Digital Dashboard uses established Microsoft products as a platform to deliver summary information to "knowledge workers" from disparate data sources, both internal and external to their organisation. The problem of transforming large amounts of data into meaningful information has been around since the first mainframe was switched on. All the more surprising, then, that it is still one of the biggest IT challenges faced by organisations today.
While the concept is easy to appreciate, the first thing that struck me about Digital Dashboard was the question "What exactly is it?" The end product, at least, is essentially a dynamic Web page that is presented within Outlook 2000. The content of this Web page is active, and can include anything from Internet Web pages to Excel spreadsheets, e-mail messages and summary tables from other systems within the business ("legacy" systems).
Digital Dashboard achieves this by utilising built-in extensions to the Office 2000 environment, as well as BackOffice extensions to Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft SQL Server. Microsoft has included several examples in the $9.95 Digital Dashboard Starter Kit (http://www.microsoft.com/australia/office/digitaldashboard/) that illustrates its potential. In the example for a sales team member, the digital dashboard contains seven elements. The "personal" element includes e-mail messages, alerts, calendar, tasks and an investment stock ticker. "Inventory" includes a pivot table and charts sourced from the company's inventory system. "News" shows filtered and selected news from various sources. "Presentations" is an interactive list of presentations (PowerPoint 2000) being worked on by the team. "Customers" presents the user with a drop-down list of the salesperson's customers and displays a team discussion board, customer name-and-address details, a customer order history graph and a table of products ordered. "Projects" is an interactive list of project material that the user is sharing with the team.
Finally, "Links" contains links to Internet or intranet material in which the user may be interested. While there are no potted solutions to an individual organisation's management of knowledge with Digital Dashboard, it is a good implementation of an old and much-needed concept. It will be interesting to see what organisations do with it.
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