Visualizing the Value Through Information Radiators and Business Dashboards
In the Agile world, the term information radiator is now commonly used as a term for a visual display showing the status of a project. According to Alistair Cockburn, who coined the term, “An Information radiator is a display posted in a place where people can see it as they work or walk by. It shows readers information they care about without having to ask anyone a question. This means more communication with fewer interruptions.”
These information radiators used in the IT world are very similar to the business dashboards that have become widely used by management and C-level executives on the business side. Business dashboards offer “at-a-glance views of KPIs (key performance indicators) relevant to a particular objective or business process” (Wikipedia). Just like the dashboard on your car, a business dashboard will quickly alert you if there is an issue and provide other key information to help you quickly understand the current status.
Information radiators and business dashboards have many similarities. They both are designed with a human’s need to visualize something in order to better understand it. They are both simple and easily understood at a glance. They provide up-to-date, valuable information on a project or process and enable anyone on the team, even external stakeholders such as the C-level, to gain a clear view of where a project or process stands and if there are any bottlenecks that need to be addressed.
In the world of software development, where the C-level needs to be informed on a high level about a project, an information radiator can be a powerful way to simplify complex data and present it visually to executives who are very familiar with viewing business dashboards on a frequent basis in other parts of the organization. Leveraging these powerful visualization tools, any authorized individual within an organization can gain a better understanding of the business value of the software development project without in-depth, time-consuming reports or meetings.
Do you use information radiators, business dashboards, or another visual tool to manage your software development projects and demonstrate the value to the business? If so, I’d be interested in hearing from you about what you see as the biggest benefit your organization gains from using visual tools. Do they help you get stronger buy-in from your internal customers? Do they keep your IT team more on track?