Blog & News

Got a BI Dashboard? You’re Halfway There!

By Greg Williams | July 2, 2019

If you’re already using business information dashboards to help analyze mountains of data, great! You have moved beyond the traditional spreadsheet analysis that has bottlenecked business information for years.

But if you’re reading this blog post, you’ve probably noticed that, like spreadsheets, dashboards are not perfect communicators. In fact, when it comes to explaining FP&A insights in human language, dashboards without the latest NLG technologies give you the silent treatment. Let’s look at five major benefits of giving your dashboards the power of language.

You’ll Get Better Insights Faster
When you were evaluating dashboard vendors, the sales representatives did not communicate with you in charts and graphs. Sure, they showed you visuals within their dashboard systems, but these were prompts for discussion about what the visuals were saying. The sales process was conducted in natural human language.

There’s a good reason for this: Human language has been the default mode of communication for thousands of years. Only in recent decades have we resorted to special languages, interfaces, and visuals in order to get information into and out of machines. NLG corrects this awkwardness by giving machines the power of language.

And not a moment too soon! As has probably become apparent since your dashboard installation, not everyone in your organization is comfortable interpreting standalone visuals. Adding NLG to dashboards ensures that all employees will interpret the charts and graphs correctly, and that genuine insights will be highlighted to support better, faster decision-making.

Furthermore, adding NLG finally puts an end to some of those old spreadsheet inefficiencies that might still linger in your organization’s workflow. Even after the launch of your dashboard, are some of your analysts still writing repetitive FP&A reports at regular intervals to explain the charts and graphs? Do you still face deadline pressure for publishing reports? With NLG, you retain the timeliness advantages of your dashboards, and you lose for good the bottleneck of human report writing.

But there is an even more important reason to add NLG to your dashboards. No matter how current those charts and graphs may be, do they really tell the whole story? The best NLG technology surfaces and explains insights that already exist within your data—but are rarely revealed in two-dimensional visualizations.

With the right NLG platform, you can have instant insights of varying length and focus right out of the box. From these starting points, your analysts can quickly customize the narrative to your specifications to tell a fully contextualized story within your dashboard. For more information, watch this two-minute video.

You’ll Control the Language
The same analysts who have been writing those repetitive reports at regular intervals know how to talk about your industry in terms that ring true within the field. When their expertise is added to the NLG system, they will effectively author hundreds or thousands more reports than they can now produce without NLG technology.

It is important for you and your team to control the NLG system directly to ensure that the language in your dashboards reflects the terminology and sensibility of your domain. If you notice something that needs correcting, the fix is in your hands. There is no need to wait for an update from third-party consultants, who have moved on from you and are busy with other clients.

You’ll Get Advanced Analytical and Linguistic Functions
Automatic Mathematical Power
It’s amazing how much math we bring to our everyday conversations. When you say, “That’s a big sales increase,” or “about what we expected,” or “a disappointing sales result,” you are choosing words and phrases based on mathematical judgments.

In primitive NLG systems, analysts had to work directly with computer programmers to establish mathematical rules that would invoke the best adjectives and descriptors. Basic calculations in support of time series data analysis had to be done off-line and incorporated into the NLG system. The laborious process took time, was prone to human error, and created a heavy QA burden. Today, the most advanced NLG technology comes with computational linguistics functions built-in, giving your analysts direct control and freeing your programmers for other tasks.

Automatic Linguistic Support
The right NLG system will also help your writers avoid errors. Many of the decisions that your analysts make as they write reports one-at-a-time have to do with the regular application of predictable, unchanging grammatical rules. When working in volume, it’s easy for even the most careful writers to make a mistake. Advanced NLG technology can help by applying preset functions that take care of the grammar. For example, when your writers are drawing upon a structured database, they should not have to worry about putting “an” before “automobile” versus “a” before car.

When considering an NLG platform, you should place a high value on software that lowers the cognitive burden on your analysts so that they can work more efficiently, and without introducing grammatical errors, and without relying on external programming for mathematical calculations. Here is a list of analytical and linguistic functions that should be coded into your NLG system.

You’ll Enjoy Easy Deployment, Better Security
When it comes to FP&A reporting, data security is of utmost importance. Shipping your data off-site for NLG processing is simply not an option.

Depending on your organization’s security posture, you may want to consider deploying your NLG-dashboard integration in the cloud, in a dedicated cloud, or entirely on premise. These options can accommodate any range of user permissions configurations and data security requirements. Here is more information about deployment options.

You’ll Bring Broad Benefits to Your Organization
Once your advanced NLG system is in place, you’ll be able get the most out of your dashboards, and at a speed that is going to save you time and headaches.

You’ll be able to automate all categories of financial reporting: P&L, Cash Flow, Balance Sheet, Budget vs Actual, Performance Variance, Sales Trend Analysis, HR Performance, Credit/Risk, and more.

Free from repetitive explanations of visuals, your analysts will be able to focus on higher level tasks—such as a creating additional NLG reports to expose ever more insights. Throughout the organization, the rapid exposure and explanation of insights stands to elevate decision-making, data literacy, and overall efficiency.

Which Platform Offers the Most Advanced NLG?
Whether you are looking to add NLG to your dashboards for the first time, or to replace an NLG integration that has not met expectations, getting to where you need to be is easier than you think.

When it comes to adding language to your dashboards, go ahead and look at all vendors. We love a bake-off.

Arria software empowers your analysts to add an effectively unlimited number of sophisticated narratives to your dashboards. The reports are not limited to the visuals displayed on the screen, but can be run on the underlying data for deeper insights. Our simple web-based interface is rich in analytical and grammatical functions that mirror the thinking of trained writers as they create thoughtful narrative. Deployments and pricing are flexible to suit your business objectives. The output of the resulting Natural Language Generation system reads as if authored by human experts precisely because it is.

Take the next step toward elevating decision-making and overall performance across your organization. Begin a free trial today.