Making Data Useful for Decision Making

Making Data Useful To All Involved

Sidebar: Dashboards: Outside Looking In. Dashboards aren't just for employees inside the company. A Web-based dashboard can be a tool for providing valuable data to customers in the supply chain, too.

Computerworld E-business News

Dashboards  provide a single view to many real-time processes in your organization. This short introduction introduces using dashboards to track customer interaction points.

Ideally it would overlay these stats on a model of your supply chain or customer interaction points. Depending on where you are in the system, you can view various parts of the system.

It would overlay these stats on a model of your supply chain or customer interaction points. Depending on where you are in the system, you can view various parts of the system.

How Would This Dashboard Concept Help Your Decisions?

Dashboards translate complex datasets into useful “at a glance” representations.  Like the console in your car, you know your speed without thinking about it. 

The right dashboard puts all your cognitive energy on making accurate decisions rather than determining meaning.  Too often metrics becomes a tea reading exercise with convenient translations that don’t hold the test of time.

Use triggers in each step to change the status, or color of that step once met. Tools like Metastorm's e-Work interface with a back-end data engine to handling triggering.

Assigning color to status helps with indicating areas that need attention. Red means trouble. No translation required, if red, then you do something.

A customer interaction point example:

Figure showing downward facing chevrons
Figure 1: Steps necessary at each customer interaction point

A simple example would turn boxes green after satisfying each set of steps in the process. A job aid outlines criteria, actions, or data to capture for each step.

Each step in the process has criteria to meet before triggering status change. Think of this as a hierarchy of actions where your dashboard is looking down the top of each roll up.

What If You Need More Detail Than Status of Steps in A Process?

You can get more specific with hard metrics like Cost per Lead (CPL), Cost per Sale (CPS), and Profit per Customer (PPC).  Each of these metrics are calculated measures tied to averages and target values. They might roll up thousands of transactions.

Yet, before you get into the weeds it is valuable to checklist your high-level process.

I can see it now.

Calling down from the “corporate control center” dashboard with real-time accounting statistics. With their trends, measures, and metrics. It’s a beautiful dashboard, flashing lights and graphs glisten.

“Mr. Evans, Our customers conversion ratios are down 6 points since this morning 07:00, I want to see you in my office now.”

Worse, the system notifies Mr. Evans with time to get his excuses together. Either way, he arrives at 07:45 to get chewed out. Meanwhile the dashboard flashes something different.

While this sounds fun, real-time only produces more stress.  Worse, if your calculations are incorrect then you will have inaccurate decisions.  Can you see the rabbit hole your team may run down for each metric?

Let's take the dashboard concept and blend it with traditional reporting. Do you think you can get all your company vital statistics to a single 11″ by 17″ page?  When working with clients a scorecard is the starting point for future dashboards.

A Fast Track Way That Turns Data into Decisions

Each scorecard becomes a panel on some future dashboard. Yet it today has high utility value for decision making. This allows time to collect vital information rather than data points.

You will find these score cards (even updated weekly) will help you make better decisions. In every engagement here’s how I start dashboard design:

  1. Start with a clear goal and plan for your dashboard.  Start with: Who will be using the dashboard? Where will the data come from to populate it? And, how often does it need to update? Always build on how you make decisions today.
  2. Design meaningful metrics that detect or prevent problems.  Each metric earns its space on the dashboard by being accurate, meaningful, and by having high utility value.  Measuring sales and volume alone is a mistake.
  3. Focus on decision making metrics that support objectives.  What can you do better with this metric? A trending metric on customer lifetime value doesn’t answer why, but triggers action when it declines. Map out those cause and effect triggers.

Taking the time to understand what measures you already use makes this effort more productive.  Each step creates draft scorecards, panels, and measures. 

Before anything graduates to a dashboard it gets practical use. When you do dashboards the right way you gain new insights into your organization. 

So many tools are available to extract raw data and turn it into clean easy to follow dashboards. Do you want help with your next decision-making dashboard? Then contact my office with your questions. Dashboards done the right way makes data more useful for everyone, especially you!

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