The best tools and practices for better data visibility & monitoring are highly dependent upon the environment upon which you are working. Looking at the 'real-time' world of manufacturing operations, the needs within this area are to provide context (meaning) to the data so that workers or management can make decisions based upon the results or outcome.
With any data monitoring project, the ability to acquire as much relevant data as possible in order to make good decisions is critical. This means integrating into the appropriate enterprise applications, such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems), Maintenance Management (Enterprise Asset Management) or CRM (Customer Resource Management) if you are operating within a manufacturing environment. These system of record hold pertinent information such as customer data, delivery data and incoming supplier management data that all may have relevance to decision making, such as 'is this material good,' 'what decisions or steps do I need to take next as a result of this non-conformance' or 'what do I do with this incoming material?'
For process monitoring, dashboards are ubiquitous for providing context into operations data. Depending upon the tool you use, these dashboards can be real-time (see www.webalo.com) or they can be latent (such as those provided by a business intelligence product). Sometimes, you'll see dashboards and other KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) being displayed on mobile devices; this allows a task worker or knowledge worker to make immediate, informed decisions without being tied to a line or area. Mobile is extremely important especially if the worker is not at the plant or site, but is remote and needs to make a decision on the repair of an asset (such as a pump) or to perform a specific maintenance procedure.
Overall, you should try to select a solution that fits the way you do business, versus changing your business to try to accommodate a tool. Selecting a product that reinforces your Good Manufacturing Practices not only 'institutionalizes' but 'digitizes' your operations for standardization. Having a product that can integrate with existing applications, extend their performance with rich visualizations, mobile capabilities and drill down, capture barcode and other identifications, and use technologies such as GIS (geographical location) all enrich the user experience for data visibility and process monitoring. Providing workers with a Single Pane of Glass simplifies their tasks and increases productivity. And for those instances, we recommend you consider Webalo.