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Get Your Motor Running! 10 Steps to Effective Dashboards

Business intelligence was once considered complicated, time consuming and expensive, needing lots of IT resources to develop and maintain. Thankfully, this is no longer the case. Today, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are increasingly using business intelligence to gain insights, improve operations and reach each next step in their success.

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. At a glance! It’s powerful information to have at your fingertips so you can make quicker decisions and ensure that everyone in the company is on the same page. But don’t worry about sensitive data! Using the right system will allow you to lock this down using roles and permissions.

The race is on

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.

Still wondering if you and your business really needs a dashboard? Think about it this way. If you were in a competition to race across the Nullabour Plain, would you choose to drive a 1910 model T-Ford using a printed map or would you rather select a modern car with built-in GPS for directions and a dashboard capable of displaying speed, engine alerts, and fuel levels?

We’re talking business intelligence horsepower. That’s the difference dashboards can make.

While there is no doubt that the modern car will win hands down, notwithstanding speed and technology advantages, the above analogy illustrates how a company with a dashboard can outsmart the competition and stay ahead of the pack.

Get in pole position

Now that we’ve established that dashboards can be effective for SMEs, here’s our our top ten tips for getting the most out of them. Essentially, you want to 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 desktop or mobile devices.

Follow these steps for dashboard success:

  1. Consider the objectives – What is it that you are trying to accomplish with your dashboard? Think carefully about the messages you want to convey, 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. More importantly, they must relate to performance and have associated KPIs.
  3. Provide visuals – Dashboards are all about making critical information fast and easy to read. A picture really is worth a thousand words here, 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 & 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 cashflow 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 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 – Yes, 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 – Birds of a feather do flock together, so 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. Get rid of clutter – Visual appeal is key, so keep your dashboard design clean and fresh. That means using caution with multiple colours, and styles. Select a standard that works for you and stick to it.
  9. 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.
  10. Ask for feedback – The most effective dashboards are always evolving. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback so you can gain insights into what is or what isn’t working, and make the necessary changes for continuous improvement.

Take the chequered flag

Ultimately, dashboards are there to help you take the pulse of your business – anytime, anywhere. Just as you check your car’s speed coming into the final straight of a race, look to your business intelligence dashboard to know when to plant your foot on the accelerator or, indeed, when to take it off.

Remember that a successful business is one that’s informed. If you have the ability to know the current state of your business and and can base your decisions on facts, not assumptions, you’ve got what it takes to achieve your goals.

For more information about how dashboards can be an integral part of helping you gain better business visibility and achieve your goals, get in touch to start a conversation today.

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