Friday, December 28, 2007

Business Intelligence - Scorecards and Dashboards

Understanding the true performance of your business and its progress against the corporate strategy is not an easy task. Enterprise performance allows you to track the performance of your company or division against KPI or metrics - dashboards and scorecards can help.

A scorecard is a concept for measuring whether the activities of a company are meeting its objectives in terms of vision and strategy.

A dashboard being a set of indicators about the state of a process, piece of equipment, or business metric such as cash on hand or YTD sales at a specific point in time.

This and subsequent posts will looks into the best way to view your business for making the right decisions.

A scorecard could include some of the following metrics:

  • (Marketing) Customer registration times
  • (Marketing) Visitor WEB site bounce rates
  • (Sales) Percentage of sales on first contact
  • (Operations) Stock deliveries
  • (Marketing) Frequency of potential customer contact
  • (HR) Review ratings
  • (Sales) Call centre sales

Balanced Scorecard
The author of this diagram is the Balanced Scorecard Institute

A dashboard can include some of the following metrics:

  • Number of inbound calls in queue
  • (Sales) Sales growth
  • (Operations) Stock on hand
  • (Marketing) WEB site enquiries
  • (Sales) Sales by state this month
  • (IT) Average Call Resolution Time
  • (HR) Staff Turnover

This dashboard is available online and seen here.

Using a combination of both dashboards and scorecards will provide a holistic picture of your business. This set of tools has the potential to highlight a number of facets of your business that you do not know!

Dashboards are often a better choice for metrics that operate in minutes or hours.

Scorecards tend to be better used with metrics that are usually reviewed over a longer time period ie weeks or months.

Note: Aleron has designed and implemented visualisation scorecards and dashboards for a number of large and medium companies.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Google to acquire Motorola ?

I read an interesting post on the activities of Google in the mobile phone space.

Do you know about Android, open access, 700MHz and a gPhone?

Do you know that Google acquired Jaiku - something that Nokia was rumoured to be after. Google acquired the popular “activity stream and presence sharing service that works from the Web and mobile phones.” Google has made a number of acquisitions in the mobile and VoIP space.

Android is an Open Handset Alliance Project. The Open Handset Alliance, a group of more than 30 technology and mobile companies, is developing Android: the first complete, open, and free mobile platform. To help developers get started developing new applications, we're offering an early look at the Android Software Development Kit.

Archart made the comment:
Here’s the thesis: If Google is prepared to go as far as Android, why not go the next step and produce its own handsets? Not just a single ‘gPhone’ but entire portfolios of Android-enabled devices.

Nokia is a company that produces a range of handsets, a handset OS, a rich set of mobile applications and services. Why not Google ? Nokia has spent $10 billion trying to compete with Google in search, email, file sharing, advertising and mapping (e.g. Enpocket, Intellisync, Avvenu and NAVTEQ).

Sergey Brin and Steve Horowitz discuss the availability of the SDK, that it will be open source in the future, and demo some applications.

Techcrunch have a great posted predicting what the next set of companies Google will acquire in 2008. Another interesting post about Google strategy is WEB 3.0 and Google.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Aussie Raymond Crowe performs his amazing shadow puppetry

I saw this show on the Christmas episode of Spicks & Specks - then it popped up in an email from a friend and now its in the news.

This is a great show and now he is doing the rounds on major shows in the US including Ellen.

My favourites include:
  • the babies hand reaching up

  • the rabbit

  • the swan

This video on youtube already has the following honours:
Honors for This Video:
  • #17 - Most Discussed (All Time) - Travel & Events - Australia

  • #12 - Most Linked (All Time) - Travel & Events - Australia

  • #2 - Most Viewed (All Time) - Travel & Events - Australia

  • #2 - Top Favorites (All Time) - Travel & Events - Australia

  • #31 - Top Favorites (All Time) - Travel & Events

  • #3 - Top Rated (All Time) - Travel & Events - Australia

  • #84 - Top Rated (All Time) - Travel & Events

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Best of CSS Design 2007

Smashing design and WEB Designer wall have unleashed the best of CSS Design for 2007.

