the application at any given time. Additionally, they were able to post their own feedback on the board. In addition, a test environment was set up for the client that made it possible to provide the customer with regular updates and collect  feedback on the overall development status. Based on the processes and short official channels within managetopia, we were able to identify and prevent any potentially problems quickly.

The first User
After completing the functional implementation and subsequent quality check, a web server was set up and the website uploaded in collaboration with the client’s IT department. Initially, restrictions were imposed for selected user groups that represented a subset of the user groups. On the User Group admin page on the website, these users were assigned a role and respective permissions and the access data for the website was subsequently forwarded automatically to the user by e-mail. After several days of intense testing, we asked users for their feedback and comments which we consolidated and added to the overall specification.

Whet your appetite 
User acceptancy was the key criteria for the development approach which exceeded all expectations. Many users saw the potential of the website performing as a single inventory platform, helping users to search for information and offering assistance. As a result lots of ideas sprung to mind, how we could make the website accessible to an even wider audience. In follow-up discussions with the project managers this and other topics were taken on board and extending the website was signed off. One of the new functionalities approved was the realization of a responsive design ensuring the website was compatible with a multitude of devices, such as iPhone, iPad and Android, ensuring an optimal display of all data and images on all devices (all fully customizable by the user). Finally, as part of the new brief, the integration of an Arabic version of the website was included.

„Nothing in the history of mankind is more constant than change.“
Heraclitus (*around 500 BC)

By choosing the right technology and introducing an agile development approach we were in the position to implement modifications and extensions in a timely manner without encountering insurmountable hurdles or susceptible to costly workarounds. 

As a Microsoft Silver Partner we profit from utilizing a multitude of industry leading tools and this is why we use and provide solutions based on Microsoft technology. Microsoft‘s ASP.Net was selected together with the entity and identify framework to develop the website. A Microsoft SQL Server was selected to host the database and the Internet Information Services (IIS) to host the website.

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