Data Dashboards

How to Avoid a Lack of Actionability in Data Dashboards

Technology is changing how we gather and interpret data. All around us, old technologies are being transformed into smart systems connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). How quickly we can access data from these systems of interconnected devices, and how accurately we can assess and act on this data, is crucial to our success in this changing technological landscape. How successful we are in performing these tasks depends largely on the functionality and accessibility of the interface we work with.

Dashboard design and functionality has an inherent, and integral, effect on the actionability of the data being gathered within your IoT network. We will look at some of the common faults found in current Internet of Things dashboard designs, and how they can impact your business and decision making. Specifically, we will look at how poor dashboard design, missing data links, and unfiltered data can negatively affect your ability to both act and react to changing conditions within your network. A properly tuned and designed Internet of Things dashboard can give you the ability to affect, in real-time, how large or minimal the impact of an event can be in your organization. This results in having truly actionable data for you to work with at your fingertips.

1. Avoid “One-Size-Fits-All” Designs

An Internet of Things dashboard should be intelligently and intentionally designed for your specific organization or application. Ideally, your Internet of Things dashboard should be customized to your specific needs, thus allowing access to key performance indicators (KPI) and performance metrics that are integral to your organization. Poorly designed data dashboards lack these, and other key features, that can negatively affect outcomes, performance, and success.

One of the major pitfalls of dashboard design is the “one-size-fits-all” mentality. When looking to incorporate responsive dashboard design into your Internet of Things app, business, or organization, one-size-fits-all dashboard designs can be detrimental. Many one-size-fits-all dashboard solutions are appealing for their ostensibly easy set-up and rapid deployment. This is particularly true for those people or organizations that have little coding experience, and feel intimidated by a customizable design interface. Fathym offers the best of both worlds with rapid set ups and a user friendly customizable interface that even the least tech savvy person could manage. On the flip side, one-size-fits-all solutions are an inherently poor choice for both Internet of Things apps, as well as incorporating Internet of Things functionality within a larger organization. This is largely due to the unique manner in which Internet of Things networks are utilized across different industries. While one particular dashboard design may work for a specific application, it may not be ideal for your industry or fully meet the needs of your organization. What often results from the misapplication of one-size-fits-all solutions is a cluttered, messy interface that displays data that is irrelevant to your specific needs.

Ensuring your dashboard displays the data relevant to your application is one of the keys to the success of an Internet of Things app or IoT-driven organization. This means that the design of your data dashboard must be tailored to your specific needs. Messy or cluttered dashboards not only display irrelevant data but in doing so can mask the information you actually need to act on. This is particularly important when considering admin dashboard design, where having the right information available at all times can be critical to ensure your organization is running smoothly and efficiently. An intelligent, customized, and responsive dashboard design can put the actionable data you need at your fingertips, rather than forcing you to sift through a glut of information.

2. Avoid Overly Complex Interfaces

The second indicator of poor dashboard design is an overly complex interface. Often, these types of dashboard designs display unnecessary data that can require time and energy to sift through. A well-designed Internet of Things dashboard will have a simple, and intuitive, user interface that gives you access to all of the information you need, and none that you don’t. Overly complex dashboards are also inherently more difficult to navigate, often requiring the user to toggle between multiple windows to find the information they need. When you need data now, this type of design can be detrimental. An IoT dashboard that has a simple and intuitive design will increase both efficiency and productivity, and lead to more instances where you can capitalize on actionable data in real time.

More often than not, poor dashboard designs also fail to offer the flexibility you need to adapt your Internet of Things app or organization to growth and changing demands. As your needs change your dashboard should have the flexibility to change as well. Poorly designed dashboards are often static in nature. While they may have worked for a period, they fail to offer the ability to adapt current demands. A well-designed dashboard will incorporate the ability to add access to data or networks as necessary or remove the display of data that is no longer critical to your application. The flexibility and speed of growth of IoT-driven apps and organizations demands a responsive dashboard design that can evolve with your needs.

Intelligent, customizable, and responsive dashboard design is integral to success in IoT applications. Choosing a flexible data dashboard design that can evolve along with your organization will ensure that you always have the information you need at any given time. Overly complex dashboard designs ultimately hinder acting on usable data by obscuring it through the sheer amount of data being presented. Intuitive design that utilizes a simple interface will increase efficiency and lead to more instances of actionable data being recognized and acted upon.

3. Avoid Missing Data Links

One of the keys to having actionable data in any organization is being able to see the whole picture. Whether your organization tracks local weather data, manages a fleet of vehicles, or incorporates disparate data from IoT sensors, you need to have a consolidated and unmitigated collection of data to work with when making decisions. Poorly designed data dashboards often fail to provide all of the necessary information you need to make an informed decision. These missing links of data can delay a decision, or lead to misinformed decisions, which can be detrimental to your organization.

