HelpSystems Blog

Automated Business Analytics Dashboards with Automate (Webinar Recap)

Business process automation software has the flexibility to streamline almost any repeated process. Some processes, like transferring files and generating reports, are obvious candidates to automate, but with a little creativity you can take your strategic use of automation software well beyond managing common tasks.

In a recent webinar, Richard Schoen and Pat Cameron of HelpSystems introduced an automation use case you might not have thought of—creating auto-updating dashboards to track your business analytics and KPIs. These dashboards can provide strategic value in many areas, from the data center to the warehouse floor, by making teams more flexible and informed.

 

Common Business Metrics and KPIs

Having access to current business data is critical to daily operations. You, your team, and various stakeholders probably need to know the answers to questions like:

  • How many orders shipped today?
  • How are monthly sales doing?
  • Do we have enough material to meet demand?
  • Did any of our server scans report a virus?

Ideally, this information should be quickly accessible and easy to understand for the whole team. The typical ways to distribute business data include emailed reports or detailed logs that you need to sift through to find the relevant information. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a way to visualize your KPIs that updated frequently and automatically—and didn’t require a lot of extra work from your developers?

Creating Self-Refreshing Dashboards

Automate makes it easy to create self-refreshing dashboards for any information you need to track. The dashboards aren’t a feature of Automate, just one of many ways you can put Automate’s library of 600+ activities to use.

You can have Automate update your data as often as is necessary to assist your business decisions, whether that is once per day, once per hour, or every couple minutes. The dashboards themselves auto-refresh every few seconds to appear in what Richard calls “simulated real-time.”

The dashboards Richard and Pat demonstrate in the webinar use HTML5 webpages containing simple HTML and JavaScript. The HTML templates are text files with text replacement tags. To update the dashboards, Automate will replace the data in these tags. When users want to check the dashboard, they just open the index.html file and it will automatically refresh on their desktop every few seconds thanks to an auto-refresh tag placed at the top of the HTML.

For his dashboards, Richard uses an HTML framework called Bootstrap, which is both simple and responsive, meaning your dashboards will resize to the device where they are being viewed. Bootstrap has a default look and feel, but if you don’t like that there are several sources free or paid themes to make your dashboards even more visually compelling. Richard likes the free themes from getbootstrap.com, but you can find plenty of others from sites like Start Bootstrap or Bootswatch.

The dashboards use a JavaScript library called ProgressBar.js. There are other options out there as well to help you create bar graphs, line graphs, gauges, and more. Many are free and open source.

The final step, or course, is automating the dashboard using Automate. You can have Automate pull the data from a wide variety of sources, like CSV or Excel reports, databases, or other applications. Use the schedule trigger to tell Automate to read the data at a scheduled interval, summarize or manipulate it as necessary, and then enter it into the appropriate text replacement tag on your html page.

Business Analytics Dashboard Use Cases

In the webinar, Richard introduces a few examples of how Automate users might use KPI dashboards. The first is an anti-virus dashboard that visualizes the servers that have viruses in red and the servers without issues in green. These gauges are updated from a CSV file. Below the gauges, there is a list of all the servers, which the user can click to view log data.

Another way that an Automate dashboard could be used is to help a shop floor team visualize which orders are getting stopped due to missing parts. Items in red have missing components, items in green do not. Having this dashboard keeps the whole company informed and helps management react as needed to move resources around.

Jump to 16:29 to watch Pat demonstrate running an analytics dashboard with Automate.

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