By Emile Biagio, CTO for Sintrex
Over the years, I’ve been torn between my techie roots and marketing knowledge of what sells… Pretty and well-presented visuals sell! I love analysing the pictures used by companies creating the lure for us to buy, read an article or click on an opinion piece.
I sometimes ponder about estate agents… Why do they post a head-shot picture of themselves? It’s on their business cards, bill boards and online advertising.
What if Bob opted for a picture of a cute bunny? Or maybe a sexy 18-year-old, shirtless male model with a six pack (muscular or beer 😉)?! When you see Bob’s poster model, you’d probably think that this “ex-Chippendale” is now selling property. When you meet him, is it false advertising!? Or maybe you think, “Wow, Bob has let himself go!”
So to my point – IT dashboards; they are all over and if they look good, they are generally accepted as being good. We want them up on the big screen, we want to show them to the big bosses, because big bosses like pretty pictures and know that red is bad and green is good. I mean, how many execs will ask for clarity on the statistics behind the red flags, or the detail that was used to create a statistic? Probably very few.
If you walk into an IT operations centre and ask the “eyes-on-screen” staff to show you what they are looking at, 99% of them will show you detail screens on their desktops. And if you enquire about the pretty dashboards on screen, do yourself a favour and try to understand what exactly is being displayed – because sometimes the really pretty pictures are just benchmark indicators. I’m not saying that they are not needed – they are definitely needed – but do they need to be pretty?
Let us look at an availability indicator as an example. Say there is a dashboard on screen that shows just text that reads “97,34% in green”, written over on a threshold dial with a needle pointing to 97…
Pretty? Sure. Useful? Well, potentially…
- What availability is being measured? LAN, WAN, Servers, DC or all IT assets?
- Over what period of time is this? Last 24 hours? Month-to-date? This week?
- When does it change colours? 95%? 80% 50%?
- Is this an aggregated average over time, aligned to by business operation times? As an example, a 24/7 statistic is VERY different to an office hours only statistic.
I’ve seen many products in the industry that have REALLY good looking dashboards, but trying to get to the detail is mission impossible. So, trying to answer the dashboard questions above generally tells me that many shortcuts have been taken to put up a really good shop front…. ‘Bob, six pack model’ who is actually ‘Bob, just another semi-retired sales agent with a good marketing front page.’
I’ve noticed the Excel graphs over the years have also transitioned to sexy, pretty, and visually great… The first version Excel graphs were fantastic… back then. Now they look sub-standard, compared to the newer versions of Excel graphs.
Consider the following… What if we had today’s Excel functionality but yesterday’s graphs? Is that better than today’s graphs and yesterday’s functionality? Which one would you buy?
This article was published in partnership with Sintrex.