In the midst of all the talk about big data, companies have realised that information systems and data collection can only produce tangible business benefits if the collected data is meaningful, accurate and available in an understandable form. This is the kind of data that can improve the quality and speed of decision-making.
Right information for the right people
The significance of data depends on the user’s role and the complexity of the problem that needs to be solved. For a sales manager, sales figures that are updated in real-time or on a daily, weekly or monthly basis can be significant. For an HR manager, figures measuring the status, competence and performance of the personnel, as well as figures representing and forecasting the quantity, quality, performance and efficiency of HR practices can be important. Persons working at the supervisor level may want to know in real-time whether employees are present as agreed in workshift lists and, if employees are absent, supervisors may need to view the reason for the absence, available substitutes, persons whose overtime hours are not full, and find out how to quickly contact possible substitutes.
When moving from one organisational level to another, the role of information in the decision-making situation also changes, as the problem to be solved becomes more complex. Problems that have to be solved on a strategic level are often complex and do not have one working solution. When the scope of the problem is wide, for example when planning corporate acquisitions and the direction in which the competences of the company should be developed through said acquisitions, the role of the information provided by the information system changes from a direct answer to an answer that improves the quality and speed of decision-making.
Modern information systems can help in solving both direct and easy questions, as well as extremely large and complex questions, if the company manages to deploy the systems and practices in a way in which information is produced and updated according to agreed rules. However, many potential benefits of information systems are already wasted when producing the information if the users are not able to produce accurate information.
How the information is displayed to the users also matters. Much like a car’s dashboard, a dashboard built onto the information systems summarises information that is relevant to the user from different sources and displays in a format that is easy to interpret. The dashboard allows the user to quickly see the metrics and tasks that require attention.
A perfect dashboard is customisable for each user and allows users to follow their key interests and to complete their tasks efficiently. The supervisor view could, for example, include metrics presenting the status and performance of the supervisor’s own team, as well as tasks requiring immediate attentions (e.g. holiday requests, sick leave notices and annual performance reviews). The view could also allow supervisors to view their team’s information in more detail or to compare the information with other teams’ information. An HR manager, on the other hand, should be able to view the essential information concerning the entire personnel and HR practice and drill down to the information of individual units or operations.
The dashboard should display things that users want to perform, monitor and manage actively whether they are related to sales, atmosphere, workplace safety or any other factors contributing to the organisation’s success.