Here at the Dashboard Spy, we have been keenly observing the development of the various RIA (Rich Internet Application) technologies and their applicability towards business intelligence dashboards. We’ve looked at plenty of AJAX, FLEX/Flash and mashup dashboards, but now let’s examine a Silverlight dashboard. Yes, Silverlight business dashboards are hard to come by, but Infragistics has produced quite a nice demo.
In terms of background, Silverlight is a Microsoft technology. It is a framework for providing rich applications to the web browser and is generally thought of as a competitor to Adobe’s Flash. Unlike Flash, however, Silverlight applications are delivered to a browser in a text-based markup language called XAML. This means that search engines can scan XAML (as opposed to not being able to look inside compiled Flash applications), giving Silverlight an edge in terms of search engine optimization.
Here are some screenshots of the Infragistics Silverlight demo. The interactive demo is called faceOut and can be found at http://labs.infragistics.com/silverlight/faceout/. You’ll need to have Silverlight 2 installed on your machine to view the demo. Hit the more link further down on this page and look for a video of the dashboard if you don’t wish to install Silverlight at this time.
Here are some screenshots.
Here is what you get if you don’t have Silverlight installed:
Here are some screenshots of the sales dashboard:
Should we build our business intelligence dashboards or buy our dashboards off the shelf? The Buy vs. Build decision has been a point of consideration for IT management since the dawn of MIS departments. Given the scarcity of off-the-shelf BI dashboard products “back-in-the-day”, we mostly built our own primitive (but functional) scorecards and dashboards. We developed a “build it ourselves” outlook that took many years for packaged software vendors to overcome. Things do change, however. With the advent and subsequent ubiquity of enterprise reporting packages came the preference of many for using installed solutions to knock out quick dashboards.
The explosion of Web 2.0 websites and technologies has created an environment that now merges the choices of “Buy” and “Build” into “Leverage freely available new technologies and approaches”. What do I mean? One cannot click more than a couple of times in today’s web without stumbling across technology that can be leveraged for our business intelligence dashboard projects. APIs are available that offer services that were unheard of (at any price, much less at no cost!) back a few years ago. I speak of web services from companies such as Google, Amazon, Ebay, etc that allow a “mash-up” of dashboard applications. See the post on a Mashup Dashboard on Dashboards by Example.
Getting to today’s Business Dashboard Example, let’s look at how someone is leveraging the iGoogle API to provide a dashboard geared towards Church management.
As you know, the Google Personalized Homepage has been around since 2005. There was a major change in April of 2007 with a rebranding as “iGoogle”. The service was expanded and the iGoogle API allowed anyone to create a module called a Google Gadget. Google also allows users to create gadgets online through a gadget interface.
Here is the dashboard screenshot:
Dashboard examples like this one and a thousand others can be found at Dashboards by Example, a Dashboard Spy project.