Why use a dashboard?
Dashboards are tools that display key business metrics on a single screen in a way that is easy to read and understand.
They speed things up by eliminating the time it takes to compile and access the information, so more time can be spent using the information to make decisions and take action to stay ahead.
The great thing about online dashboard tools (see Klipfolio for a good example) is that they make it possible to combine information from several systems, rather than having to spend extra time and rely on expensive, error-prone people to move the data around.
In a recent piece of work we used a dashboard to calculate and display gross profit information for various areas of the business by combining sales data from one system and wages data from another, providing visibility that wasn’t possible before. The data is now displayed as easy-to-read graphs that update automatically in realtime.
The other massive advantage of modern dashboards is smartphone compatibility. Not only can you view all the information in one place, you can do it from anywhere in the world.
So you can still keep an eye on things if you decide to go fishing for the afternoon.
What to measure?
The key to deciding what to measure and display in your dashboard is understanding two aspects of business performance:
1. What activities or factors are required for the business to succeed (referred to as critical success factors – CSFs – in consulting speak)
2. What metrics can be used to tell if the CSFs, and possibly other business objectives, are being met (key performance indicators – KPIs).
They most important things to measure a few things well, and focus on the information that provides most value.
Now make things better
Once you’ve got visibility of how the business is performing, you can start using your data to guide business improvement activities.
There are two main things about a business process that will point you in the right direction.
1. Whether the process overall is delivering the results you expect.
2. Which steps in your process are being reliably followed, and which are being avoided or done poorly or incompletely
Armed with both pieces of information, it will be possible to apply a laser-like focus to identifying process waste, and spend productive time making things better.