dashboard onlineThere’s nothing necessarily new about dashboards – software that serves as a control panels for enterprise applications and provides high-level views of a variety of performance and data-intensive information. But what’s clear is their growing importance for supply chain managers.

Dashboards got their start as windows into business intelligence (BI) applications. But like the applications they supported, the dashboards were generally too specialized to be of interest to supply chain managers and executives tasked with ensuring operations were running smoothly. Of course, over time, specialty vendors have been adding dashboard applications to their enterprise suites.

Until recently, dashboard solutions haven’t provided the capabilities supply chain managers need. In an online survey conducted by ec-bp.org, the overwhelming majority of respondents, or 86.3 percent, said supply chain management (SCM) solutions should have native dashboard user interfaces that unify supply chain metrics, data and information. Respondents were given the opportunity to expand on their views, and comments ranged from dashboards “saves time and makes you work smarter,” to “measuring KPI and tracking milestones are an important part of determining the health of a supply chain,” to the idea that dashboards reduce the need for integration into separate data warehouse or analytic platforms.”

Vendors offering supply chain solutions are adding dashboards to their suites. SAP, for example, provides dashboard capabilities in its SAP BusinessObjects Supply Chain Performance Management application. One customer, Coca-Cola North America, is now using the application in its North American region, according to a press release issued by  ITC Infotech, a global IT services and solutions company, which worked with SAP consulting to help Coca-Cola implement the solution.  

The solution incorporates dashboards that display real-time, critical information and metrics about the company’s supply chain. In a prepared statement, Russ Rodal, metrics program manager at Coca-Cola, said the solution is helping it focus on metrics with little need for manual intervention, focus on metrics that help drive process consistency, and focus on metrics that are in line with industry standards.  He added that because the application is integrated with the SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse which captures details about business transactions, “we can aggregate the data on the fly in the application and not be bound by a static data model.  So when the business re-organizes, we change dashboards, not solution configuration."

Despite the fact that SCM dashboards are deemed necessary by many, respondents of the ec-bp.org survey agreed that current solutions still need tweaking and advances. In fact, one respondent said that while dashboards are “key mechanisms to quickly consume valuable information,” most software packages still do not have them. The survey asked which capabilities are missing from most SCM dashboards, and nearly half (46 percent) said the dashboards are poorly integrated with underlying databases and systems. As one respondent put it, “dashboards are only as good as the data getting into them.

Organizations must ensure that relevant data silos are captured into the process.” Thirty-eight percent said current dashboards do not allow for easy customization and integration, and 33 percent said they are not real time. Thirty-one percent said dashboards are poorly designed and the same amount said reporting functions were limited. One quarter said the alerting functions and business rules are not well developed. The respondents were allowed to pick as many answer as applicable.

The ec-bp.org survey showed that a little more than half, or 55 percent, said dashboards should provide quick, high-level access to SCM performance for

supply chain executives. Similarly, 57 percent said dashboards should leverage data and metrics culled from across the supply chain for a more holistic view of SCM performance.

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