Every day, it seems like there’s new tech that’s driving progress—steering us into the future, navigating us through modern-day challenges, acting as the engine of innovation. As a culture, we’re fond of car metaphors when it comes to talking about how we use technology because cars represent freedom, mobility, wealth, and moving forward rapidly toward new horizons. And if the car, symbolically, is what is taking us into the future, that new tech (whether 3D printing, medical nanochips, or Snapchat) could be seen as the steering wheel.

The problem is: If a steering wheel isn’t attached to something, it’s useless. If your organization puts out an amazing new product but doesn’t know who is buying it and why and what they’re using it for, you’re lost. But that’s a lot of information to keep ahold of, coming from a variety of different sources. So what’s the most effective way to consolidate and track all this information?

Well, think of it this way: In your car, what is that steering wheel attached to?

A dashboard.

All those meters and buttons and knobs are in one place, meticulously laid out, with the most vital information centralized and prominent. Your car’s dashboard gives you raw data such as speed and mileage, and also tracks certain systems to warn you when the car needs attention (think the fuel gauge warning light or the check engine light). And if a dashboard for a car is so sophisticated, imagine what you could get out of one designed for your org’s technology and processes.

At Direct Technology, we’ve taken charge of dashboard analytics. Three of our major divisions—EcaTS, ESG, and Launch Consulting—have developed proprietary dashboards for a wide range of clients that work constantly and iteratively to provide information that impacts our customers’ organizations as thoroughly and efficiently as possible. ECaTS, or the Emergency Call Tracking System, now provides over 40 custom reports for our public safety clients, but they built their first dashboard in response to a request by CalOES to create a visual overview of emergency calls throughout the state. With updates every minute and a built-in alert for multiple 9-1-1 calls coming from one location, the ECaTS dashboard proved invaluable by giving an early warning and accelerating response time when the San Bernardino tragedy occurred.

Meanwhile, our ESG (or Energy Solutions Group) division runs a dashboard for utilities and commercial real estate firms to track energy use and improve demand-side management workflow, and our Launch Consulting division customizes a variety of dashboards to suit any company’s needs, goals, and what they want to know about their product or their customers. For example, we work with the Schmidt Petersen Motorsports Indycar team and provide comprehensive analytics for test drives and races.

 

A dashboard built for Schmidt Petersen Motorsports by Direct Technology’s Launch Consulting division.

 

Clearly, dashboards can be uses for a wide variety of business areas. But what makes them so effective? Three of the most notable reasons:

  1. Visual information is easier to process than endless spreadsheets.
    Dashboard UX is carefully designed to be aesthetically pleasing and simple to the eye. Often customizable to allow you to choose what information is most important for you to see at a glance, dashboards cull the clutter and show you tailored content that allows you to do your job most efficiently. Not only are graphs and charts easier for you to analyze and use (as opposed to thousands of numbers and plain text script), but they are also easier and more visually appealing to present to your team and other stakeholders.
  2. Near-real-time updates allow orgs to quickly react to changing circumstances.
    Dashboards are distinguished by their interactivity. Being able to manipulate data in front of you and see near-real-time effects is a dramatic improvement over weekly or even daily reports. When all of the information is laid out and allowing you to watch your processes constantly, it is significantly easier to catch issues such as service interruptions, unusual activity, overwhelmed staff, emergencies, and fraud. Consistent updates also enable your org to establish a baseline of what your product or service looks like when everything is working correctly.
  3. Specialized data, and lots of it, allows for better decision-making.
    Data is just data until you do something with it. Dashboard analytics track and report on massive amounts of information not because it’s a pretty UX, or because it’s interesting, but because this is how your business will grow and improve. Armed with months or years of insightful data, you can make metrics-based business decisions that will improve your workflow, your staff, and—hopefully—your impact. For example, say you run an IT call center. Dashboard analytics will show you call volume per hour per day, peak times, call waiting time, special events like blackouts and software releases, weather events, etc. If you see that on Fridays from 5-8pm, call wait times go up massively, now you can make a decision to hire more staff for that time period. By customizing the information you get out of the data that already exists somewhere, you harness the ability to kickstart your organization’s progress.

To sum it all up: It’s simple. With dashboard analytics, your organization will be moving further, and faster, in the right direction.