Many Internet of Things dashboards in use today fail to properly incorporate all of the relevant data sources necessary to make a truly informed, real-time decision. This is particularly true in admin dashboard design, where critical information may not be displayed quickly or effectively enough to act upon. Even if all necessary information is being gathered, it is often failed to be displayed in a way that presents a coherent picture. Often, within an admin data center, multiple different data sources are monitored through different systems. Correlating and acting on this data takes time and manpower, and for larger systems, this can add up to days or even weeks before actionable data is consolidated and rendered usable.

Disparate monitoring systems can also lead to gaps once data is aggregated. These gaps can go unnoticed, or lead to misinformed decisions based on flawed correlations. A poorly designed and implemented Internet of Things dashboard will often fail to recognize when conditions arise where an alert should be issued, or action should be taken. These inherent flaws within poorly designed admin dashboard systems hamper the ability for administrators to take preventative action to correct problems before they become more serious.

A well-designed dashboard solution will fill in these data monitoring gaps and give users access to a complete picture. The best data dashboards fulfill this requirement in real-time, allowing actionable data to be easily accessed and displayed. This gives the administrator the ability to act quickly and efficiently, circumventing larger issues from arising as a result of delayed or outdated data. Data dashboards that fill in the missing links by aggregating data into a cohesive and accessible picture save time, manpower, and resources down the road.

4. Avoid Unfiltered Data

Poorly designed data dashboards often fail to properly filter data in order to render it usable and actionable. Unfiltered data can be difficult and time-consuming to sift through, costing your organization manpower and resources to form it into a legible picture.

The process of filtering and aggregating data into a functional format is one of the most critical aspects of a well-designed Internet of Things dashboard. Translating disparate data sets into usable and actionable data is where a well-designed data dashboard becomes key. Unfiltered data can flood your dashboard with useless information that is hard to read, and even harder to act upon.

An intelligently designed Internet of Things dashboard will give you only the information you need in an accessible format. Often this is done through visualization and analytics, which give you the ability to see the big picture at all times. Through customizable data visualization, users can receive data in the way that makes the most sense to them. These can take the form of gauges, maps, charts, or graphs, which can help transform numbers and raw data into an ascertainable format. Regardless of the form, data visualization can help users interact with aggregated data in a quick and accessible way.

A well-designed data dashboard will also use rules engines to help filter data into a usable format. User-defined rules allow the administrative user to define the parameters that generate alerts from a specific data set. Rules engines enable critical information about your system to be acknowledged and acted upon quickly and efficiently before issues become larger. Rules engines also allow you to exercise greater control over the data that you receive, which is especially important in systems with large amounts of aggregated data from multiple sources flowing in constantly.

Once data has been filtered down and rendered into a usable format, it should be displayed on your dashboard. This is particularly important for systems that have a number of data sets collected from different sources, whether it be power, water, bandwidth, or CPU usage. In systems that pull data from many different sources, this can become an issue when users are required to bounce between screens to collect information. A well-designed dashboard will condense filtered and usable data into one screen that presents all of the data you need.

By filtering, condensing, and rendering your data into visualization and analytics in one area, your Internet of Things dashboard can give you mastery over the massive amounts of information being gathered throughout your network. Unfiltered data is ultimately unusable data until it has been sifted through and organized, which requires the unnecessary expenditure of resources.  Data centers that collect disparate data sets and are required to act on them frequently experience this road block. A well-designed Internet of Things dashboard should help collect that data into one location and form it into a coherent and complete picture.

Enormous Impact

Every one of these facets of Internet of Things dashboard design and functionality is critical in order to generate actionable data. Poor dashboard design can hide usable data and make navigating between disparate data sets unwieldy and time-consuming. Poor design can also cause problems when your organization is experiencing rapid growth, but your static design isn’t flexible or customizable enough to keep up. Missing data links can lead to delayed or misinformed decisions, and result in missed opportunities for preventative action. Missing links can also create situations where costly changes are implemented when simple solutions would suffice.  Lastly, unfiltered data can flood your system with unwanted or unnecessary information. Sifting through this data to render it into a legible format costs both time and money. Also, unfiltered data can result in critical information that is lost or missed until it is too late.

Taken together, these aspects of Internet of Things dashboard implementation can have an enormous impact on the success or failure of your organization. Successfully utilizing the Internet of Things depends on being able to collect and parse through huge amounts of data from data sets in often unrelated systems, and then being able to correlate this information and act on it in a timely manner. A well-designed data dashboard will allow you to do this more efficiently and effectively. Furthermore, as the industries where IoT systems are expanded, having a flexible and future-proof data dashboard system will allow users to incorporate even more data sources into their existing system.

Future Proof Harbor Research Fathym White Paper

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