With the massive amount of data companies create every day, understanding it is more vital than ever before. From the floor of a factory to the boardroom, data plays a key role in making the right decisions and selecting the correct course of action. Understanding your data can help speed up production or reduce machine wear and tear over time. Using data visualization tools such as dashboards can help make sense of massive data sets by cutting out the irrelevant points and focusing instead on specific information that’s necessary to make the best decisions. Even so, simply adding as many visualizations and data streams as possible can do more harm than good, so crafting an analytics dashboard requires a delicate touch. Before diving in to create your next dashboard, make sure you consider these five factors:

Use your Screen Space Wisely

Dashboards are most effective when they give you the information you need as quickly and easily as possible. In fields like manufacturing and production, where there are several moving parts to keep track of, making sure the right information gets top placement is vital for building a successful dashboard. This includes remembering that different parts of your organization will exhibit unique analysis needs. A COO may need to see a bird’s-eye view of operations and expenses to make broader decisions. A plant concentrates instead on things like equipment conditions, production levels, and efficiency metrics. Start by understanding the limited space you have, and how to best partition it for maximum impact.

Focus on the Data That Matters

Organizations create millions of data points daily. For instance, operations on a factory floor generate data about production levels, efficiency, costs, and machinery conditions. Even so, not every data point your company produces is relevant to every task. Thus, it’s important to consider the questions you need to answer before you choose the proper visualization. Dashboards are the place for a bird’s-eye view, while you can use drill-down analysis to evaluate the specifics. This separation makes it easier to understand your data quickly and reduce the clutter on your screen. Warehousing data may not be relevant on the production floor, but it can be useful for uncovering the most efficient storage design.

Prioritize Real-Time Data

Historical data has value and should be stored and scrubbed for use. However, new data is always being produced and ignoring it puts you at a disadvantage. When you have critical operations, it’s vital to make decisions based on the most recent data. Your dashboard should have a strong emphasis on real-time data to help you stay ahead of any problem. Using design elements like gauges can help give you a quick impression of where your operations and metrics currently stand and leave historic data to review later. Additionally, working from a combination of performance metrics and historic data helps you quickly improve your organization.

Remember the Five-Second Rule

A dashboard’s main goal is to give you a fast answer to your most frequent business questions. Creating a dashboard that has too much information or irrelevant data will make that objective harder and defeat the purpose. Your screen shouldn’t take more than five seconds of viewing to understand your data. There are two main factors that go into this—having the right data and removing the clutter. Your design should prioritize quality over quantity and remove any elements you don’t need to understand your operations. You can form hierarchies to store information that’s still important but not as immediately relevant. Focus on presenting operation-critical data and high-level visualizations first.

Choose the Right Visualizations

Visualizations are a central part of your dashboard. However, visualizations are only effective when they make sense in the context of the information you want to convey. They key is to work from the data and find a visualization that works, and not the other way around. A common problem in creating dashboards is finding a visualization you like and working to make the data fit your specific desires. Instead, work from the data and consider how each visualization can better enhance it. For instance, KPIs can be tracked with gauges that show how close they are to meeting a goal, instead of using a bar or line chart. Think about how to communicate an idea as quickly and clearly as you can, without sacrificing any of its value. The right dashboard organizes your operations and lets you quickly ascertain where you stand. Building the best version involves some thought and focus on how to bring the right data to the forefront and displaying it the most straightforward manner. By concentrating on developing the right analytics and visualizations, your dashboard will deliver real-time value and insights to consistently improve and enhance your operations.
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