Archive for December, 2010

The Factoid – Text Boxes All Dressed-Up

December 26th, 2010

Sometimes the simplest tasks are most challenging. Take for example the need to express a single, scalar number, such as the measurement of a KPI. One number, no dimensions, no time trend…simple, solitary…scary.

The trick is to NOT to overdo it. Don’t try to force a chart or speedometer or hygrometer or any other overblown visualization to do this job. In fact, the simplest way to express this result is probably just to state it, i.e. literally display the value as text.

A call center KPI example

Let’s consider an example from a call center. A key metric for the call center is call resolution time. This particular call center has a target resolution of five minutes. Here are some poor ways to visualize this metric (peruse any of Stephen Few’s writings if you’re not sure why):

If I had to choose one of these representations, the thermometer (far left) is the least offensive, but it consumes far too much space and the added context of seeing the level of “mercury” in the 100% gauge doesn’t really add much value.

Abandoning any of these visualizations, I opt instead for a simple text box:

The Factoid – adding context to the metric

To add some context to the metric’s value, we can utilize the the Text and the Caption areas of the text box.

By taking advantage of dynamic expressions in both the text and caption areas, you can build elaborate displays that combine both text and numerics. Be sure to spend some time on formatting the numbers. Functions like round(), num(), date() and the concatenation operator & (ampersand) are essentials.

Here is the code snippet for the caption:

=round(sum({$<[Affects SLA?] = {"-1"}>} [My Metric]), 0.001) * 100 & ' %'

And the text code:

='... of calls were resolved within ' & chr(10) & $(varCallResolutionTarget) &' min.'

where I have attempted to variable-ize all “moving pieces.”

The final result should look something like this:

I’ve coined this type of text box as a “factoid.” (“Unifact” sounds more representative, but a little too nerdy :) ). Maybe QlikView will object-ize this and call it a QlikFact!

So to reiterate, don’t try to build a multi-dimensional visualization when you’re only trying to express a single number. I’ve found the factoid to be particularly useful when expressing KPI values, especially when there are well-known, impacting SLAs established and business users are keen to see performance numbers.

Keep on Qlik-in’