Wireless technologies and high resolution screens have transformed the way fleet managers receive and process complex information. Wireless data can tell them exactly whathappening in the present, not just what took place yesterday or even last week. And crisp visual displays mean that they no longer have to rely on spreadsheets, or worse, volumes of printed lineflow. Graphs and charts can help them be better informed and more responsive. Thatbecause our eyes can identify critical patterns more easily when information is presented on a chart than when itpresented as rows of numbers.
The term used to describe this is data visualisation, and the main goal of data visualisation is to communicate information clearly and effectively through graphical means. Designers must achieve a balance between form and function.
Enter the software dashboard. The concept originated with car design allowing drivers to monitor, at a glance, road speed, engine speed, remaining fuel, engine temperature and other functions while paying attention to the road ahead. They donneed detailed information, just a summary that helps them make good decisions quickly.
A software dashboard for fleet tracking allows fleet managers to monitor operations, activities and events that are constantly changing and might require attention and response at a momentnotice by providing a simple, clear view of relevant key indicators. By focusing on key trends, comparisons and exceptions, dashboards make information useful. Well designed software dashboards are made up of a number of individual charts. These are called widgets and theymini – applications, designed to do just one job, like monitoring all drivers in a fleet for instances of over speeding.
The key design question is: what do you want to use the data for? If youmanaging a fleet of vehicles you need information thataccurate, up-to-date and easy to read. Thereno point in creating a gorgeous data visualisation unless it communicates information clearly and helps people do their jobs better. Thatnot to say that data visualisations have to look boring. Conveying ideas effectively is all about providing insights into complex data by communicating its key aspects intuitively.
If your primary purpose is to give fleet managers up-to-date information to help them make effective operational decisions in situations that may change minute – by – minute you need to consider five principles. First you have to provide them with real-time data. Historical data is only so useful when youmaking decisions. And, while ituseful to have a report on a driverbehaviour over time – over speeding or excessive idling – it may be even better to see this as it occurs when you can do something about it. Wireless GPS fleet tracking has brought real time data to the desktop, so that itnow possible to see exactly whathappening, as it happens.
The second principle is simplicity: by looking at just one set of information in each widget they can quickly and easily monitor changes. Taken together a set of widgets – one for ignition, another for over speeding, another for idle time and another for site stops – provides a unique and powerful way to present and monitor information about what is happening throughout the entire fleet at any given moment.
Thirdly you must work within a familiar framework: managers’jobs are already challenging enough without adding more complexity Thatnot to say you have to dumb things down. You can still present complex and timely information in charts, but by doing so in a consistent manner your managers will be able to readily see exactly whathappening and identify what they need to do about it. Good dashboards should be designed for clarity, visual appeal, with a layout that takes the fleet managerprimary focus into account.
That brings us to the fourth principle: exception. You must allow your managers to quickly scan all relevant information to see what matters. Itall very well to present rich information visually, but if each table or chart needs to be considered against a checklist before it can be acted on, then over – analysis will quickly lead to operational paralysis. The more complex the task, the more information you need to consider. Scanning masses of data takes time. The best way of simplifying is to use the exception principle: present charts and graphs in a way that allows significant changes in the many, many factors affecting performance anci safety to be readily identified. Too much clutter can create confusion and mask critical information.
Finally, you must give managers a way of quickly accessing more detailed information, should they need it. Good dashboards not only present top level information, they also allow you to drill down into the underlying details. If you see that a driverignition has been off for more than the expected time you may want to drill down into the remainder of the trip or the day, before making contact.
Managing a fleet of trucks to improve operational efficiency enhance service quality and ensure driver safety is a complex activity. A software dashboard offers a tool that reduces some of that complexity It allows you to interpret a situation accurately, respond quickly and make good decisions, while making information available in greater depth if you need it.
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