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Data surrounds us everywhere. We’re bombarded by facts and figures, predictions, as well as what-ifs on a dizzying range of socio-economic and geo-political issues: COVID 19, climate emergency, cost of living crisis, global energy crisis, conflict and war, food price rises. There’s an avalanche of research and studies trying to unpick these issues for us. But making sense of the data and communicating it in a clear, easy-to-digest way can be daunting task. Managers and decision-makers must have accurate information and statistics to make informed decisions or back up statements and policies. Yet, in this fast-paced world, who has the luxury to spend time combing through complex, static PDF reports and prising out key facts?
In the digital imaging industry, data analytics can help businesses to drive growth, target their services more adroitly, assess return on investment, and right size their print environment. To do this, managers need to collect information on different and specific reporting scenarios: Which printers are used the most? What is the average usage of printers during the week/day? How much can be saved if users printed in duplex versus simplex? In black instead of colour? How many unresolved error alerts are there right now—and which ones are urgent and which can be resolved only by a trained operator? What is the average paper consumption? And there are still more considerations beyond these.
But amassing mountains of digital information isn’t much use unless organizations are able to make sense of it. A compelling story buried within a data set will only become apparent when displayed effectively. Here is where business intelligence software like Power BI steps in.
In essence, Power BI is an online dashboard tool that is not just for analysis, but it is also a communication and reporting tool. It combines data analytics with graphic design—meaning it can bring data to life in an accessible and highly visual way, making it easier and faster for business users to digest key findings. So rather than having to plow through long lists and text-heavy reports, visual graphs and charts as well as interactive maps (plus the ability to filter data) allows users to get the information they need in an instant—anytime, anyplace. And, as content is automatically refreshed in real-time, users don’t have to worry about their information being out of date.
Recently, I got some insight in how leading print management software vendor MyQ is using Power BI to provide its customers with a unified reporting solution. Working with Power BI specialists DataBrothers, MyQ has developed a series of Power BI interactive templates that track printing and device costs, alerts and error conditions, as well as environmental impact. The dashboard reports (below) present customer data in a clean, well-organized, and impactful way. Undeniably, the appreciation of colours and charts (over, say, tables full of numbers) are designed to draw the eye and make large amounts of data understandable at a single glance. There is also a fundamental understanding of what good design is at play here. This can make all the difference between a good chart and a bad one. Too many labels of the same size, or too many contrasting elements and fancy typography vying for attention will reduce clarity and slow down understanding for the end user.
While a single dashboard view is not going to convey an entire project investigation or in-depth research, Power BI tools can enable business users to access extra material by providing a download option to a full PDF report, or offering a bookmark feature to enable easy navigation through independent topics.
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