BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE SOLUTIONS — HOW TO GAUGE SUCCESS
Sound business decision making requires having access to the best available information in a timely fashion and digestible format. A fully implemented and properly used computer management system (be it MIS, ERP or CRM) fulfills the data gathering requirement, but traditional reporting functions can be too much, too late.
Lengthy and dense hardcopy reports generated up to a month after the fact don't make the most effective tools for managing day-to-day operations. Managers--actually, all plant personnel--can benefit from having access to information they can act on in the moment.
Enter the "dashboard," for lack of a better term. Some vendors have embraced that classification, while others find it wanting. Business intelligence solutions is another way of thinking about the subject, but it doesn't have the same resonance.
On-Screen OrganizationBroadly speaking, a dashboard is a data display tool that:
* provides a single point for accessing information from various components of an integrated management solution or set of independent applications;
* presents data in visual formats--color graphs, charts and even speedometer-like dials, rather than simply as numbers in tables;
* allows for periodic updating as needed, potentially including real-time reporting; and
* can be customized to display the information most relevant to an individual user, generally without the need to do any coding. (Vendors typically provide a set of pre-configured dashboards that can be used as is or with refinements by the individual user.)
One reason some management system vendors prefer to steer clear of using the term dashboard is its history outside of the printing industry. A whole software segment for generic manufacturing environments has developed around third-party solutions that aggregate information from disparate management systems.
It's only been since 2003 that the required tools and applications started to reach a level of performance where this type of data aggregation became practical, says Scott St. Cyr, CEO of Cyrious Software in Baton Rouge, LA. Microsoft has been a champion of software dashboards as a broader interface concept, he adds. Its .NET Framework and other technologies offer advantages for developers of production management applications running on the Windows platform, St. Cyr asserts.