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Building Executive Dashboards with Google Chart

Implement dynamic, entirely browser-based executive dashboards with the freely available Google Chart API graphing library.


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xecutive dashboards are attractive business tools that, if properly structured, typically provide the following information and data to executive decision-makers:
  • Summary information focused on strategic decision-making
  • Information organized for performance tracking
  • Identification of outliers
  • Comparative analysis between strategic elements
  • Competitive market overview

With the advent of truly dynamic, web services-supported web experiences, more and more users are expecting dynamism and responsiveness from their executive dashboards and support systems. This article presents an approach for building dynamic, entirely browser-based interfaces for executive dashboards using a freely available Google Chart API graphing library. This article does not discuss the design aspects of creating executive dashboards but rather offers guidance for determining the right set of charting options for the job. However, Sidebar 1. The Design Fundamentals of an Effective Executive Dashboard does present some fundamental design guidelines for dashboard development.

 
Figure 1. Sample Google Chart Image: The Google Chart API supports generation of line charts, scatter plots, bar charts, Venn diagrams, and pie charts.



Google API Charting Library
The Google Chart API is a web service for dynamic generation of popular chart types. It accepts as inputs query parameters defining chart type, look and feel, and the data used to plot the charts. It then produces a dynamically generated JPEG image of the graph. The generated graphs are high quality, resembling those from the most expensive and attractive commercial thick-client programs.

The Google Chart API supports generation of line charts, scatter plots, bar charts, Venn diagrams, and pie charts (see Figure 1).

Using the Google Chart API is generally straightforward. To generate one of the charts from Figure 1, you need invoke the web service with only three mandatory chart parameters: type, size, and data.



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