Some of my favourites include:

A beautiful web-app frontpage.


Larissa Meek
A beautiful blog design by Larissa Meek, formerly a model, now she is an art director at AgencyNet.

Larissa Meek

Veerle’s Blog
Another classic beautiful blog - I previously commented on Veerle's designs here.

Veerle’s Blog

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Zune Commercial Experiments

Below are some of the latest Zune commercials from Microsoft ... the latest in their Social TV experiment. I have viewed this four times similar to the guys at Techcrunch now. I love the commercial but I agree that it could be ...
Lewis Carroll-esque fantasy of someone on an acid trip

One comment from TechCrunch ...
i dont know about you guys, but i think this is great. i dont know, i think that’s because im a commercial director/graphic designer. haha. IMHO i find zune’s ad/zune art way better than what apple does. although i have an ipod and a mac for a system, im really tempted to get a zune this xmas.

We have 4 ipods starting with a Generation 1 ipod through to the latest (RED) Ipod Nano. We are waiting for the Apple iphone ... so we avoided getting an ipod touch. Although I want another gadget cause the Zune looks cool - everything in our place is Apple so its now tough to justify any other brand.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

SlideShare - Death by Microsoft Power Point

I visited SlideShare Link for the first time last month (can't remember how I found it), and I stumbled across this excellent presentation.

Two reasons why I think this is great:

  • The slideshare technology is very cool
  • The presentation is really appropriate

I attended a Microsoft Business Intelligence presentation after viewing this slideshow and common mistakes highlighted here appeared in a number of the Microsoft presentations.

The great thing about this technology is it is fast and all presentations are indexed on their server - making it very easy to share your presentation with the world.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

9 top new buildings soon to be built

I saw the design for this building and wow. As you scroll through the remaining 8 building either in development of just the planning / approval stages it shows that some architectural designers can still create stunning work.

Deputy Dog has blogged about this set of designs here.

He says

... the quest for the next standout design and you have a
near-future filled with mile-high skyscrapers and buildings that no longer look like buildings

The designs almost pieces of art as well as architecture are to be built in the following cities:
  • Chicago, USA (Aqua)
  • Chicago, USA (Spire)
  • Beijing, China (CCTV)
  • Dubai (Regatta) - my favourite see above
  • India (Antillia)
  • Russia (Russia Tower)
  • Penang, Malaysia (Penang Global City Centre) - this city is amazing SciFi design
  • Russia (Gazprom HQ)
  • Dubai (Burj Dubai) - this will be the tallest building in the world byan extra 300metres

There is also a forum about all things skyscrapers here. That great thing about this site is it covers discussions on a local aswell as global level. One of the most talked about buildings in Sydney, Australia is the Lumiere.

This building was designed by the award winning Foster architects also responsible for the Hong Kong airport - Chep Lap Kok and the London Swiss Re HQ.

This was London’s first ecological tall building and an instantly recognisable addition to the city’s skyline, is "technically, architecturally, socially and spatially". Generated by a radial plan, its energy-conscious enclosure resolves walls and roof into a continuous triangulated skin, allowing column-free floor space, light and views.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Promoting Your RSS Feeds Through Syndication

Promoting Your RSS Feeds Through Syndication

RSS feeds are a great way to keep captive audiences updated and informed of the changes you make to your website. They’re also a great way to attract new visitors because they’re simple, effective, and inexpensive to set up!

Thousands of “in the know” website owners and webmasters are using Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds right now to summarize content updates the moment those updates are made. They send these feeds to various syndication services which in turn make these feeds available to their subscribers.

Who reads RSS Feeds?

Anyone can subscribe to a syndication service like My Yahoo! but generally subscribers are people with a specific interest who have neither the time nor the inclination to visit multiple websites day in and day out looking for new content.

