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Don’t follow that taxi!

By Hugh Williams , 01-Jun-2011
Last updated on 10-Jun-2011 at 17:38 GMT

The uncomfortable ride and the fact that we were overtaking every car on the motorway indicated my taxi driver might be breaking the speed limit. I glanced over his shoulder and realised what was wrong. According to the speedometer, we were doing zero miles per hour. Yet all my senses were telling me that we were going too fast.

We were hurtling down the fast lane, yet neither I, nor my driver had any idea of our speed. The situation reminded me of the businesses I come across with no cross-functional dashboard.

The finance director compares monthly results against the budget. And the commercial director checks his team's sales performance. From logistics to production, each director keeps a close eye on their indicators.

Yet, they still find themselves in a situation similar to my taxi because their views are not integrated, so their decisions are often ill-informed and one-sided.

Introducing a sales and operations planning dashboard is always a revelation. The sales team begins to understand the logistic team's hesitation, because they too can now see how many days cover the stock truly represents.

Production starts to look at debates on shifts differently, as it can now see the sales forecast. The supply chain team finally conveys the challenges of balancing capacity with demand by sharing the outlook with colleagues.

The dashboard should fit on an A4 piece of paper, so only true key performance indicators can feature. They might only be high level and aggregated views but they are now seen across functions. Everyone can finally appreciate how fast the business is going and decide to speed up or slow down.

Missing or incomplete data should not be an excuse not to do it. Start with a robust framework and fill it in. My taxi driver may not have cared for a working speedometer, but sales and operations planning will take a giant leap forward the moment you introduce a proper dashboard.

Hugh Williams is founder of supply chain planning specialist consultancy Hughenden.