Thursday, April 01, 2010

Dundas Dashboards v2.0 Technical Evaluation Considerations

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Dundas Dashboard v2.0 is in the beta stage and soon going to get released. I am a big admirer of Dundas Data Visualization, and I always wish that after digesting the codebase of Proclarity, if Performancepoint can manage to consume a few data visualization components of Dundas considering it as dessert, the meal would be complete.

As usual I had a quick sortie over the features of upcoming version of Dundas Dashboard, and I feel that some of the features are quite revolutionary, some of them are just leveraged, and some do not manage to influence my viewpoint. Below is the summary of my views:

1) OLAP Support: The features related to OLAP supported are quite okay and in fact necessary to create a bridge for OLAP data to land into Dundas Dashboard territory. One of the features that catches my attention is, it allows creation of what they term as virtual cubes. It would be interesting to see how this feature adds value over perspectives created in SSAS for the cube.

2) Sharepoint Integration: Apart for other normal features, one striking features is yet another star in constellation of Sharepoint webparts - a dashboard viewer web part. This can effectively mean that, you can view multiple dashboards on a single dashboard ? To me this would not make any sense from a usability viewpoint. But yes it can be that using the web part, one can have more grip over customization of the dashboard.

Dundas wins in this aspect over performancepoint, where it facilitates dashboards to make it's way out of Sharepoint world. Dundas dashboards can be used in .NET and other host applications, while this is not possible with Performancepoint. To be honest I was not aware of this feature of dundas, till recently this came to my knowledge.

3) KPI Stubs: I like this feature, and it reminds me of my days in .NET development when we used to start with prototyping until the project sign-off was confirmed. It allows prototype creation for the dashboard without KPIs being available, and I am quite interested to learn how can the same be facilitated in the workflow. How placeholders can be arranged for different sections of a dashboard ? This feature is called Dundas DashFlow.

One unique part that I recently learned about Dundas was that, it facilitates usage of KPI with charts, gauges and other elements while in performancepoint, usage of KPI is limited just to scorecards. This is one major weapon in the technical arsenal of Dundas against performancepoint.

4) Dundas Dashboard Datasets: This feature does not manage to make an entry into my head at all. It allows usage of database tables in dashboard, claiming that skipping of KPI creation would help shortening development time. This seems like more of a step to provide a spinal cord to the feature I described in point 3. I would definitely like to find out how and why Dundas feels this is helpful.

5) Dashboard and Data Visualization Templates: This can be seen more of like master pages in .NET world or CSS for web pages. I do not find anything great about it, apart from the happiness that it offers templates. I like this template concept as it saves a developers life from getting drowned in learning CSS and decoration related workflows of sharepoint.

6) Data Visualizations: If performancepoint would be hearing this, it's answer would be "Okay, I quit this round". There is no comparison where is comes to data visualizations of dundas, as it's the USP of dundas.

Dundas Dashboard Map can be thought of it's own version of Bing layer. It would facilitate viewing of geographical and geometric data, and to the best of my knowledge performancepoint and bing has never been even discussed together to the best of my knowledge.

7) Mashups: It can be seen as something like the concept our ReportBuilder in SSRS, allowing business users to work on a superlative version of Excel flavor customizations. I feel that Virtual Cubes and Mashups are more or less overlapping.

8) User Annotations: It can be seen as discussion forum on a dashboard ! It might be useful in a way, but to be honest, if I were a power user, I would like my dashboard clean and capture all the analysis in some tracking system like Mercury Quality Center. This still is a good to have feature and it makes the dashboard more interactive, but only if it's left to interactivity and not made a discussion forum.

Check out this page for a view of detailed features of Dundas Dashboards v2.o beta and Dundas video explaining features of this version. This version definitely weighs heavier compared to performancepoint as of the present offering landscape.

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