Dashboards – What’s all the Fuss?
Imagine being able to manage your business from one central piece of software. A single point of entry for your team to serve as one right version of truth, but seen from each person’s own perspective. And imagine this software connects to all of your different information sources, every day automatically updating itself with new data.
This software does indeed exist, and has done for a while: It’s called a dashboard.
New Millennium builds all sorts of systems for our clients – and we are often asked to add dashboards to our solutions. But we’ve seen that dashboards in the software world can mean all sorts of things: you might see a dashboard displaying network status, or perhaps one that displays a queue of tasks. Those aren’t really the kinds of business-driving systems we’re talking about.
A true dashboard provides a summarized view of the most important information in your business, lets you drill into as much detail as you need, and – most critically – facilitates decision-making. These days you should be able to access your dashboard from any device; phone, tablet, PC, web. And if you are lucky your dashboard won’t only summarize information it will summarize performance – past, present, and future.
Having key information at your fingertips means you spend less time adding values to a spreadsheet and more time adding actual value to the bottom line. In other words, you spend less time looking for that file buried in email so you can modify it… only to send it to someone else… who will then schedule a meeting… whose team will need to discuss how you gather the information… but then change their minds after a water-cooler chat with the boss…
You get the idea.
With a well-designed dashboard, discussions can go something like this:
Marketing Manager: I want to run a new promotion.
Product Manager: Our competitors have started bundling widgets with gadgets and it seems to be working wonders for them.
Sales Manager: We sell more widgets and gadgets than any of them – we should be all over this.
Marketing Manager: Which ones would you bundle?
Product Manager: Let’s look at the biggest sellers in each sales region.[This is the important bit: they look at the dashboard – that shows sales-by-region in an easily accessible screen.]
Marketing Manager: Great let’s bundle each No.1 selling widget with the No.1 selling gadget for each region.
Sales Manager: That will do it. When can we launch?
Operations Manager: Let’s look at the stock profiles for our top sellers.[All look at the dashboard – again with this key metric shown.]
Supply Chain Manager: Looks like we can hit several territories immediately.
Marketing Manager: Let’s stagger the launch – start immediately with those [pointing at the dashboard] and then increase stocks as quickly as possible. We’ll promote the second phase launches while we’re at it.
Notice in this meeting there wasn’t talk of “go away and find out x, y & z and we’ll pick this conversation back up when we have the information in hand.”
While most data systems offer reports, they can often be pre-canned to address specific questions you know you have. The best business dashboards help answer questions you don’t know prior that you will have. Using key metrics, in a tool that allows you to visualize and drill into them on demand, can help your team make better, faster decisions.
If you’re not having meetings with a dashboard at your fingertips then you are not leveraging the full potential of your data (and likely spending a fair bit of time with your staff juggling spreadsheets). As a result you are not operating your business at its full potential.
If you accept all this, but don’t know where to start, you will want to read our next blog post where we describe the road-map to dashboard success.
Stay tuned and keep an eye out for our widget-gadget bundles … they’re unreal!
Luke is a management consultant specializing in Business Intelligence with qualifications in Engineering, Psychology, and both Relational and Multi-dimensional Databases. He uses FileMaker to create dashboards for small business owners, CEO’s and directors of Fortune 500 companies.