Subscribers don’t receive every feed sent to these syndication services. They could if they wanted to but most include in their RSS readers only the types of feeds in which they’re interested. Subscribers access their feeds either from the subscription web site or the subscriber’s email or mobile device.

Using an RSS reader, subscribers are able to quickly browse through RSS feed headlines. When an intriguing headline is encountered, they simply click to read the full text.

RSS feeds as communication tools

While it seems the subscriber reaps all the benefits of RSS feeds, as a webmaster or site owner you benefit, too. Promoting RSS feeds through syndication is an excellent communication tool that has none of the hassles associated with maintaining a newsletter.

By choosing which feeds to receive, individuals automatically “opt-in.” In other words, they’re giving you their permission to contact them, eliminating the potential for spam complaints. You no longer have to worry about enforcing a privacy policy or the ages of your site visitors, either.

Plus you’re in total control. If you want those receiving your feeds to visit your site, create feeds that include just a title and a link. If you want to keep them in your news loop, go ahead and include more content. Make it enticing and you’ll increase your chances of driving more traffic to your site.

No matter which RSS feed tactic you choose, you win. When you promote RSS feeds (like this RSS feed) through syndication, you keep your website’s name in front of countless interested faces and you give your regulars reason to keep coming back to your site!

Note: Let me know if you need help with an RSS feed for your website. This can then be submitted to a number of leading RSS syndicators.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Business Intelligence - Enterprise Performance Management (EPM)

Every where you look now Enterprise performance management (EPM) has a new definition or product. I consider Enterprise Performance Mangement to be a strategic approach to improving business performance. Gartner has defined EPM as
the methodologies, metrics, processes, and systems used to monitor and manage the business performance of an enterprise.

EPM in represents the strategic deployment of business intelligence solutions.

Whether you need help with a number of major BI players including Oracle and Business Objects have a tool set that can help with:

  • CRM Analytics

  • Financial Analytics

  • Industry Analytics

  • Supply Chain Analytics

  • Workforce Analytics

Using a methodology to implement EPM significantly improves the chances for sucess. It gives companies a top down framework by which to align planning and execution, strategy and tactics, and business unit and enterprise objectives. Some of these are six sigma, balanced scorecard, activity-based costing, total quality management, economic value-add, and integrated strategic measurement. The balanced scorecard is the most widely adopted performance management methodology. Methodologies on their own cannot deliver a full solution to an enterprise's CPM needs. Many pure methodology implementations fail to deliver the anticipated benefits because they are not integrated with the fundamental CPM processes.

Key Performance Indicators and Metrics
Metrics and Key performance Indicators (KPI’s) are critical in prioritization what has to be measured. The methodology used helps in determining the metrics to be used by the organization. It is frequently said that one cannot manage what cannot be measured. Identifying the key metrics and determining how they are to be measured helps the organizations to monitor performance across the board without getting deluged by a surfeit of data; a scenario plaguing most companies today.

Dashboards and scorecards
Business has today evolved from the age when Business Intelligence would take days or weeks to provide key organizational data requested by the senior managers. Up to the minute data, coupled with alerts and drill down facilities to locate the reasons for disruptions has empowered managers today. These solutions are integrated with the existing enterprise wide solutions thus augmenting the systems already in place.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Business Intelligence - Dashboard Design Seminar (Stephen Few)

On Friday 5th October, Stephen Few presented his seminar – “Analysing and presenting business data.”

Over the last decade there has been an explosion in data available but most people and organisations have a problem presenting the data. "When dashboards work, they provide a powerful means to tame the beast of data overload. Despite their popularity, however, most dashboards live up to only a fraction of their potential."

Often people obscure the numbers by the way it is presented. Edward Tufte a pioneer in the field of visual communication of information coined the term "chartjunk" to refer to useless, non-informative, or information-obscuring elements of quantitative information displays.

