Of all the business intelligence tools available, dashboards are by far the most popular, as they offer a consolidated, visual display of a company’s most important data. For example, you can see your bank balances, sales, upcoming bills, profitability, and get a handle on your key performance indicators (KPIs) all on the one screen.
By integrating data from multiple sources, using a dashboard allows you to get an understanding of the big picture, but it also gives you the power to drill down and examine the data in more detail.
Dashboards essentially make complex data digestible and useful. That means dashboards need to display real-time data, be visual, easy to understand and most of all, accessible from anywhere, anytime from any device.
Here are ten ways to get the most out of dashboards.
#1. Consider the objectives – What is it that you are trying to accomplish with your dashboard? Think carefully about the audience, who the users will be and how the information will be used.
#2. Choose the right metrics – Be selective in the metrics you display. They must be relevant to your organisation’s goals and strategic objectives, as well as the role of the person accessing the dashboard. More importantly, they must relate to performance and have associated KPIs.
#3. Use visuals – Dashboards are all about making critical information fast and easy to read. A picture really is worth a thousand words so turn numbers or tables into charts or graphs and leverage colour, shapes and shading, to improve readability and support your decision making.
#4. Keep it accurate and current – The various parts of your business including sales, marketing, finance and distribution, will rely on dashboard information to make decisions affecting sales quotas, stock management and cash flow projections, so make sure the information is accurate and current.
#5. Make it actionable – Effective dashboards need to move beyond just displaying critical information. Your team needs to be alerted or be able to drill down to access further detail behind a certain KPI to take action to address any issues or harness opportunities.
#6. Be concise – Less is always more when it comes to dashboards. Users should be able to view the information on a single screen for a quick view. Anything bigger or longer and you risk losing the attention of your users. Remember bite size chunks are always easier to digest.
#7. Group related metrics – Don’t be afraid to group associated measures together. For example, group inventory and warehousing together for a bird’s eye view of your products.
#8. Provide easy access – This one is essential. All good applications are easy to access with very few click-throughs or steps so do the same with your dashboard and you’ll maximise usage.
#9. Ask for feedback – The most effective dashboards are always evolving. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback so you can gain insight into what is or what isn’t working, and make the necessary changes for continuous improvement.
#10. Customise – Each role or user should be able to easily customise their dashboard to meet their specific role requirements. They should be able to drive their day-to-day activities via their dashboard. This may be reminders and tasks to do that day (such as follow up sales calls, get orders out the door or re-ordering to maintain preferred stock levels in the warehouse) and easily see progress towards their KPIs (such as sales pipeline, orders pending to be fulfilled or stock on-hand availability). Remember less is more so keep it specific to the role.
Remember that a successful business is one that’s informed. If you have the ability to know the current state of your business and can base your decisions on facts, not assumptions, you’ve got what it takes to achieve your goals.
Stephen Canning is the CEO of JCurve Solutions
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