iCharts has a very passionate Customer Success and Onboarding team dedicated to helping customers get up and running with charts and dashboards as quickly as possible. In the course of having helped hundreds of these customers visualize and analyze their metrics and KPI, they have developed several best practices that function as an effective chart design process. While most of these are simple and intuitive, coming back to this BI process saves time and leads to better visualizations as a result.
These are some of the main steps the team follows:
1. Understand the audience and agree on the underlying raw data
Presenting data in visual form is a type of storytelling. Understanding your audience and their needs and perspective is crucial in determining what will be shown and how to show it. And because iCharts uses NetSuite data in real-time, it is also important to make that there is agreement on that underlying data as the single-source of truth.
2. Set-up data structures for long-term analytics (not just day-to-day operations)
Often times data structures in NetSuite are set-up with day-to-day operations rather than long term analytics in mind. This means that the data is captured with a granularity and specificity that makes it hard to do analytics in the long term. As we’ve previously covered, here is a simple example based on a real-world use case of the same data captured two different ways. The first table requires complex calculations and data exports to parse the information, while the second table captures that same information in a way that makes very simple to analyze:
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|Apparel||Air Shirt||White, perforated neoprene mesh blend, red collar, diagonal stylized|
|Shoes||Jordan Jr’s||Red/blue, Leather with stretch mesh, pump tongue, air bubble sole, jordan thumb graphic|
|Shorts||Air Shorts||Black, perforated neoprene mesh blend, red vertical stripe, diagonal stylized|
|Category||Item Name||Size||Color||Accent Color||Line||Graphic||Material|
|Headwear||Scrunch Hat||Medium||Black||Blue||Champ||Tiger||Cotton Stretch|
|Apparel||Air Shirt||Large||White||Red||Ninja||Diagonal Stylized||Perforated Neoprene|
|Shoes||Jordan Jr’s||9.5||Red||Blue||Jordans||Jordan Thumb||Leather|
|Shorts||Air Shorts||Large||Black||Red||Ninja||Diagonal Stylized||Perforated Neoprene|
3. Don’t reinvent the wheel: Leverage industry best-practices
It is surprisingly common for customers who are not used to working visually with their data to get intimidated by the perception that they need to build their reports from scratch. However, in reality we see that there are general trends where many of the same basic charts for certain roles and vertical appear again and again. Leveraging industry standards starting with common charts is a great way to get the ball rolling when building dashboards.
4. Sketch out the charts and dashboards and before building
Rapidly prototyping your dashboards by the simple act of drawing them on paper can save a significant amount of time in the chart-building process. Sketching charts gives an immediate sense of what they might look like and feedback as to what needs to be adjusted. The sketches also serve as a physical guide to direct you when going in to build them in the studio.
If you walk around our office, you’ll notice sketches like this one on the desks of many of our customer success and demo team members:
5. Start with simple charts to accelerate adoption
While it is fun to create charts with multiple filters, comparisons, calculations and mashups, we have learned that one of the simplest ways to increase chart adoption is by starting with charts that convey a single metric or KPI. This helps individuals and teams get used to the visuals and learn the technology before getting more complex.
Then, when there is a critical mass used to the dashboards, start adding complexity to the charts for deeper analysis:
One of the interesting thing we’ve seen of this method is that it allows for a bottom-up adoption pattern in an organization: whereas typically BI and analytics start at the top before moving down the organization, simple charts makes it easier folks on the ground floor to make immediately use of the insights in their day-to-day work.
6. Release early and iterate
There is a tendency to want to build out the full dashboard of perfect charts and release them all at once. We have seen that this sometimes slows down the process of chart creation and adoption. Releasing them early in the process gives you an opportunity for immediate feedback before moving too far in what might be the wrong direction. It also gives you an opportunity to accelerate adoption with more buy-in from the team by getting them involved in the process.
This simple process should accelerate the creation and adoption of your brand’s new charts and dashboards. To learn more about best practices for visualization in NetSuite reporting, sign up for our monthly webinar or try our Interactive Demo below: