We are all familiar with departmental reports as thick as novels and endless scrolling through electronic documents. But how effective are these reports, really? By the time managers compile and distribute information, it is outdated. And while electronic reports save trees, they are tiring to navigate.
The solution to this challenge lies in creating an information dashboard—a reporting tool that compiles key performance indicators on a daily basis. This next generation of reporting summarizes data concisely and is customized for each user. In many ways, an information dashboard is like the dashboard in your car. It displays key information at a glance and allows the user — whether a CEO, manager, or employee — to gauge performance in real time.
How does an information dashboard work?
It is always a challenge for a company to determine how the day-to-day activities of its employees contribute to the execution of the organization’s vision and strategy. Creating a dashboard allows executives to better evaluate data and measure progress against the company’s goals. It also enables employees to gauge their own individual performance on a regular basis.
The hallmark of an information dashboard is its ability to siphon information from other software programs — pulling sales data, production information, or accounting details — to produce a convenient report that appears like a ‘dashboard’. Information can be compiled into various types of graphs; the dashboard is customized for each individual. For example, a financial administrator’s dashboard will reveal key information about receivables or payroll. A CEO’s dashboard filters all the information from each department or business line into a comprehensive view of the entire business. Individual departments or divisions can also benefit. For example, in a manufacturing company, managers can use information dashboards to stay on top of orders, track the productivity and yield per employee or department, report on accounts receivables or cash flow, and see a daily summary of all activities.
How does a business get started?
Buying the software is the easy part; choose the program that fits best with your technology platform. Your IT manager or a consultant who understands information dashboard systems can guide you toward the right software. However, getting the maximum benefit from the software will only occur if you do some soul searching to evaluate your company’s goals and key performance indicators before you implement the software. Some key questions to consider:
- What do you want to measure?
- Where does that data reside in your existing systems?
- Are you already tracking this data, or will you need to devise a system for collecting that information?
- What does each manager need to know about his or her department’s performance on a daily basis?
- Once the information dashboard produces daily reports, how will managers act on that data? Will they design performance-based incentives for employees?
- How will this data reporting be used to propel the business toward its overall goals?
How can an information dashboard affect the culture of a company?
Daily reporting makes each employee more aware of individual performance and how it directly relates to the company’s success. Managers can see how their departments are performing relative to the goals that have been set for them. The daily report is a progress checkpoint that helps employees determine how best to stay on target. With performance information constantly available, there are no surprises. If used correctly, information dashboards can also be a basis for incentives as well as a tool for more productive employee performance reviews.
Considering the significant investment companies make in technology and data systems, an information dashboard is a key way to harness the power of that investment, using data to drive individual as well as the organization’s overall performance.
Sassan S. Hejazi can be reached at Email or 215.441.4600.