November 25, 2014

FieldVisor: Effective Dashboards

Beware of the Data Puke

Modern software dashboards often suffer from the same disease: too much data.  They are referred to simply as data pukes.  While these data pukes can still be useful, they are typically only relevant to one level of an organization, and are limiting in their capabilities.  At Fielding Systems we’ve realized this, listened to our customers, and aim to cure the data puke disease.

What is an effective dashboard? 

An effective dashboard enables users to visually view relevant and current information and create actionable insights on field data, operations, and production activity. There are multiple facets involved in developing an effective dashboard:

Data Interaction

If a dashboard presents a data point or segment of data that is of particular interest, what then?  Do you have to go somewhere else to determine why it is of interest?  Do you have to go run some additional reports to determine who, what, when, where, and why?  There may be cases where you need to; however, an effective dashboard should allow you to splice, take action on, or drill into, around, and through the data right then and there.  For example, if rolled-up gas volume looks high, you should be able to click the data and see exactly what went into that number and spot exceptions or aberrations in seconds, not minutes.

Another feature of a highly effective dashboard is the ability to calculate data without having to download and manually manipulate the data. Some dashboards require exporting to Excel to average or sum a specific section of data in a data table. An effective dashboard would allow the user to highlight the data on the dashboard to calculate the sums and averages and not need to jump into another 3rdparty application.

Real-Time Edits

An effective dashboard should also allow you to take some action on information you are seeing.  Your dashboard may be showing you that there was an issue on a recent inspection at your most critical battery.  Now what?  In typical dashboards, you would need to navigate away to search for the submitted form in order to review and add follow-up comments.  You would save your changes and then navigate back to the dashboard.  Another issue to review, here we go again.  In a more advanced dashboard, a user can work faster and more efficiently if able to load the form right from the dashboard, review, and add some comments without ever leaving where the user is.  Save clicks, save time.

User Customization

User customization can be a simplistic but important factor in the effectiveness of a dashboard.  While dashboards are generally targeted toward certain levels of users within an organization, specific users within those levels can often be focused on different data points or segments of data.  A more effective dashboard would allow users not interested in some data to minimize that data from view and allow them to focus on what they really need to see. It would also allow users to hide data points from trends or columns from data tables that do not interest them. Customized user settings should persist across user sessions, across browsers, and even across different computers or devices. While current dashboards do offer some of this functionality, we strive to expand greatly on this user customization in the future.

The goals of the Fielding Systems new interactive dashboard are to allow users to get to information quickly, increase user adoption, improve actionability, decrease user navigation, and increase user customization, speed, and optimization. The new dashboard is currently in Beta testing and a wide release is expected in the first quarter of 2015. Below are some sneak peeks into what to expect from the new dashboard.