Reporting dashboards are analytic visualizations that allow rapid analysis of processes and efficiencies, keeping stakeholders in control of their business’ performance. Like the dashboard in your vehicle, your data dashboard should provide the most important data in real time and allow instantaneous analysis at a glance. You must be able to make quick decisions without taking your eye off the road (or your business). You need to be able to monitor your speed, temperature, and fuel as often as you need and be able to trust the gauges and make good, split-second decisions based on their readings. However, if you live in my home, you may simply wait for the low fuel warning light to come on, then tell me the car is almost out of gas. Speaking of that, your dashboard could also set up triggers to alert you if a measure falls above or below a certain threshold. This is the “check engine light” of your data world.
The value of a reporting dashboard is in its ability to quickly monitor and change behavior to drive incremental, continuous improvements. When used to its fullest with the proper research and thought, Lumira Designer can create game-changing dashboards, making cumbersome spreadsheets and report data easier to monitor and immediately actionable.
If you haven’t had time to properly open the box and read the directions on Lumira, are new to SAP dashboards or still using Xcelsius, give us a call. You may wish to chat about Lumira Designer before you set expectations, or worse yet, set commitments on delivery with the latest evolution of SAP’s dashboard technology. We recently gave someone a free demo who said he wished he’d reached out two years ago, as it would have saved him a lot of work. If you have a specific question, shoot us a note and we’ll try to answer it.
Three Types of Dashboards
An operational dashboard monitors business processes that frequently change and tracks the current performance of key operational metrics that are constantly changing, for instance as shipments go out in a warehouse environment. Going literal with my auto analogy, Kingfisher created a dashboard for Honda that tracks metrics to look for potential quality issues as cars make their way down a production line. Below are metrics that may be tracked in a warehouse environment.
Source: Newcastle Systems
Like the speedometer on your vehicle’s dashboard, this is data that is most often monitored frequently, sometimes even minute by minute. You’ll see these in supply chain, production, logistics, retail, etc. These are all about monitoring constantly and making small, meaningful, continuous changes that add up over time. These could be production numbers, sales in real time, machine yield, etc. Remember, a smaller change over the long haul can mean real money. We have a client who made a 5% change in logistics and that percentage now means $3M annually in savings.
Strategic (or Executive) Dashboards
A strategic dashboard is used to monitor the status of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and is typically used by executives. Like the temperature gauge on a car’s dashboard, this health check data is reviewed by executives to take the temperature of the company (or part of the company) from a higher-level view. Strategic dashboards assist executives staying on top of KPIs throughout the business, such as sales, finance, marketing or human resources data. Measuring to forecast, budget or prior year gives decision makers a reference to current performance. The dashboard may show visuals of monthly, quarterly, annually and allow the user to select different views.
An analytical dashboard is used to analyze large amounts of data, allowing users (usually business analysts) to investigate trends, predict outcomes and discover insights. Like your vehicle health report or your 30K mile checkup for your vehicle, this data is analyzed at a deeper level and is used to see if any issues/trends need to be addressed. Since all of the data may tie together at such a granular level, the data behind an analytical dashboard needs to be accurate, trusted and up-to-date. Analytical dashboards often include advanced Business Intelligence features like drill-down and ad-hoc querying, allowing the user more freeform exploration to uncover insights.
Why Dashboards Have Failed
How can some organizations get so much value out of dashboards and some yield no value? Some view their dashboards as simply charts on a page. Others see them as key business tools. To be clear, a true dashboard is much more than static charts on a page. Excel sheets creating charts to paste somewhere represents many of the issues with Business Intelligence initiatives in general. Ideally, you’d like to avoid simply wrangling spreadsheets when possible by pulling data from your single, trusted warehouse or mart into a report or dashboard and avoiding the possibility of spreadsheets being updated differently by multiple users outside the system. You also want to make the process automated, avoiding the time spent on manual updates, as well as creating a tool that is monitoring in real time. Finally, to get a true 360-degree view of the company, expand your dashboards’ reach across your entire business, utilizing all three kinds of dashboards for all types of users.
Do not create dashboards that rely on manual data updates. It’s a sleeper cost and a huge risk. Sooner or later, the employee(s) in charge of manually keeping the dashboards up to date get busy and forget to update the dashboard, or leave the company and no one knows the “secret voodoo” to update the dashboard. Unfortunately, the stakeholders could continue using it, assuming everything is current. Out-of-date dashboards can be worse than not having dashboards at all, as you’re now making decisions based on inaccurate data.