Transform your online dashboards with 3 new graph types
Sparklines were invented by Edward Tufte, a pioneer in the field of Information Design..
The figure at the top of the article is an example of Sparklines - for much more information check out Edward's book Beautiful Evidence.
The main aim of the Sparkline is to reduce clutter and provide key information in the form of lines supported by minimal annotation.
Bullet Graphs were invented by Stephen Few, an innovator in the field of business intelligence, and author of the book Information Dashboard Design.
Here is a great overview paper by Stephen with lots of example bullet graphs.
Bullet Graphs were inspired by the simplicity of thermometer chart with the objective of showing performance against various points (e.g. poor, average, good) in a clearer and more information efficient manner than circular dashboard gauges.
Heat Maps have been used for many years in the field of science and provide two-dimensional coloured matrices.
The objective of heat maps are to better present tabular data in a way where you can instantly see the big picture and spot outliers and groups very easily.
The figure below is an example Heat Map from my book The Networked Enterprise which I use to summarise the collective capability areas of collaborative business networks into a number of different zones.
Microcharting is an important new development in graphs and charts which can be used with sparklines, bullet charts and heat maps and provides the ability to put a chart in a single cell - rather than fill a large area.
Not surprisingly Microcharts are now an integral part of excel 2010 along with Sparklines and Heat Maps. Bullet Graphs do not seem to be a chart type within Excel 2010 but there are excellent instructions by Charlie Kyd and by Matt Grams for creating them by customising standard excel charts.
Interestingly there is considerable controversy about Microsoft's attempt to patent its sparklines within excel.
About Ken Thompson
Ken Thompson is an expert practitioner in the area of bioteaming, swarming, virtual enterprise networks, virtual professional communities, virtual teams and management simulation and has published two landmark books:
Bioteams: High Performance Teams Based on Nature's Best Designs
The Networked Enterprise: Competing for the future through Virtual Enterprise Networks
Ken writes the highly popular bioteams blog which has over 600 articles on all aspects of bioteams (aka organizational biomimicry) - in other words how human groups can learn from nature's best teams.
Ken is also founder of an exciting European technology company Swarmteams which provides unique patent-pending bioteaming technologies for all shapes and sizes of groups, social networks, business clusters, virtual/mobile communities and enterprises. Swarmteams enables groups to be more responsive and agile by fully integrating their mobile phones and the web with bioteam working techniques.
The latest Swarmteams implementation is SwarmTribes which helps social object owners (e.g. musicians/bands, sports teams, film-makers) and good cause sponsors (e.g. Volunteering, Environmental, Public Health) to form unique collaborations with their fans/supporters for mutual benefit.
Bioteams Books Reviews
A team of one is sometimes best. It might sound like heresy but sometimes the most effective way to produce something is not through collaboration. Collaboration is best for tasks which cannot be fully achieved by a single person – if a job can be completed best by one person then to collaborate to do it will only make it worse.