Why use checklists?

B-17 bomber

I’m a huge fan of checklists. If you have used them and love them, great. If you need some persuasion then I’d strongly recommend `The Checklist Manifesto’ by Atul Gawande. It’s a very readable and highly compelling explanation of how checklists can help just about any enterprise, how they work and when to use them. […]

Using KPIs to improve your business

Priority matrix

I’m often asked how to create KPIs and measures. It’s not a short process, which is why most people end up brainstorming or using existing measures when they are tasked with doing this (check out this article – Six KPI Selection Traps to Avoid to see some of the other pitfalls). The good news is […]

The “King Midas” award for Measures with Unintended Consequences

Complaints reduction, the easy way

King Midas is famous for an apparently good idea – everything he touched turning to gold – with unexpected side effects – starvation. I regularly stumble across less dangerous variations on this theme, with measures that create completely unintended consequences. I’m looking for your favourite examples of bad measures, KPIs or metrics. The winner will […]

Tibco Spotfire 4.5 Hands-On Review

A simple Spotfire dashboard

What is Spotfire? Spotfire is a BI (business intelligence) tool that enables you to explore and represent “big data” sets. It’s one of a class of tools that focus on making it easy to explore masses of data without being a database ninja. It’s head-to-head with tools like Tableau and Qlikview. I’d previously been put […]

“Compressor on”, how to label your reports more clearly

water cooler indicator lights

I just poured myself a cup of water from the water chiller. I noticed that it helpfully offers two temperatures of water and has a little light with “Compressor on” next to it. Why would you put this on a customer facing display? What they really mean is “this water cooler is working and cooling […]

How to keep your reports short and effective

report saying yes

Which is the easier question to answer?: “Tell me about France” or, “Tell me about the restaurants in the village of Venosc that serve Italian food” ? It’s very obviously the latter (assuming you have the information available in the first place). It’s the difference between these two questions that explains how some reports can be […]

First look – Qlickview 10, Data Visualisation Software

Qlickview - 3d pie chart, help...

As promised in my last “first look” review, I’m taking Qlickview 10 for a spin. For those of you not familiar with Qlickview it’s a data visualization tool that’s designed to make the creation of ad-hoc reports and dashboards, from existing data, quick and simple. Installation Getting hold of Qlickview is a matter of registering […]

First look – Tableau 6.1, Data Visualisation Software

Not a great design by me, but it is a very quick and simple job to create this live dashboard

I spend most of my time with clients trying to get more out of their existing tools, more often than not some combination of an ERP tool (JDEdwards, SAP etc.) a selection of more “pure” databases such as Oracle, Access, SQL and a lot of spreadsheets. All of these tools have well understood strengths and […]

KPI Definition Checklist


It’s all too easy to end up with poorly defined KPIs. If this happens then there may be confusion about the purpose or definition of a KPI. Confusion leads to mistrust and disuse. Use this checklist to see if each of your KPIs and measures is well defined: KPI Name: Use a “what-it-say-is-what-it-is” type name, so that it doesn’t […]

Too many measures, not enough space?

bowl of cherries

A really common problem I see is that at some point, no matter how small you make the graphs and tables, you run out of space to show everything you want to show in a report or dashboard. What do you do? You can leave stuff out, but that can often unbalance the view you […]