Executive dashboards, while on a desktop computer rather than a car, give the company owner the same real-time, at-a-glance information critical to making decisions, such as how fast revenue is coming in, the expenses for the quarter, inventory levels and more.
“Without the monitoring and instant feedback provided by the executive dashboard, management has to rely on human communication, which can be unreliable,” says Robert Garrett, director of software development for Perpetual Technologies Inc. of Indianapolis. “Problems could go unannounced by employees for days, weeks, or even months before the management team hears about it and formulates solutions.”
Smart Business spoke with Garrett about the key elements of a good executive dashboard, and how you can best utilize a dashboard to keep your business on the right road.
What does an executive dashboard look like?
Executive dashboards are data-driven software products designed to perform the same two functions as the automotive dashboard. Much like your car’s dashboard monitors your car, the executive dashboard monitors your business. It provides an up-to-date view of various monitors installed throughout the business process. Indicators might show a company’s revenue, profit, expenses, sales, client satisfaction index, or infrastructure status. The list of possible indicators is endless. Critical alerts triggered by these monitors can appear on the dashboard.
As you might imagine, executive dashboards vary greatly in function, depending on industry and audience.
Why it is crucial for an executive to have a dashboard?
An executive dashboard can provide a view of revenues or alerts for a given infrastructure. A dashboard might inform upper management if sales targets are being met on a daily basis. Perhaps a factory’s Q&A department is not meeting production quota, the web application is performing too slowly to service online customers, or a section of the internal network is down. These are all items that can be reported quickly via an executive dashboard.
Who, in a company, can benefit from using executive dashboards?
Executive dashboards are primarily used in management, but also have an audience of system, network and database administrators. Certain dashboard products can provide very specific views of the infrastructure. These views might allow management to pinpoint problem areas and take appropriate action quickly, thus minimizing financial impact to the organization.
Are dashboards being used only by higher-level executives? What are other applications?
Management is using executive dashboard for quick notification of problems that affect the bottom line. Quick response to these problems is critical to keep a company running smoothly.
Network, system and database administrators use dashboards for notification of problems that affect the infrastructure that they manage. Quick response to infrastructure issues keeps clients and management happy, and the company running smoothly.
Employees can use dashboards as well. An inventory-tracking system notifies the employee when it’s time to reorder a widget.
What are some of the key reasons for a business owner to get an executive dashboard?
By using executive dashboards, managers can:
1) Make well-informed and more-intelligent decisions
2) Generate detailed reports in a matter of seconds (financials, sales results, growth, expenses, etc.)
3) View up-to-date data categorized by region, department, division or nearly any conceivable attribute
4) Identify business or processing areas that tend to be inefficient, and increase profits
The last one is the kicker. Those extra dollars can be invested back into the company to help ensure growth and market position. Usually an executive dashboard solution will provide many times its cost in savings.
What should a business owner look for when selecting a dashboard product?
The right executive dashboard product is a low-maintenance, automated system. These systems analyze business processes, track performance, display and send alerts, build and deliver reports, and provide a business with intimate knowledge of itself. The business owner should review many dashboard products and choose one which most closely provides the type of monitoring needed. Developers can build custom monitors to meet unique needs.
What are some of the advances being made in executive dashboards?
In the coming years, look for software companies to offer intelligent, custom-fit-by-industry dashboard solutions. Custom-fit solutions promise the same benefits with a lower cost of deployment.
ROBERT GARRETT is the director of software development for Perpetual Technologies Inc., an information system service provider based in Indianapolis, specializing in Oracle databases and Oracle applications on Unix platforms. Reach him at email@example.com or (317) 824-0393.