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Dashboard Decisions SharePoint or Performance Point?

When it comes to dashboards, Microsoft’s business intelligence stack seems to have some overlap in it, so how can you decide what to use when?

Dashboards are an overused term, so what I am talking about here is the ability to provide an interactive instrument panel for all or part of your business which should have the following characteristics:

  • It’s generally browser based.

  • It’s very visual with charts and gauges rather than a huge grid of numbers.

  • The charts and gauges are synchronised i.e. if you filter to just look at a given time period, or region, then all of the gauges and charts reflect that

There’s a starter for ten in this TechNet article, but IMHO what this article is missing is a discussion about what you are using your dashboard for.

If you you are using a dashboard to decide what to change in your business from a high level view, for example as part of a balanced scorecard, then I would submit that dashboards are just one element of a larger system.  Using a dashboard to monitor business activity would then lead to some analysis when unexpected behaviour is noticed (be that good or bad), followed by a plan to change that activity.  In order to do this these three activities Monitoring , Analysis and Planning need to be integrated, which is essentially what Performance Point is. 

If you are a new to business intelligence  or have a specific use of a dashboard, perhaps to monitor minute by minute activity in a call centre, then using SharePoint or Excel Services is probably sufficient for your needs.

Most of the work to build a dashboard is sourcing the data and defining the metrics on it, so while moving from a SharePoint dashboard to Performance Point one will involve some technical rework, this is minor by comparison, and should prevent you form thinking about migration if that is appropriate.

Update 10 March 2009

Since writing this article Microsoft has announced that Performance Point Server will not be developed further after sp3 (to come out later this year).  The monitoring and analytics part of the product (including the dashboards) will be rolled up into a Perofrmance Point service that will be part of SharePoint from Office 14 onwards.  I will post more on this when then Next version of Sharepoint goes through its beta releases.