Alerts, Dashboards and Scheduled Reports

Which should you use?

We have a number of clients asking us if we can provide them with emailed alerts – for warnings, reminders – any number of triggers.  Our recommendation is to think through the process before committing to something that will be one more interruption in the day.


When should you use an alert?

Alerts are typically triggered by transactions, limits, timeouts or other data-points and will arrive in email or text form automatically.  The advantage to an alert is that it’s automatic.  The down-side is that it is not “expected” and the result could be that it is missed in the myriad of emails received in a day or that it causes an intrusion in a busy day.  Psychologists tell us that it takes our brains 20 minutes to recover from an interruption, and can cause a significant reduction in productivity.

So when should we use alerts?  Our opinion is only for crisis-oriented situations.  Examples would be if a telephone system or the internet connectivity went down; if a critical printer on the production line ran out of ribbon; if a secure area is breached; etc.  These situations would call for immediate action.


So what else can you use as warnings or reminders? 

Scheduled reports:  SQL and other database programs have the ability to produce reports on a scheduled basis.  Our recommendation is to review the critical information you need, and pick one time in the day that is optimum for you to deal with any related issues.  For example, if you need to know when you are running low on inventory, have a reorder report scheduled to print early in the morning so it’s ready when you get to work.

Dashboards:  There are many independent companies that offer programs that can create a dashboard from data collected from multiple sources on your computer network.  This information can be displayed to you in graphical form (pie charts, bar charts, etc.) or in spreadsheets or other formatted reports.  These dashboards can be accessible from your pda, laptop or other mobile computer, or from your desktop.  They are an organized way to view critical trigger points as well as information you like to see (sales totals for the day).  The difference between a dashboard and an automatic alert is that you choose when to look at it and it is updated continually throughout the day, giving you the most up-to-date information available.


To summarize, we recommend alerts only for a crisis and scheduled reports or dashboards for trigger points and information.