Management dashboards provide many benefits to organizations. Well-designed dashboards can provide key employees with a unified view of business-critical data, help managers ensure activities are in sync with earlier planned goals and strategies, improve existing error-prone spreadsheet-based reporting practices and provide deeper insights into the business data being collected by various systems.
Recent advances in information technologies have made it increasingly more affordable for organizations to company-wide management dashboard systems in support of nurturing a performance-based organizational culture. Dashboard projects, however, are much more than technological initiatives. To ensure project success, take a holistic implementation approach that incorporates key elements such as the people who will be using the dashboards and their decision- making processes, in addition to information technology-related issues.
We have seen many middle- market organizations utilize the following four-step process to successfully build management dashboards to increase business performance management capabilities:
1. Plan: The initial planning phase focuses on developing an overall vision for the project, built around addressing issues such as:
- What are our current performance management challenges?
- What type of key performance indicators can be used to best manage the organization?
- What type of management dashboards will make it easier for managers to make better decisions?
- How do we envision dashboards will be used by various managers throughout the organization?
- How will we create a sense of accountability as a result of using management dashboards?
2. Design: The design phase translates earlier agreed-upon plans into an overall solution blueprint and implementation roadmap. This phase encompasses activities such as:
- Finalizing a small but effective set of key performance indicators that can be used by managers throughout the organization to measure and improve business performance
- Reviewing the existing systems and processes that generate the baseline transactional data that will be used in management dashboards
- Developing a sustainable and manageable data management solution to best support current and future anticipated management dashboard needs
3. Build: The build phase is the actual process of building the solution using an iterative piloting approach to ensure solution design adheres with realistic user expectations. The build phase is usually composed of the following set of activities:
- Developing a “data mart” to act as an information repository for various dashboards
- Developing any necessary integrations with underlying transactional systems
- Developing a standardized user interface for dashboards that is most suitable for the organization and various stakeholders
- Developing a prototype and obtaining user feedback to ensure a well-designed solution
- Building on the prototype to create the “go live” version of the solution based on the requirements determined in the earlier planning and design phases
4. Enhance: The enhance phase embodies characteristics of the “continuous improvement” mindset, which is focused on improving the system after going live and building on project success to increase breadth and depth of the dashboard-based solution throughout the organization.
Dashboard projects are exciting organizational improvement initiatives if they are planned and executed in an effective manner. It is highly recommend taking a crawl, walk and then run approach with such projects to ensure you are building the most effective solution while reducing overall risks.
Management dashboards represent a paradigm shift in management reporting and, as such, can play a transformational role in helping organizations harness the power of their data in support of their performance management improvement efforts.