What are Free Dashboards
Free dashboards is a term most often used to describe software available at no or little cost to the organization. The search for free dashboards is often associated with the perception that the software is the most expensive part of any dashboard implementation. This misconception is often due to the high costs of traditional business intelligence platforms like Cognos or Business Objects. Though free dashboards certainly provide a lower "entry point" from a pricing perspective, the deployment, maintenance and long-term "soft' costs associated with free dashboard software often far outweigh any initial savings.
Benefits of Free Dashboards
The most significant benefit of any free dashboards are typically associated with the initial investment in software. The reason for this is that typical business intelligence dashboard solutions have been relatively expensive to purchase, some costing well in excess of six figures. Free dashboards aim to rectify this problem by providing a platform that is deployable with no or a very limited up front investment. The short term return on investment of free dashboards is certainly significantly higher than any cost-based solution, there are, however, significant short term and long-term negative aspects of free dashboards that make them ill suited for the vast majority of businesses.
Disadvantages of Free Dashboards
The biggest disadvantages of free dashboards are always associated with deployment, training and long-term maintenance and care. Because free dashboards are typically made available by very small organizations or by independent groups of developers working in concert, the support available for free dashboards is always lacking. What this means to end users is lengthy deployments with little or not support, a relative dearth of information with regards to usability and end user training and poor long term maintenance of the product.
Hidden Costs of Free Dashboards
There are also a number of hidden costs associated with free dashboards. The most significant of these is the cost a company will need to bare in order to support users that are exposed to the free dashboards. Because free dashboards are mostly lacking in well documented features the likelihood is that users of free dashboards are going to be significantly less productive than users of non free dashboards. This reduction in productivity is going to ultimately lead to lack of performance as users of free dashboards spend their time dealing with problems of the free dashboards instead of working on corporate objectives.
Alternatives to Free Dashboards
Thankfully there are alternatives to free dashboards that are designed for organizations that may want to lean towards the free dashboard for the sake of upfront investments. This new breed of free dashboards alternative is typically focused on providing a low upfront investment coupled with a new generation of ease of use and data manipulation mechanisms that make long-term investments both in hard and soft dollar terms significantly lower than any free dashboards available on the market.