When a dashboard is properly designed, it can provide a powerful way to monitor what is going on at a glance. Two characteristics of a dashboard are largely responsible for this ability:
a) their visual nature and
b) the way they integrate everything you must keep track of, however disparate, onto a single screen

• Do not use pie charts - a bar chart presents the information in a more precise format - see his blog post "Save the Pies for desert".
• Try to avoid visual lies when using a bar chart - start the values at 0.
• 3D graphs are usually not a good choice for business communication. Adding a 3rd dimension adds no extra meaning (and often obfuscates some of the data).
• When showing changes in time - a line graph is often the best choice
• It is OK to use tables of data when you need your audience needs to look up a value or to think.
• Using Excel 2007 data bars are a good visual queue but do not include text over the bars (put it on the side)
The diagram below called a bullet graph was designed by Stephen Few to present a compact, data-rich, and efficient alternative to gauges on a dashboard. Below is an example of a bullet graph with labelled parts.

When creating a dashboard the design should always consider providing quantitative scales so that the qualitative judgments of the data.

The use of colour on dashboards
Did you know that 10% of men and 1% of women are colour blind, and most of them cannot distinguish green from red. On many dashboards you see the traffic lights (green, amber, red) to represent how a particular metric is performing. To someone that is colour blind this looks like (brown, amber, brown). Additionally, colour coding is often overused; this undermines the ability to function effectively. When a designer over uses colour in a dashboard, they do so with the best of intentions. "Colour coding everything, they will make the display easier to comprehend as a whole". Unfortunately, when everything stands out, nothing does.
A common design flaw often seen is a bar chart with 10 to 20 items all with different colours. Using excel has made it very easy to select a set of data and create a graph. Often the series takes up more space than the actual graph.

Edward Tufte also coined the term "Sparkline" for the line chart that displays trends (i.e. no axes or values). This can be a very powerful tool for displaying a metrics behaviour or trend over time.

Stephen Few concluded his seminar with the slide ...

Eloquence through Simplicity"

Stephen has written a number of white papers and a book on the design of dashboards titled – Information Dashboard Design.

Aleron utilises many of the ideas and recommendations made by Stephen Few, Edward Tufte and other visual design specialists.
For more information contact Jason McIntyre –

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dashboards - too much too few too pretty

Have you ever seen a dashboard or report and thought what is this telling me ?

We recently attended a seminar by Stephen Few and wow - what an eye opener.

Stephen pointed out some very interesting facts about dashboard design that you would think are common sense but most dashboards that you see are just dressing the data.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

SQL Server 2005 Performance Tips - Clustering

SQL Server 2005 Performance Tips - Clustering

I found it pretty difficult to find any articles that just gave you the facts when it comes to performance tuning and configuring SQL Server 2005. I have a Microsoft Technology Technology Specialist in SQL Server 2005 but try to read as many tips and technique articles on SQL Server 2005 as I can.

Then I came across these two great articles SQL Server clustering best practices and
Active/Active clusters in SQL Server
by Hilary Cotter with Geoff Hiten. These articles provide information such as:

  • Clustering basics
  • Clustering topologies
  • Clustering dependencies
  • Clustering best practices

  • Distinct cluster configurations
  • Pre-installation
  • Cluster installation
  • Post-installation
  • Minimize fail overtime
  • Performance considerations

One comment that resonates with my experience is

Today, clustering on SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005 is a highly reliable technology, but it still has many dependencies that prevent it from meeting your high-availability goals. Foremost among these dependencies is a staff that is
trained and knowledgeable.

SQL Server clusters can be configured in four distinct configurations:

  • Single instance – formerly called Active/Passive
  • Multi-instance – formerly called Active/Active
  • N+1 – multiple instance clusters, where multiple nodes all share the same failover node
  • N+M – multiple instance clusters where multiple nodes all share the same failover nodes

The articles provide a good overview of clustering topologies, when each is useful and touches on real world issues such as performance vs budget vs Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) requirements.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Scratchies Online -

Techcrunch has just reviewed a site that enables users to create their own online scratchies and either send them to friends or include them on websites and blogs (see below).

