The sheer volume of data generated by modern monitoring systems can be overwhelming for most organisations. For tech teams, trying to understand how the technology they’re managing is impacting their customers or end users isn’t a straightforward process.
Visualisation tools, displayed on dashboards, enable an instantly accessible, real-time understanding of what’s happening in the tech stack. They help distill data into actionable insights that allow for fast diagnosis and resolution - essential in the context of business KPIs. But while this may be the primary purpose of using dashboards in an organisation, they also offer several unexpected, yet also significant, benefits.
1. Dashboards help drive action
One of the major challenges that organisations face is a delay in getting the data they need to drive decisions and ultimately actions. They’re frequently on the back-foot, having to wait days or even weeks and months to get the reports they need into how things are performing. I recently spoke with the director of a tech-focused private equity firm that invests in tech startups. He’s a non-technologist but plays a key role in determining investment strategy. The negativity he struggles with is his inability to understand the health of his business at any point in time, relative to his investments that are entirely financial.
What if we could instead change the game, and enable employees at all levels to have a real-time perspective on the digital health of their business at any point in time?
By using dashboards, we can translate this to their financial and business metrics, give them a real-time view to drive productivity and accelerate decision-making. As one of our clients describes it, the dashboards serve as a business tool for the whole business, "a really nice, easy place to have a single source of truth".
They’ve created several hundred dashboards which have evolved over time, and are used by everyone from the directors to support staff. Some of these are displayed in a huge video wall where the environment effectively "lights up" if there’s an issue that needs addressing. This has created awareness across the organisation of how things are going, enabling people on different teams to get more insight into other team members’ dashboards.
2. Data visualisation may help reduce stress
Having technology that’s easy to use is important for employee wellbeing and even staff retention. Research by the Centre for Creative Leadership found that four out of five employees blamed "inadequate technology" for wasting time: resulting in reduced productivity for businesses and longer hours for staff. IT admins are known to suffer from high stress: over half of IT professionals surveyed by TalentCulture rated their daily stress levels as unhealthy.
As businesses go digital, the burden on tech roles is escalating. IT professionals have to be responsible for everything from network availability to data integrity. Their inboxes are flooded, their phones are ringing off the hook. Getting requests and alerts from multiple sources makes it hard to prioritise.
By using dashboards, a considerable degree of stress can be removed. Dashboards not only make it easier to monitor highly complex systems, but also improve communication within teams and between departments. Requests and alerts don’t get siloed in individual inboxes, building up a stressful backlog for a single individual to attend to. Instead, information is accessible to all and responsibility can more easily be shared.
With all the mental health and wellbeing issues created and exacerbated by COVID-19, the ability of technology to reduce stress is a compelling prospect. It hasn’t traditionally been an investment track we talk about, but when it’s mentioned in customer conversations it's definitely front of mind for them.
3. Actionable dashboards help fill the skills gap
Amid the global IT skills shortage, having the right technology can be hugely significant in attracting talent. A Dell survey of new graduates reveals that 80 percent want to work with "cutting edge technology" and 91 percent say it would be a factor in choosing among job offers. Gen Z are the most visual generation yet: preferring to consume information and media graphically rather than textually. They juggle multiple screens (smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, smartwatch, gaming devices etc.).
Dashboards can also help transition non-tech employees into tech roles. In Singapore, for example, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan revealed last year that the island-state will need 60,000 new technology practitioners over the next three years. With the education system producing 2,800 infocomm graduates each year, the clear and wide gap will likely have to be filled with non-technologists who are then upskilled.
To do that, you need to get people very competent and comfortable with the first level of digital literacy so they're willing to further develop their skills. The easiest way to build confidence is to give them an easy-to-use, actionable dashboard. With New Relic, we can create a dashboard that’s usable even by the least technologically capable people, and start them on their journey to tech competency. It’s a way to plug the skills gap in a way that doesn’t cost the organisation any more money, as it’s activating a capability that is already there.
Improved data tools have wide-ranging benefits across an organisation. They empower teams to extract useful insights from ever-increasing amounts of data, and to communicate those insights in ways that support timely and effective decision-making. They also democratise technology, making the digital aspect of an organisation more transparent and accessible to non-tech staff. The future isn’t buried in a spreadsheet or an endless event log. It’s right in front of our eyes, literally illuminating our daily work.