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Intelligence Everywhere

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AI and Design Thinking in MicroStrategy’s Dashboard Mastery

Photo of Keng Fu Chu

Keng Fu Chu

March 12, 2024

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In the ever-evolving world of business intelligence, blending AI technology with design thinking has become a game-changer for crafting effective dashboard solutions. This updated best practice article is all about diving into how AI and design principles come together in dashboard development, with a special focus on tapping into MicroStrategy’s latest capabilities to supercharge workflow efficiency

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Let’s rewind a bit to 5 years ago and reflect on a past collaboration I had with a major player in call center platform. Our mission? To bring their business solution up to speed using MicroStrategy. We aimed to create an experience that made insights crystal clear, like tidying up a messy room into a neatly organized space where every piece had its rightful spot and purpose.

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Fast forward to today, and we’re seeing AI bots seamlessly woven into BI solutions. What’s interesting is how the core idea of “one question, one answer” persists, much like the way each box in our dashboard was dedicated to addressing a single query. It’s like having a conversation with an AI chatbot, where every question gets a focused, precise response, making things clear and engaging for users.

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MicroStrategy’s AI capabilities take this synergy to the next level, empowering users to weave compelling stories from their data effortlessly. With responsive design ensuring smooth performance across devices and personalization features tailoring the experience to individual preferences, it’s all about creating a dashboard that feels tailor-made for each user.

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“AI is not the boss. AI is the copilot and humans are the pilots” — John Maeda


While technology marches forward, the principles of effective design remain rock-solid. Whether you’re a seasoned analyst or just dipping your toes into the field, always keep in mind the three principles: simplicity, clarity, and putting the user front and center. This includes defining clear goals to guide user flow and business decisions, helping prioritize insights based on user personas, and maintaining transparency so users can seamlessly integrate with AI-powered apps without feeling like they’re interacting with a black box.

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Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and dive deeper into each best practice:

1. Tell Your Data Story with MicroStrategy AI

Data needs a story to make sense, and our journey from Visual Insight, Dashboard Authoring to MicroStrategy AI opens up endless possibilities for MicroStrategy analysts like me. The AI upgrade takes data storytelling to the next level. With the Auto Dashboard, I can quickly see an overview and find interesting stories without trying different things over and over. A simple query to the chatbot generates a dashboard view focused on a specific research topic, sparking inspiration in no time.

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See an overview in Auto Dashboard and find interesting stories without trying different things over and over

Another noteworthy feature is the interaction with the chatbot for Auto Answers, essentially an evolving assistant adept at providing not only the best analytical insights but also visually presenting the data with appropriate charts. The infusion of AI seamlessly enhances the storytelling journey, making it more intuitive and dynamic for end users.

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Use Auto Answers to create Self-Service Insights

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The Auto Answer feature not only provides swift insights but also offers predefined prompts for efficient analytics, streamlining the data analysis process

2. Empower Intelligence Everywhere with Responsive Design

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If you’re familiar with web design, you’ll recognize our Responsive View and responsive web design. It’s like breaking elements into small blocks and arranging them vertically on mobile, but with a twist. In dashboard authoring, there’s just one breakpoint at 768px. We’ve made it easy for you to visually ‘group’ containers, and when viewed on mobile, our Responsive View takes charge, arranging the groups vertically on the canvas in a ‘Z-path’ order, left-to-right and top-to-bottom.

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The only breakpoint is 768px in Dashboard Authoring

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Ensure that containers seamlessly follow the ‘Z-path’

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Canvas designs without boundaries are more difficult to read on smaller screens. Instead, dashboard created with discrete layout groups usually work better on all screen sizes

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Design a large front panel can suggest that a more subtle analysis is located behind the darker panel

When designing a user analysis flow with layout arrangement, it is crucial to think about creating a logical flow. I like to experiment with Freeform, Auto, or Vertical Scrolling page layouts, mixing and matching to find the perfect fit for my flow.

Incorporating visual effects becomes key in guiding the user’s analysis journey. For instance, you might design a sizable front panel to subtly hint at deeper analysis behind a darker panel. Implementing vertical scrolling pages and arrow shapes helps me lead the user step by step, facilitating a thorough exploration of the data from top to bottom. Additionally, playing with color blocks fosters a strong connection between the menu and content, enhancing the overall user experience.

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Apply vertical scrolling page and arrow shapes can guide the user step by step from top to bottom for a deep dive into data.

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Use color blocks to make the user feel a strong connection between the menu and the content

4. Convey Your Idea with Proper Visual Representation

The Rich Text editor allowing for intricate formatting at the individual character level, particularly beneficial when highlighting dynamic attribute or metric text in briefing summaries.

The Dashboard Authoring provides a range of out-of-the-box shape elements that prove instrumental in framing visualizations, creating layered effects, and enhancing the overall organization of insights.

The freeform layout grants the flexibility to combine elements for diverse visual representations, such as crafting ring charts with category icons and incorporating transparent images in PNG format tailored to specific business industries.

Moreover, the platform supports GIF animations, elevating the appeal of visual. Notably, shapes are not just aesthetic components but essential for maintaining a well-structured narrative. Beyond that, the capability to apply color thresholds adds another layer of sophistication, ensuring a visually compelling and informative presentation.

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Apply info windows as a dropdown (left) / hidden side-menu (right — credited to Xingyu Cai)

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Use shapes (line + triangle) to indicate there is a comparison between two ring charts

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Create an unique bar chart with a PNG image to present insights for the music industry. Match the look and feel of the visualizations to common visual elements in the analysis (i.e. make your bar chart look like an audio spectrum)

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Use dynamic text to display a greeting based on time, create a dot to indicate the last updated content, or create a custom label or indicator in the grid with a bit of help from advanced color thresholds and custom format

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The Advanced Threshold Editor displays a list of all thresholds currently defined for a visualization. These can be used to enhance a grid’s ability to convey richer meaning

5. Personalize User’s Experience with MicroStrategy Offerings

I believe the key to a successful BI project in the AI age is delivering a personalized user experience. Picture field agents logging in to a dashboard tailored to their needs — choosing widgets, setting goals, and accessing relevant information effortlessly.

With MicroStrategy, I can create customizable Panel Stacks and utilize features like parameters for dynamic adjustments. The system remembers your last selection, ensuring a smooth workflow.

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Parameter demo design — credited to Julia Zhu

During layout design, I focus on guiding users through layered data analysis, using Deep Dive for real-time decision-making. In Dashboard Authoring, I offer diverse approaches like filter panels, Information windows, Hypercards, and Contextual linking for large datasets. By incorporating these methods, everyone is able to create a more intuitive and engaging user experience in navigating and interpreting data.


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The screenshot above displays three personalized landing dashboards, each customized by the user to consistently showcase relevant charts and user-defined targets.

Summary

In summary, MicroStrategy equips users with a suite of tools to excel in the realm of BI. While technology evolves, the enduring principles of effective design endure. Whether you’re a seasoned analyst or new to the field, remember the mantra: simplicity, clarity, and user-centricity are the keys to successful dashboard design.


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Photo of Keng Fu Chu
Keng Fu Chu

Principal Design Consultant in BI, Data, and UX principles / Weekend Artist


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