Insights & Ideas

The Value of Visual Thinking in the Workforce

When we think of dashboards and business intelligence we invariably think of the management community that are keen to glean better insights for decision-making but of course management only make up a fraction of the organization.

I’ve discovered some unexpected benefits from allowing knowledge workers from the grassroots of the organization to have access to “visual thinking” within their own operational areas too.

For example, one team I worked with used to create a list of defects within their data that were printed out on a spreadsheet and then handed out randomly for members of a data team to resolve. They would try and tackle their list of issues but invariably backlogs would start to mount up throughout the week.

To address this problem we introduced some simple data visualization dashboards that helped each worker make better decisions about the data using information that wasn’t found in the everyday applications they had access too.

For example, armed with a personalized dashboard they could start to rank the defects by the stage in the operational cycle, order value size and other operational metrics. This helped them be far more creative and resourceful in the way they approached the problems.

Think about your business model for a moment, there are so many facets that can be supported by improved data visualization:

  • Customer Segments: Could visualization help your sales staff determine the optimal customer archetypes to contact on their daily to-do list?
  • Value Propositions: Are support workers being correctly allocated to the most pressing customer needs? For example, if you can overlay customers on a map could you route your field-force more effectively?
  • Channels: What is the right channel to communicate with your customers? Are marketing staff able to visualize the most effective contact method by customer segment?
  • Customer Relationships: Are your call-center staff able to visualize past encounters with customers so that they can instantly see whether the customer is ringing for the first time about an issue or whether they’re desperate to solve a long-standing problem?
  • Revenue Streams: Which product lines are customers using? Which other revenue streams can be offered to them based on popular buying trends from crowd-sourcing other customer buying habits? How can this information help front-line workers in your organization?
  • Resources: Can your procurement team get up-to-the-minute information on the entire supply chain performance? Do they know which suppliers have been served bankruptcy notices? How will the weather and other environmental factors impact your supply chain resources in the coming week?
  • Activities: Which team members are excelling and highly productive? Which ones need to step-up? How is this information communicated to team supervisors?
  • Partnerships: Which partners are generating the most leads and sales? How are your outsourced partners performing? Are they keeping up with demand?
  • Cost Structure: Do your team supervisors know their forecasted goals for cost-saving and performance improvement? Are they able to visually track team performance against team members, services and customer segments?

Dashboards and data visualization tools have historically been the focus of more senior staff but the reality is that everyone can benefit from them. Where can your workers benefit from greater insight in their day-to-day activities?

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