Ditch the Dashboards Before they are Your Downfall!

How many times do I have to tell you that (real-time) dashboards are dangerous and dysfunction, that dashboards really are dangerous and disfunctional, and that integrated dashboards are deadly? Seriously! How many times?

There’s a reason that Dashboards are one of the seven deadly software sins, and it has nothing to do with vanity or pride (as they are the idiot lights, after all). It has to do with sanity.

But still, I see ridiculous articles like this recent article over on Inbound Logistics on business intelligence in the supply chain that discusses reporting and real-time dashboards, neither of which have even the slightest connection to “intelligence”.

Dashboards have two big problems. First of all, as SI has repeatedly pointed out, they give you a false sense of security. The ship could be sinking but because the “pump performance” light is green, you think everything is okay. If the pump can only pump 158 Gallons per minute, but the ship is taking on 790 Gallons per minute, you’re not going to be in good shape for very long!

Secondly, they often give you a false sense of urgency. For example, the “on time delivery” light could be red, indicating that 30% of your shipments are late. If you’re a CPG executive worried about hitting your number, you’ll quickly calculate that this could increase your stock-out rate another 3% (based on an average stock-out rate of 8%) and decrease sales by 5% (as fast moving products sell more), go into panic mode, and start screaming at your suppliers, ruining the good relations that your Supply Management team had spent months building – when, in fact *every* delivery was on time. How could this happen? Let’s say the warehouse workers are slow and consistently get to supplier X’s shipment at 9 am, which is ready and waiting to be unloaded at the scheduled time of 7 am. Now, if the technology illiterate warehouse worker enters the receipt time at 9 am, even though the truck was there at 7 am, the binary logic dashboard will say the shipment was late (even though it wasn’t), along with every other shipment that really wasn’t late. However, you will have already ruined the relationship with what was likely a key supplier, who will likely quote you significantly higher at contract renewal time, because you assumed the system was right. And if demand is greater than supply, you might even be dropped as a customer, and experience a supply disruption as a result. And with every disruption comes a 40% chance of business failure within five years. In other words, SI is not exaggerating when it says that a single dashboard could ultimately lead to the downfall of a large organization.

So next time someone tries to sell you a sleek new dashboard, tell them to go back to the cloud they came from and shove it somewhere the sun don’t shine. Real intelligence comes from applications that let you slice and dice data, not from applications that give you cookie-cutter reports that were slapped together quickly by a low level coder who doesn’t really know your business.