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The fundamentals of management information – S


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An important component of good reports. Values with up to three digits are easy to read. If you are working with large values, you should scale them in thousands or millions and use decimals sparingly. If you want to report information in multiple currencies, you need to note that in your report as well. You should display long time series adjusted for inflation. Otherwise, you may only be showing the general price increase. Data with large differences in values are problematic: Scales in millions produce false nulls for small objects. Using different scales in the same visualization is rarely a good solution. A better alternative is to create a summary of smaller objects.


Catch-all phrase for both the scale and its settings. Determines the → integrity of a visualization. The right scaling depends on the → perspective priority. Bella has already covered all of the important rules (e.g. Don’t chop off heads or feet. Use logarithmic scales for line charts with large differences among the values. Scale column sparklines cell by cell and bar sparklines column by column.). In DeltaMaster, you can set a scale with robust start values and set the settings in detail. A new and exciting option is → typographic scaling.

Self-service BI

Data marts and application for management information that are managed by local departments. Self-service BI requires an intuitive usage concept. DeltaMaster is more than suitable for self-service but we feel defining measures and targets for measuring business performance is a job for managers. Too much self-service can (but doesn’t always have to) get in the way.

Semantic Zoom


Size breaks

A challenge for visualization. Size breaks occur when very large and small objects are presented in the same chart. The smaller the objects in columns or bars are, the less you can see the differences among them by nature. Occasionally, people may want to hide bars or columns. This, however, really distorts the presentation because the most important objects are underemphasized and reader’s focus is directed to the resulting gaps. The better alternative can actually be to let small things look small. When numbers are aligned vertically and, of course, the appro­priate scale has been used, we can read them quickly and understand them. If you need an equally good way to differentiate extremely different values of all sizes, DeltaMaster offers an elegant solution that uses dot bars and dot columns based on a logarithmic scale.

Small Multiples

Tile visualization that iterates the same table or chart for various objects. Small multiples add rhythm to perception. They create a routine view that is easy on the brain. The first small multiples date back to the time of Galilei; Edward Tufte simply dug them up again centuries later. DeltaMaster can iterate the charts created by almost all of its analytic methods and display them as small multiples.

Sound animation

Using a series of sounds to encode data. When we see and hear something simultaneously, we understand it better. Our ear canals are always open, so to speak. We can close our eyes but not our ears. Teachers and advertisers have known that for ages. Yet we feel that potential isn’t used enough in management information and are currently promoting the capabilities that DeltaMaster has offered for some time now. You can use sound animation, for example, in sparklines. Just listen.


Word-size → charts, also known as microcharts or word-sized graphics. Sparklines were first suggested by Edward Tufte as a → line chart where only the last point is labeled. This single value suffices to understand the prior development. We developed the first software for sparklines. Sparklines integrate time into → graphic tables, which dramatically increases the value and density of information. DeltaMaster is a visionary product in the field of sparklines and offers several patented and highly important details to support the proper use of this new chart format.




An attractive and rather neutral shape that can accommodate and arrange all kinds of different things, which makes it seem especially suited for → Dashboards. In practice, though, it poses a very real barrier to the opportune placement of words and numbers, taking up space that could be used by other things.

Subject line

An element of management information with the greatest potential to pass through the bottleneck of → attention. When you email reports, they can go under in the flood of electronic messages just as quickly as they would in other channels. Since email was only invented in my generation, this fact hasn’t been known all that long. On the other hand, no one can resist reading the subject line of his or her email. Therefore, you can use the subject line to communicate the main message – optimally, with the main KPI – of the report that you are sending. DeltaMaster does that for you automatically.

Supervisory boards

Important recipients of management information because they bear more responsibility now than in the past. According to the business information systems expert Prof. Peter Mertens, it is not self-explanatory that supervisory board members have the necessary competency. There has also been a breach of trust between many supervisory and executive boards. With DeltaMaster, we build systems so that both parties receive information in the same structure but in different levels of detail. In addition, templates for supervisory board members must work well as offline and paper reports.


Images that are understood without a label. Symbols play a huge role for control systems, e.g. on airports. In the current management information, they are primarily used as → icons for operating the system. Bella has criticized many poorly chosen symbols in infographics, for example, in her post “Symbols for worse”. Otto Neurath conducted pioneer work in the field of image statistics in the 1920’s. DeltaMaster can display symbols within cells to visualize smaller numbers as images.