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The Importance of Data Visualization

Blog The Importance Of Data Visualization

Provide end-users actionable insights

Implementing a new ERP system can help your organization streamline your work processes, however, the true benefit from a business perspective is being able to leverage all the data that is collected. The data can tell you past results and help project future performance, providing insights that drive more effective decisions/actions. To simplify the analysis, you will want to use data visualization techniques to help tell your users a story that creates understanding and insights. Anyone can run a report and get the numbers but the real value is created by giving meaning to the numbers in an easy-to-use dashboard. Dashboards can highlight areas that need further investigation clearly and visibly, saving users from having to pull multiple reports to get the answers they need.

As technology has evolved, so have ERP systems for the SMB market. Gone are the days of requiring a multi-million-dollar ERP solution to get dashboards that look professional, use live data, and provide actionable insights. ERP dashboards have evolved as well and now offer industry-specific data visualizations and dashboards embedded within the ERP software. This allows business leaders to monitor what is most important to their business, and dive deep into the details in a way that is meaningful to their company and industry.

Benefits of data visualization dashboards

Being able to leverage dashboards embedded in your ERP system offers many benefits over standard reports or third-party reporting solutions. The benefits include:

Single source of truth: The advantage of an all-in-one ERP system is that all the data is stored in one central location. This allows your dashboards to leverage data captured anywhere in your ERP system and present it in charts and graphs. This eliminates the need to pull multiple reports and merge them in a spreadsheet application.

Live data: A significant benefit of using your ERP’s dashboards is the ability to pull live data. This removes one of the main drawbacks of using reports. When using spreadsheets, data extracted from your ERP is often static and is not updated until the report is run again. The time required for someone to update the reports and charts is also gone. Anyone with access to the dashboards will have instant access to the most recent data captured in your ERP system.

Quickly identify areas of concern and success: The advantage of a data visualization dashboard over reports is its ability to help users visualize the data and identify areas of concern quickly. By using colors, charts, graphs, and icons a dashboard can quickly relay information to the user. For example, a green and/or an up arrow can highlight positive changes and a red and/or down arrow for negative values. Users don’t have to spend time compiling and analyzing reports to get these quick answers and identify areas that need further investigation.

Drill-down capabilities: Easily go from high-level data to increasing levels of detail as needed, while remaining in an appealing user interface. For example, your dashboard may show year-to-date sales for the whole company and also allow you to drill down further by looking at regions, departments, or right down to the individual salesperson. Also, at any point, you can export the data for further review. The drill-down capabilities not only refine what’s shown on the dashboard but also the data that is exported.

Use multiple dashboards where necessary: There is no need to have one all-encompassing dashboard that serves all your stakeholders. It may be easier for your company’s leaders to have one per discipline that only shows them what they want to know, such as one for sales, one for manufacturing, and so on. Also, having market-specific dashboards can help your leadership team focus on areas that are important to your industry while avoiding spending precious time in other less important areas.

Security: A major concern for many companies is protecting confidential information. Your ERP dashboards will leverage the permissions you’ve set for your system. This allows you to control who has access to dashboards and what each person has permission to see based on the role they are assigned. For example, your leadership team may be able to see all the data, but Directors may only see a subset of the data.

Cloud computing: The move from on-premise software to cloud computing has simplified the process of accessing your ERP system and its associated dashboards from anywhere at any time. Now, your company’s leaders can continue to monitor key metrics whether they are in the office or not. This capability has proven itself to be very valuable during the pandemic when many employees were forced to work remotely.

Eliminate the risks of using a spreadsheet: While spreadsheets can be pretty good at summarizing data, they do come with inherent risks. The most significant risk is that data is often sent through email in an unprotected way. This allows any recipient to view your confidential data. Other risks include using data that is out of date to make important decisions, having your spreadsheet guru leave the company unexpectedly, and using incorrect formulas that distort your company’s results.

Remove the dependence on third-party software: An ERP system with embedded dashboards and analytics removes the need for a third-party application to perform this function. This saves your company money in terms of licensing and implementation fees for the third-party software, in addition to the costs of an employee to build and maintain the dashboards.

Reports vs. dashboards

A great analogy when comparing reports to dashboards is the use of a map to navigate your car. In the past, a paper map gave you the names of roads and highways to help you pick your route from one location to the next. It was manual, time-consuming and the data on the map became outdated as new roads were built.

Today, there are many applications with GPS technology to automate the planning and navigating process. Like a dashboard, these new mapping applications provide many tools not available with a manual process. For example, you no longer have to determine the fastest route since the GPS will calculate it for you and offer you one or more options, each with its estimated travel time. The GPS can react to real-time data by recommending alternate routes when traffic slows. There are even GPS applications that can alert you to traffic stops. Similarly, your dashboard uses live data, it’s updated as data changes, and as your needs change, so can the dashboards you use to manage your business.

The insights you need

For many businesses, advanced data visualizations and business dashboards are integrated directly into their ERP software. The benefits are compelling: easy access to real-time business data across functional departments increased security and collaboration, and most importantly, the ability to make better business decisions based on real data and actionable insights.

You no longer need to be a big company to get access to big data. Now, SMBs worldwide have access to data visualizations and the ability to improve business operations. Learn more when you download Data Visualizations are Key to Business Intelligence and Growth.

ECI Staff Contributors

About the Author

ECI Staff Contributors love to share their insights and expertise on a variety of topics including sales, marketing, cloud, ERP, and SMB development as well as on product specific education. With offices throughout the United States, Mexico, England, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand, more than 40 employees contribute to blog on a regular basis.