Business Intelligence – Why a Long Leash is Not Equal to Freedom

In order to analyse data, Business Intelligence (BI) developers usually include a lot of intelligent logic in the dashboards that they develop. This however could be restricting the freedom to get the answer to ANY question that the end-user might have. As once quoted by Marty Rubin, “a long leash is not freedom.”


‘Triggers’, ‘actions’, ‘alternate states’ and ‘show conditions’, among others, are all functions and features of a BI product that provides the developer the ability to implement powerful analytics and problem solving that would otherwise not be possible. Used correctly, they help in delivering dashboards whereby end-users can analyse and investigate data in a user-friendly way.

These same features however can be the long leash that inhibits the freedom the end-user should have in exploring data within dashboards. Taking ‘triggers’ as an example, developers must be careful when to utilise them. Should a ‘trigger’ be used to automatically select a set of data, or should the end-user be free to initiate that selection whenever s/he wants?

Whilst ‘show conditions’ are one way of keeping dashboards clean, they can also present a struggle to the end-user who is using the dashboard. The same point applies to ‘alternate states’ and ‘bookmarks’. These can be an ideal way of saving a common query for a set of data, however if labelled incorrectly, they can also be the maze that the user finds himself in when using a dashboard.

A BI developer can unconsciously think that the experience he has had in constructing dashboards provides him with the ability of having a very good idea of the questions that an end-user might have when using a dashboard. It is important to keep in mind, however, that it will be the end-user who will be using the dashboard day-in day-out to draw analytics based on current workplace requirements.

Instead of making the end-user feel passive and only allow the ability to use the tool as provided, it is important to make the end-user feel free and in control of exploring the different ‘what-if’ scenarios that might come to mind as s/he using the dashboard. Let the dashboard be a helpful tool for the user’s work experience and a source the end-user turns to whenever he wants to learn and explore particular scenarios further. The aim should be to remove the long leash from around the end-user and provide him with the freedom necessary to discover insights.