You can see the potential for this startup.

Michael from Techcrunch says ...

The company’s business model is to attract advertisers to sponsor prizes (cash, products, coupons). If ScratchYourself turns out to be trustworthy and can circumnavigate the rather complicated federal and state regulations governing sweepstakes, brands could be attracted to this. You get a good long look at the image underneath the scratch area, which is more than can be said for most banner advertising. And publishers will like the ability to win the same prizes as their readers. offers users a chance to win small prizes but it shouldn't be long before advertising agencies and start signing up to promote their products.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Benefits of adding google maps to your website

Google maps are certainly very interactive! If you want to include additional content to your location map, then a Google map is the perfect option. Google Maps allow you to create driving directions. It can provide the user with a step-by-step directions to your destination, along with an estimate of the time required to reach it and the distance between the two locations.

add a google map to your website

For more information | digg story

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Webby Awards | My Top 5 designed blogs

The 2007 Bloggy Awards are now on and after voting I thought I would give my favourite top 5 design blogs vs the Bloggy top 5 design blogs.

A "weblog" is defined as a page with dated entries.
The contest is open to any weblogs that existed for a period of time during the year 2006, so weblogs that were discontinued during 2006 are also eligible.

2007 Bloggies

1. Veerles Blog
2. Pearsonified
3. French Toast Girl
4. Gizmodo
5. Subtraction7

My Favourite 2007 Blogs

1. Pearsonified
2. Blog Studio
3. Antipixel
4. Shape of Days
5. Odds and Ends
6. Veerles Blog
(I had to add Veerle's blog after visiting it from the bloggy Awards !)

There are 1001 top blogs / websites around but when you visit them, you realise that it all comes down to personal taste. But I am happy if I find 1 in 5 blogs that I like. Friends regularly ask me to send them links to good design work (so here is a shortlist).

For a great list of blogs on any category you can think of, visit 9Rules
... We started 9rules to give passionate writers more exposure and to help readers find great blogs on their favorite subjects. It’s difficult to find sites worth returning to, so 9rules brings together the very best of the independent web all under one roof.

-=- Jason

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Google Webmaster vs Yahoo Site Explorer Tools

I have been using both Google Webmaster and Yahoo Site Explorer for a while now. During August '06, Yahoo updated and introduced new features that I find myself using more and more.

On the Google Webmaster blog ...
The webmaster central team is very excited about our plans for this year ...

The basic principal is the same, that is to tell each search engine of all pages in your site. Google uses an XML sitemap to specify what pages are available, whereas Yahoo uses a text site list. You specify a sitemap for each web site you manage. I currently managing 17 sites in both Google Webmaster and Yahoo Site Explorer.


Before you can use Google WEBmaster Tools and Yahoo SiteExplorer you must have a Google account and a Yahoo account. Both tools require you to authenticate or prove that you are an administrator / owner of the sites you are trying to manage. Google provides two options for authentication

  • upload an HTML file with a name they specify

  • add a META tag to your site's index file

Be aware that if you have custom 404 Error handling you can only use meta tag option. Yahoo requires you to upload a file they specify to the root folder of the site.



  • Diagnostics - time of last crawl and any errors found

  • Statistics - on the last crawl and some of the keywords used to find your site

  • Sitemaps - submit and report errors or last access

The diagnostic section also enables you to specify preferred domain, crawl rate of their robot and enhanced image search. Some sites do not get the option to modify all settings.


There are fewer features available in Site Explorer but IMHO it looks better. Their use of AJAX is much cleaner. You can submit a site feed and explore a site. This gives you a good overview of:

  • Pages indexed in Yahoo including date last crawled

  • Inbound links to your site

  • Subdomains


Overall, Googles Webmaster Tool provides more features required for any webmaster or specialist endeavouring to get more content indexed. The Yahoo tool is still in BETA so hopefully there are more features to come.

The use of these tools do not remove the need for page optimisation, they merely provide another tool in the arsenal to manage content in Google and Yahoo.