Business processes generate a mountain of data. The challenge facing business owners and managers is to use that data to make intelligent decisions. So where do you start? Is every data item necessary? How much is all this going to cost?
The place to begin whittling down the data pile is to identify the company’s critical goals and the activities that have the greatest impact on achieving them. Critical goal are those having the biggest effect on the bottom line; achieve them and you’re in fat city, miss and you find yourself before the stakeholders begging for your job. Once you set the goals and determine the data to use as indicators your 90% home. The only thing that remains is selecting which option to use to keep it all organized.
The high cost option is an out of the box, customizable dashboard, an automated system that interfaces directly with you your business process. One that collects and collates data in near real time so it can be presented to you in the comfort of your own office on your monitor, accurate and timely. There are quite a few good ones out there and it’s the way to go if you have the budget to buy the system and you have the processes for the system to tie into. Chances are there are more business that can’t or don’t than there are those that can and do.
We all want to make the best decisions whether we’re a one person operation or a public giant. We need something simpler and less expensive. The answer in this case is your favorite spreadsheet program, the one that came bundled with all your other software. That spreadsheet and your telephone provide you with all the tools you really need to put together a dashboard. Without getting fancy they can be set up quickly, data can be entered easily and your information can be presented visually.
Now for the benefits.
1. Dashboards improve communication. It can be a complicated process to keep communication channels from becoming crossed and confused. In many instances, a dashboard can reduce or completely eliminate the need for confusing memo, meetings and conversation. Want to see how sales are doing in another branch or territory? Want to know what the award of a big contract is going to do to the bottom line? Get straight, simple answers at the click of a mouse.
Furthermore, you can access your data from home or on the road using a Blackberry, a PDA, or other piece of mobile technology. Dashboards improve communication by making data easier to comprehend and more up-to-date, it also makes it more accessible.
2. Dashboards save time. Decision makers need the flexibility to recognize and act on trends. A dashboards’ real time, or near real time access permit this by saving historical data and producing charts, graphs and tables on the fly. No more spending days in the file room sift through pages of confusing or complicated numbers to find the needed figures, collating them and then sitting down with a calculator to create actionable information. If you’re using one of the out of the box alternatives the information is immediately available. If you’re relying on an automated spreadsheet, the information is never any older than the last time you entered the data.
3. Dashboards eliminate guesswork. The data, either acquired or entered, is accurate and can be presented in a way that is clear and precise. Your dashboard also allows you to calculate alternatives based on “what ifs” and conditional assumptions.
While a dashboard can present data it can’t provide answers but it can speed up, and simplify the decision-making process ensuring that the decision maker acts with the best available information. Not a member of the senior management team? No problem. Any employee regularly supporting achievement of their own or their organizational goals is a candidate for a dashboard.
Dan Light, Principal, Dan Light Consulting, LLC is considered one of the world’s leading management consultants and advisors. He specializes in business development, turnarounds and business coaching.
His focus has been to double smaller companies, often in weeks, and to similarly increase the output of his larger clients by identifying root causes and removing the obstacles that have prevented their success. He achieves these results by helping clients:
- develop or hone business skills,
- remove self imposed limitations,
- identify/implement sound business systems
He transforms potential into exceptional performance. mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org