The Microsoft toolset has several choices for visualization, including Reporting Services, Power View, Excel, Performance Point, and now Datazen. Having multiple choices offers flexibility, but also comes with some confusion as to which tool to use when there is overlap among features. As tongue in cheek as it can sound when we say “it depends,” toolset choice really does depend on the goals and objectives you have immediately, mid-term, and long-term. If you are evaluating Datazen, here are a few use cases where it may make sense for you.
Mobile form factor with touch and responsive design is a priority. First and foremost, Datazen is a mobile delivery tool. One of Datazen’s biggest strengths is that dashboards can be designed once without the need for specific customizations for iOS, Android, or Windows devices. Datazen does have flexibility to slightly alter the tablet and phone design from the master dashboard design.
Cross-platform mobile use is important. Datazen has custom apps for iOS, Android, and Windows tablets and phones. If your workplace is a ‘bring your own device’ type of organization, the feature parity between platforms will be of interest to you.
Mobile workers are frequently offline. If your distributed workers are frequently disconnected from the corporate network, the capabilities to cache dashboard data on the mobile device may help the mobile employee be more efficient because they can access their dashboards anywhere regardless of connectivity. The mobile apps have settings for how frequently to sync up with the original data.
On-premises only, with no cloud components, is a requirement. Currently Datazen is an on-premises toolset, available to customers with SQL Server Enterprise and Software Assurance.
Mapping capabilities are essential. One of Datazen’s strengths is its mapping options. There are many built-in mapping options, along with custom map capabilities using ESRI shapefiles.
Delivery of pre-defined, structured content is appropriate. Much like Reporting Services, Datazen is a tool which delivers pre-defined dashboards with pre-defined drill paths as well as pre-defined key performance indicators (KPIs). Although Datazen isn’t considered to be a data exploration/data discovery type of tool, it can support many traditional reporting and dashboarding requirements.
Prototyping of dashboard layout and design is appealing. One of the most interesting qualities of Datazen is its ‘Design-First’ approach. The Datazen Publisher app allows the dashboard creator to do all layout and design functions first with simulated data, which permits the dashboard creator to refine design requirements prior to addressing the “real” data view / query. The simulated data can then be used as a guide for how the underlying data view can be structured to support the desired output.