Operational visibility is the ability to objectively track activities within an organization. The extent of visibility can vary as follows:
1. Complete visibility in which you are able to track all activities; and
2. Partial visibility in which you are not able to track all activities.
Example: Visibility in trucking operations (similar logic can be applied to other industries)
If you can readily access the answers to the following questions, then you have reasonable visibility into your operations.
1. How many trucks are available for use?
2. How many trucks are on the road?
3. How much weight are the trucks on the road hauling?
4. Where are your trucks heading to?
5. How much time will each truck take to complete the delivery process?
6. How many hours of work is each driver scheduled to work?
7. What is the maintenance history of your trucks?
8. How many trailers are available for use?
9. How many trailers are currently in use?
10. What is the current level of trailers, trucks and cross-dock utilization?
11. What are the operational activities at your cross-dock facility?
12. What is the current level of inventory to be shipped at the cross-dock facility?
13. How much are the operational costs?
14. What are your cost components and their relative size?
15. What is the current performance level in relation to performance targets?
16. How many shipping requests are in progress?
17. What are the details associated with current shipping requests?
18. What are the details associated with outstanding shipping requests?
19. How much revenue is being generated from current operational activities?
Being able to answer the above questions is one step towards attaining visibility. The second step is figuring out the accessibility of operational information. Thus, visibility can also be classified as real-time or delayed depending on accessibility.
Real-time visibility: the ability to get real-time information from operations. The best example of this is real-time information through dashboards. Another example is real-time access to operational data. Real-time visibility allows you to respond to operational challenges as they happen.
Delayed visibility: operational information is not accessible in real time. Most businesses are in this category. Delayed visibility does not allow a real-time response to operational challenges. Even with its’ shortcomings, delayed visibility is better than no visibility.
Businesses should not chase after full visibility without a clear strategy on what to do with the visibility. Visibility is only useful if it helps improve business outcomes. To get full benefits of operational visibility, it needs to be paired with other best practices such as accountability and a culture of continuous improvement.