Have you ever wished that your computer system could just tell you what you need to know, when you need to know it? This issue has been on my mind frequently for the last couple of years.
Computers promise us all the data we need to make decisions on a timely basis. Do you believe that to be true? If you are like me, you don’t. We all have more data than we know what to do with. Too many times reports just flood us with unnecessary information that obscures what we really need to see.
So why the disconnect? There are many reasons. We won’t go into all of them but consider these. Programmers, who have only a vague idea of what you need to see, write most computer software. For example, do you really want to see 150 pages of an accounts receivable report? You probably want to see one of two things: 1) Are my customers paying on a timely basis? 2) Who owes me money and is late on paying?
Alternatively, let’s consider an inventory report. You probably want to see the total value of your inventory. You could print the whole inventory valuation report—or you could have a dashboard that shows the total dollars, but also ages the value so that you see the value of inventory that is new, aged a little and ancient—a better tool to evaluate your inventory position. On the other hand, perhaps you want to see the split between raw materials, components and finished goods. A simple dashboard gives you this at a glance.
Computers are good at spitting out data-based reports. They have not been as good at distilling data into actionable information that alerts you to upcoming problems. As a result, there has been a great deal of industry talk and development around Dashboards and Business Intelligence of late. These products are the software industry’s attempts to respond to the dearth of actionable information.
How does this affect you? Well, that’s why I am writing this article. Think about driving your car for a moment. Do you need to know how many ounces of gasoline are in your tank? You probably don’t care. You have a gas gauge that tells you the general status of your gas supply. In addition, you probably have a light that comes on when you are down to the last two gallons. If that’s not enough, an electronic sound chimes at the same time. Why the light and a sound? You have a gas gauge. Shouldn’t that be enough? You know the answer. We get busy. We are thinking about something else. (Oh, we are focused on driving, aren’t we?) We need a reminder, so we don’t get stranded. Software Dashboards fill a similar need.
Next week’s focus: learn how a dashboard can create action faster within your company.