Like most business owners, you have probably been urged by industry experts and professional advisors to identify the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) for your company. So, just for the sake of discussion, we will say you have done that. A natural question that often follows is: Now what? You know you are supposed to keep an eye on these metrics every day but how?
The right technology will take care of it for you. There is a specific type of software — commonly referred to as a ‘business dashboard’ — that allows business owners to create customized views of all their chosen KPIs. And these applications do not just lay out numbers like a spreadsheet. They provide an easy visual experience that allows you to keep your eyes on the prize: a cost-controlled, profitable company.
Business dashboards have been around for a decade or two in various forms. But today’s solutions have the advantage of being cloud-based, meaning the data driving them is typically stored on a secure server off-site. Meaning you also can access the dashboard from anywhere at any time on an authenticated device. (You also can run a dashboard from your company’s own servers, if you prefer).
If you have never used a dashboard before, you might wonder what one looks like. The name says it all. Ideally, a dashboard is a single screen of data — like the panel of gauges in your car — that displays various KPIs in the form of pie charts, bar graphs, and other graphic elements.
A few must-haves
When shopping for a product, there are a few ‘must-haves’ to insist on. The software should:
- Support your chosen KPIs
- Present itself in a visually pleasing, logical manner that allows you to easily, intuitively follow those KPIs
- Update itself in real time, enabling you to react quickly to sudden swings in your company’s financial performance
Be wary of vendors that over-promise ‘otherworldly’ knowledge of your industry or try to upsell you on bells and whistles. The simpler the dashboard, the better. There will always be more complex financial issues regarding your business that cannot be put into simple terms on a dashboard.
Also, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is causing many to question the long-term viability of business dashboards. AI gathers and shapes data so quickly, and in such massive amounts, that some experts argue that a business owner’s chosen KPIs can rapidly become outmoded.
Nonetheless, dashboard software is still widely used in many industries. Just be prepared to regularly reassess and, if necessary, update your KPIs.
If you decide to invest in a business dashboard (or upgrade your current one), you will need to go about it carefully. We can help you set a budget and compare prices and functionalities to get an optimal return on investment.