DMC has recently developed a set of versatile, powerful, time-saving, and customizable web parts to utilize in our SharePoint dashboard solutions. These tools provide a huge array of ways to visualize data and KPI's critical to a company's operation in a way that is simple and easy to interpret. Here are some of the major benefits of this new web part architecture:
Reduced Web Part Development Time
A primary advantage of this reusable code base is that it will take DMC engineers far less time to implement dashboards than if they needed to be developed from scratch. For the customer, this in turn means that DMC can deliver a more powerful SharePoint dashboard solution in less time and at a lower cost.
Extensive Visualization Options
These web parts provide a broad range of ways to visualize data including:
- Bar, line, point, pie, stacked bar, spline, and area chart styles
- Apply preset skins (overall visual schemas)
- Completely customize the title, axis, legend, and plot area appearance
- Specify goal values, display goal targets on charts, and color code data to indicate performance relative to goals
- Exact value labels or tool tips for chart or grid data points
- Specify value formatting and display precision of the data
- Make titles link to another URL or append summary information to the title (calculated or from any external source)
- Apply custom background images and specify dimensions of the chart or grid
- Specify default time ranges or filter values
- Interactive sorting and drilldown for grid/spreadsheet web part
- Series by series customization for charts and column by column customization for grids
- Plus many more options!
Interactive Date Range and Filtering Controls
Interactive controls in the web parts allow users to specify a date range of data they are interested in. The web part can automatically choose an appropriate time scale to apply to the information (for example, by day, by week, by month, by year) based on the overall time range selected.
There's also an interactive filtering option to allow the user grab a sub set of data that meets a certain criteria. For example, on a chart showing overall sales revenue, the user could filter by a particular sales person to see the revenue that individual was responsible for bringing in.
Pre-Configuration by DMC Allows Rapid Dashboard Creation
DMC will develop a library of pre-configured charts and grids to show everything a customer wants to see on their dashboard. Once this is set up, creating a new dashboard is as simple as dropping a new web part onto a page and selecting the chart or grid you want from a list. The web part will instantly be fully set up with all the pre-configured settings.
Customer Control and Customization of Dashboards
A second advantage of these tools is that they provide end users with full control over every aspect of the visual appearance of the data. Customers have access to an intuitive settings panel where they can choose make changes to any aspect of how the web part will display information. More advanced users can even specify all the details about where to retrieve the source data for the web part using a set of intuitive menus.
Ability to Retrieve Information from a Variety of Data Sources
Displaying real-time data on a dashboard can be thought of as a two part process. The first step is to retrieve the information you are interested in from wherever that data resides. The second step is to visualize that data in a way that is easy for people. The architecture of these web parts cleanly encapsulates the data retrieval process from the data visualization process.
DMC has already implemented the ability to retrieve information from a variety of common data sources, including SQL databases and SharePoint lists. Additionally, we can get information from sources like Google Analytics and Blue Sky Email Marketing to create a dashboard to track marketing effectiveness. We can even get statistics from Facebook and Twitter to generate a dashboard to track social media metrics that are becoming increasingly important to businesses!
DMC is continually learning to "talk" to new sources of data (Dynamics GP accounting system and Gold Mine CRM software to name a couple) and will rapidly implement new interfaces to any sources of data a customer may have.
Deployment Requires Only Windows SharePoint Services (WSS), a Free Add-On to Windows Server
The majority of the dashboard web part options available today rely on features of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, which carries with it software and per-user licensing costs. The flexible chart and grid web parts developed by DMC were designed to accomplish the same goal while requiring only Windows SharePoint Services, which is available as a FREE add-on to any Microsoft Windows Server installation. Once again, this allows DMC to provide a more advanced dashboard solution at a lower cost our customers.
Maintainability and Upgradability
The overall structure of these flexible web parts is far more maintainable and easier to upgrade than having many separate types of web parts that are each dedicated to a particular dashboard metric. Say you have 40 web parts deployed all over your SharePoint site and you come up with a new feature or option you'd like to have. For DMC Engineers, we only have to implement any new features in one location, making development faster and more streamlined. For customers, these upgrades will automatically take effect in ALL the web parts you have deployed, not just particular ones.
DMC has currently developed both a Chart / Graph web part and a Grid / Spreadsheet web part that serve as highly versatile tools that handles grabbing information from any source and visualizing that data in any conceivable chart or grid format. Stay tuned for future blogs on the specific capabilities of each tools and examples of these web parts in action.