Using powerful and sophisticated new tools like interactive dashboards, those involved in supply chain logistics are able to use their data to gain meaningful insights into their strengths and weaknesses, improve their operational efficiency, and make better and more timely business decisions.
But how does that work? How is it possible to take an increasingly large and detailed volume of data and successfully leverage it? Because dashboards present such a compelling value proposition, industry professionals are encouraged to take the time to become educated on what dashboards can do for their organization, as well as the current best practices for implementing an effective dashboard solution.
When designed and deployed correctly, dashboard solutions can deliver the clarity and transparency necessary to sift through large amounts of information in real time. They also offer the flexibility and customization required to operate in an environment where the data exists in many different formats.
Finally, they deliver results using graphics that are easy to understand, which helps those inside and outside the logistics community draw conclusions, discover insights and take part in the decision-making process.
Clarity from Complexity
The power of a high-quality dashboard stems from its ability to present a clear and detailed snapshot of multiple information sources in real time. Dashboard technology consolidates a diverse array of data—sometimes from several different sources—into a single visual presentation, and does so in a way that is designed to maximize clarity.
Because a dashboard is an inherently visual tool, the technology offers a user interface that is accessible, intuitive and engaging. Instead of poring over reams of spreadsheets, users can simply glance at a dashboard and instantly gain a clear understanding of context and current circumstances.
Dashboards can help derive meaning from an overwhelming amount of information, and provide invaluable perspective when operational complexity makes meaningful insights elusive.
They also can help track progress toward goals and objectives, monitoring metrics and milestones along the way.
For supply chain companies, identifying patterns and connecting the dots between disparate pieces of data is not just incidental—it is an essential part of what they do. Optimizing supply chain logistics means reducing complexity, streamlining operations, identifying hidden efficiencies, and making the best possible use of available resources.
On an analytical level, dashboards make it possible to dig deeper into the data, and on an operational level, they represent a single resource that enhances the ability to precisely track critical information.
Implementation and Optimization
To take full advantage of a dashboard solution, decision-makers need to acquire a working understanding of the best practices associated with such a solution:
Focusing the Lens:
A dashboard can be thought of as a lens that peers into the operational and logistical core of an organization. But focusing that lens correctly is critical. With that in mind, the first step in designing an effective dashboard solution is to determine what metrics are essential to understanding an operation. Eliminate extraneous or nonessential data and key in on the most important variables.
Access and Success:
Once the content that will be included on the dashboard is determined, decide who will have access to that data. The best dashboard solutions provide the ability to design different portals according to the needs of individual personnel. Keep in mind that an executive will almost certainly want to access a different set of metrics than a warehouse manager or other employee that is responsible for daily operations.
Finding the Sweet Spot:
While today’s high-quality dashboard solutions have a high degree of technical horsepower, the goal should not be to maximize the display of detailed and granular data. Instead, work to strike a balance between data that tells the story without becoming overly complex. The clarity and at-a-glance usability of a dashboard can be compromised when clarity is lost in the pursuit of comprehensive detail.
Flexibility and customization are integral pieces of the dashboard puzzle. When selecting a dashboard technology, be sure to identify a system with sufficient customization options to meet the needs of the organization. Generic solutions may be available at a lower price point, but if they do not provide the technical capacity to sync with all necessary data sources and to provide preferred and personalized visual display options, the investment may be wasted.
At a time when supply chain companies are relying on the ability to operate more efficiently in an increasingly competitive environment, dashboard solutions offer a compelling value proposition and a potentially game-changing constellation of capabilities. Leveraging this technology successfully can turn information into insights, enhance strategic decision-making and ultimately make a potentially significant impact on an organization’s bottom line.
Carolyn Nowaske serves as Enterprise Account Manager for iDashboards, a Troy, Michigan-based provider of data visualization software solutions. For more information, visit www.idashboards.com.