Hey, Watch Where You’re Going

David Edwards . Operations Professionals

As the pace of business change and adaptation continues to accelerate, it becomes more critical to have clear visibility of key performance metrics that tell you where your business is, and where it is going. We solved this problem decades ago in speeding automobiles with the development of the dashboard. Analog gauges and critical warning lights keep us up to the second with our automobiles operating performance without unduly distracting our attention from the critical task of operating the vehicle.

Unfortunately, keeping up with key operational performance feedback in most organizations isn’t as simple. Reports are run, spreadsheets are consolidated, charts and graphs are produced, and by the time the process is complete, the situation has changed. Can you imagine having to stop and print a report to see how much gas you have left? Add to that the potential for inaccurate transposition of information during the more manual consolidation processes, and you get a sometimes suspect picture of where you were some time ago in the past.

Get up to speed. There are dozens of business intelligence and dashboard tools on the market that you can use to get a clear and accurate picture of your business every day. The solution you choose and how much you spend is totally dependent on the size and complexity of your business and how extensive your usage will be. It can be as complex as a full blown data warehouse providing extensive detail to the entire organization, or as simple as a stand-alone dashboard tool (this includes Excel) pulling data directly from an ERP system for a specific process.

While the tools you use are important, it is more important to understand your specific needs first. What critical operating performance information do you need to see every minute, day, week, or month in order to manage your business effectively? Of that information, which is the least timely and the most likely to be inaccurate? Where does that information come from – is it all from your ERP system, or is there additional information managed outside the ERP system on spreadsheets like performance goals? Building a clear picture of where key operational feedback originates is the critical first step to building clear reliable key performance indicators.

Start small. Before you sign up for the full blown data warehouse solution, build some simple dashboards using Excel or other stand-alone tools and evaluate their effectiveness. There are some good stand-alone tools on the market with trial demos you can download and use for a limited time or with some limited functionality in order to get a good hands-on feel for how effective they can be. A good place to start might be a shipping performance dashboard:

One click of the “Update” button and you have an up-to-the-minute picture of your current shipping performance. This makes it quick and easy to see areas you need to pay attention to, and this is where the power of a good dashboard tool becomes apparent. So what happened in fiscal month 9 this year? Click on it and see:

It looks like we had major problems with lines 21 and 31. We click on 21 and switch to the line detail screen to see all of the orders that shipped late:

Just that simply, the dashboard provides a quick and clear picture of exactly what happened. Imagine how much more effectively you could manage an operation with such clear, easy-to-analyze feedback about every aspect of your business.

Get started today. Again, what critical operating performance information do you need in order to manage your business effectively? Of that information, which is the least timely and the most likely to be inaccurate? Where does that information come from? Build a clear picture of where key operational feedback originates and how to access it directly. Then determine the best way to process and present it for clear, reliable, and actionable information.

I’ve been helping companies implement and use dashboards like this for years, and it’s a good place to start. But, it really depends on your organization’s needs – there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution for operational effectiveness. If you think your organization could benefit from learning about some of the dashboard and analytics options available today, give me a call. I’m not tied to any specific vendor, as always my commitment is to giving you the best information possible about all of the products on the market.

You can reach me at 877.647.4141 or



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