The landscape of SharePoint Dashboards is evolving rapidly, particularly with the advent of Viva Connections. These changes mark the shift from traditional KPI and metrics-focused dashboards to the more dynamic and personalized ‘personal dashboard.’ This new generation of dashboards serves as a start page for professionals, offering a tailored workspace that streamlines daily work activities. In this article, we delve into the variety of SharePoint Dashboard apps available, highlighting their ease of creation and customization. We’ll explore how these dashboards have transcended their traditional roles, now offering more than just metrics and analytics. From their utility in enhancing productivity to their shortcomings, our analysis provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of SharePoint Dashboard apps. So, let’s dive into these innovative tools and discover how they can serve as your personalized start page, enhancing your work experience.
This is a very attractive ‘digital workplace’ solution that works on top of SharePoint. It’s made by Ichicraft, a Dutch firm, that you should definitely consider. Let’s start with the good points:
The entire dashboard is just gorgeous. The widgets are pixel perfect and show that great detail and care has been taken in their design. Whether it’s a smooth gallery of news items, overlays when hovering over items or a slight yellow notepad widget. Every part of the UX works reliably, intuitively and – frankly – far exceeds the expectation one has from SharePoint’s own UI.
The installation is also so easy you can do it blindfolded, there is easy to follow steps to get the necessary API scopes for each widget. There is also a pretty sizable list of widgets that you’d expect from your personal dashboard, like calendars, emails, tasks, MS Teams teams, etc.
The cards – called Widgets – are made with React so you can make your own widgets using a development kit or ask Ichicraft to do it (for a fee).
This also leads into the things to consider:
- Lack of external data sources
The purpose of a personal dashboard should be to reduce tab hopping, where you constantly jump around to check all your apps for updates. Apart from M365 data sources there are only a Power BI and Tableau integrations to show external data. Ichicraft would surely refer you to their development service to connect your own APIs to custom Widgets. But this could quickly become a long-winded process and pricey.
There is two things of note when looking at Ichicraft’s pricing.
The first is that it’s charged per user and annually. If everyone in your org is using this dashboard every day, then – sure – the price per user will be cheap; but often a dashboard is more interesting to managers that have lots of monitoring needs. That can quickly skew the effective per user cost.
Secondly, the price pretty much doubles if you want to have both personal dashboards and shared dashboards. If your main buying interest lays in just one, you may find that an effective doubling of the price doesn’t deliver a perceived 2x increase in ROI.
At the time of writing there was only a single SharePoint web part through which Ichicraft is available. This can be used as your Viva home page in MS Teams – but there is no dedicated web app, no integration for Viva Connections dashboard, no embedding of individual widgets and no interface to AI chatbots like for Teams or ChatGPT. This has obviously no impact on the dashboard itself, but there is a lot of potential to improve other SharePoint pages, other communication channels, etc. if the widgets weren’t dependent as much on the dashboard itself.
This SharePoint web part looks comparatively functional. It focuses more on the ‘monitoring’ aspects of your work, sporting dozens of plug-and-play integrations with other apps one uses throughout the day.
Set up is also very simple, you’ll just click the ‘+’ icon and start picking apps from their long list of apps. Each app is represented as an Adaptive Card widget on your personal dashboard, where you can arrange and resize them. What sticks out here is that cards can go as small as a 1×1 square at which size they morph into a little summary tile; and clicking that tile will trigger the full card as an overlay.
Since the Adaptive Cards used by this dashboard are, well, quite simple you can rather easily customize their layouts in the low-code designer. Perhaps not suitable for non-technical users, there is something very appealing for even beginning developers to quickly shift the layouts around using the same data from your app’s API.
The Adaptive Cards can also be trained to be found by the companion Microsoft Teams chatbot, and Teams can send full Adaptive Cards as messages. This adds extra versatility and makes information more accessible on the go.
There are some points to watch that perhaps would be of interest to potential users:
- Pull only cards
At the time of writing, the information on the Adaptive Cards gets only read data from the source apps and services and there is currently no way to ‘write’ things to apps, such as submitting cases, adding new tasks, etc.
- No CMS capability
The focus of this product is very much to collect existing data only, therefore there is no abilities to store data, publish news, create an employee directory, publish pages, or anything of this sort.
Viva Connections dashboard
Viva is both the pro forma incumbent but also single handedly created this new paradigm of a personal dashboard. Let’s examine what it does (or doesn’t do).
The dashboard designer is basically a grid of square or rectangle tiles that automatically arrange to fill the available space, whether it’s a full desktop view, opened within the Microsoft Teams app or on the Viva homepage. While the little tiles are basically acting like a summary, you can click them to pop open a larger Adaptive Card for more details.
Cards are made with the Adaptive Cards standard Microsoft itself started, and you can make your own cards with just a simple JSON recipe from adaptivecards.io. There is also add-ons from the SharePoint store that are specifically made for Viva dashboard, for example this one which is designed to add an app store so you can easily integrate data from external apps, Power BI reports, Excel Online and multiple Azure tools into your SharePoint dashboard.
Things to look out for:
- Not as much customizability as you think
Cards can’t be rearranged or resized by the user, that’s for the administrator to decide. While admins can decide what cards are visible to different groups of users, if you don’t want to see a particular card, there is no way to hide or unpin it.
- No support for web parts
It would be nice if you could take some cards to “zhuzh” up your other boring SharePoint pages but alas there is no support to embed individual cards as web parts.
- Missing some lifecycle integration
Cards are added directly on the dashboard and there is no separate CMS or staging environment to try out new ones. Worse still, they’re excluded from searches and, at the time of writing, Viva offers neither an integration into MS Teams chats (which themselves would be compatible with Adaptive Cards) nor surfaces information to Microsoft 365 Copilot.
Virto’s solution for a SharePoint-based dashboard is a fully-fledged Kanban board. Swimlanes, labels, drag-and-drop, it’s all there and it works very robustly. You can use Virto’s board either as a web part on SharePoint sites or they also have a Microsoft Teams app. Since different users have varying preferences on how they want to work with a Kanban board, having such a versatile Kanban board makes everyone happy.
This type of Kanban board is geared towards efficient task management, so it will help you or your team become more productive. However there are few things to note:
- No integrations
While you can manually attach files to your tasks, there is no way to synchronize any tasks to other project management solutions or link up with collaborative documents like a SharePoint list or a Confluence page.
- Design limitations
While there is a lot of customizability options for colors, swimlanes, labels, etc. at the end of the day you’re dealing with a Kanban board. Even though Virto’s execution is really very robust and well done, a Kanban board may not deliver the ‘have everything at a glance’-kick that you may be looking for.
There you have it, this is my list of the best dashboards available on SharePoint today. Have you tried any of them, is there one missing in your opinion? Let me know in the comments below.