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The fundamentals of management information – E


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Early warning

An important aspect of solid reporting. The minimal requirement is a forecast showing the expected result for a given period. That is not even difficult – as far as the underlying algorithm is concerned. The significance of cumulated variances – between budget values and actuals as well as the current and previous year – are often overlooked. Yet, they say what things will look like in the end if the current level of development stays as it is. DeltaMaster offers a spectrum of early warning methods. Standard reports deliver cumulations and projections. Sparklines support forecasting functionality. Trumpet curves visualize variance corridors and what-if simulations.

“Easter egg” paradox


A way of supporting decision-making. Often reduced to the notion that applying many methods reaps many benefits. In reality, however, modeled data has to be converted into a logic form in a way that its new and special features literally stare you in the face. This requires KPI selection, → variance analysis and → visualization to be consistently intertwined under a rules-based approach. It can be supported in full by business → AI and in fact this is necessary here as it works only when done correctly and visualization alone opens up the possibility of insidious misunderstandings. Even the question of whether variances in a → gross margin scheme for absolute and relative variances can be visualized in an equally meaningful way using → bars will prove too much for most users and so must be automated.


The “bad boy” of management information – feared by some, loved by others. Excel is the basis for most spreadsheet data marts, also known as spreadmarts. Users take extracted data from their ERP systems, add structure, make correc­tions, add variances, and then present it using Excel charts that they export to PowerPoint. Accordingly, spreadmarts are the natural enemy of all BI vendors. Bella mainly snarls over a few shortcomings in the visualization. DeltaMaster supports Excel both as a data source and export target, yet also provides an alternative to spreadsheets.

Exception Reporting

Management reports that are only sent when a previously defined threshold has been exceeded. Exception reporting is supposed to help reduce the flood of information. The German information systems expert Norbert Szyperski already questioned this concept back in 1978 and warned that the combination of prede­fined thresholds and the fiction of management by exception are dangerous. In his opinion, management should be curious and search for new correlations among information instead of attentively dozing like a control person at a switchboard. (Source: Integrierte Informationsverarbeitung 2, Wiesbaden 2002)

We also think that way – partially, because managers like to hear that everything is going well and see how that looks like right now. We, too, cannot warm up to the concept of fixed thresholds that trigger alerts. How would you even implement that? How much work does that entail in complex corporate environments? How general or specific should these thresholds be – on country, regional divisional, product, industry, and/or customer levels? Should they be relative or absolute values? Sometimes, people turn to → traffic light charts. Yet, because these signals are cautious in both directions, most things are displayed in yellow. You can set thresholds in DeltaMaster for the rare cases where contractual, qualitative, or technical limits provide clarity . We, however, are big fans of sorting everything in descending order based on the value that is important to the company. That allows you to view everything at a glance – without needing thresholds.


A term coined by Edward Tufte. Eyespan means that the eye-brain systems of observant readers will prioritize and easily process information that it can review with just a few eye movements and without scrolling. This is also a reason why a smaller size is a criterion for quality charts. But beware: Something that is on one page isn’t automatically at a glance. Good design should provide an overview and details within a small space and, therefore, is a challenge. In DeltaMaster, graphic tables with microcharts and sparklines ensure high data density and good → readability for concise yet highly informative reports.


The process of measuring eye positions and movements. Technical devices measure the eye movements of a test person in order to calculate his or her → eye path, for example, in order to assess the usability of websites. We think that you often don’t have to wait that long. A little self-observation often suffices to see if something is good or really bad.