4 Reasons Why Good Design Is Essential for Supply Chain Dashboards

Detective Joe Friday had a way with words. Even if you’ve never seen a Dragnet re-run in your life, or you’ve never heard of Joe Friday, his catchphrase, “Just the facts, ma’am,” is a good motto for running your business. The foundation of supply chain analytics is the desire to let objective, relevant information drive action – in other words, to empower and enlighten employees about data and to make decisions after they’ve looked carefully at “just the facts,” with the help of well-designed supply chain dashboards.

As humans we have an innate ability to use our neocortex (the part of the brain where abstract reasoning, imagination and mathematics are processed) to validate what our limbic brain (where emotions are processed) is “feeling.” Think about it – when we have a “gut feeling” about how business is going, the first thing we do is try to validate that feeling with data. The problem is we can’t take in and effectively analyze the terabytes of raw information now readily available; we’re just not built that way.

We need systems to filter out the extraneous bits, and, just as importantly, we need systems to present the most relevant information in ways we can easily assimilate. To do that well, a digital supply chain platform must place a premium on dashboard design.

It’s true that aesthetics and user experience seem like soft targets at first, especially if you consider yourself a numbers person. But in the case of a solid digital supply chain platform which offers a very broad spectrum of analytics capabilities, like Logility, the focus on the effective design of supply chain dashboards is all about letting form follow function. Here are four reasons why good design is essential for supply chain dashboards.

1. Well-designed supply chain dashboards make information consumption effortless

When a user glances at a well-designed supply chain dashboard, that user should get an immediate overview of how the company is doing relative to their responsibilities. Everything he or she needs to make the decisions you depend upon him or her to make should be right there, ideally on one easy-to-view screen. Not only should the dashboard be carefully designed for maximum comprehension, but so should each element on the dashboard. KPIs should leap out visually, as should any serious anomalies. That just won’t happen if you’re relying on poor design.

2. Well-designed supply chain dashboards lead viewers through consistent processes

As it turns out, we tend to take in visual representations of information in predictable ways. Most of us, for example, look first at the upper-right hand portion of a screen before glancing at other sections. Quality design can exploit these tendencies and, through thoughtful layout, lead an analytics dashboard user through a consistent process for consuming and acting upon a given set of data. The flip side, of course, is that poor design can prevent this kind of consistency from taking root.

3. Well-designed supply chain dashboards turns data into actionable information

We can all agree that data is dumb. In the raw, a large collection of data can lead knowledge workers astray, or in many cases, virtually paralyze them. That’s a terrible waste of your company’s greatest asset – human intelligence. A well-designed solution can take at least the preliminary layer of analysis off a worker’s plate. Think of something as simple as the judicious use of icons. Putting them in line with raw numbers to show the direction of trends can make scanning a set of metrics and choosing a course of action much simpler.

4. Well-designed supply chain dashboards make ROI possible

A poorly designed tool isn’t an asset, it’s a cost sink. It doesn’t matter if the tool is a $3.00 utility knife from the big-box DIY store or an enterprise-level software solution. If no one trusts the results, or if it’s hard to use, no one is going to turn to it when it’s time to get things done. We’re back to trusting our “gut feel” which seems to ignore the last 40,000 years of neocortex evolution. It’s impossible to reach ROI without validating the gut feeling. Quality design is only one step in the process of optimizing your data assets; it is the beginning of a long road to ensure that employees trust and use your company’s analytics.

So, there you have it – four ways that good design impacts information presentation and a little insight into what that means for the knowledge workers in your organization.