The days of departmental reports as thick as novels and endless scrolling through electronic documents are over for businesses that adopt an information dashboard. How effective is a paper report, 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 By the time managers compile and distribute information, it is outdated.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 is a reporting tool that compiles key performance indicators on a daily basis.
“The next generation of reporting is summarized, concise and customized for each user,” says Sassan S. Hejazi, Director of Technology Solutions at Kreischer Miller.
In many ways, an information dashboard is like the dashboard in your car. It displays key information and allows the user whether CEO, manager or employee to gauge his or her performance. “That information is presented in real time,” he says.
Information dashboards can monitor sales, production, accounting any business functions that managers want to track.
Smart Business discusses with Hejazi how these systems work, why they benefit businesses and how to get started.
How does an information dashboard work for businesses?
It is always a struggle for managers and executives to translate how day-to-day activities contribute to the business’s overall vision and strategy. A dashboard allows employees and managers to gauge their daily performance. It also enables managers and C-level executives to evaluate this data in terms of what the company must accomplish to achieve its goals. The hallmark of an information dashboard is its ability to siphon information from other software programs pulling sales data, production information, accounting details, etc. to produce a convenient report that appears like a ‘dashboard’ on the computer. Information can be compiled into various types of graphs; the dashboard is customized for each person. For example, a financial administrator’s dashboard will reveal key information about receivables or payroll. A CEO’s dashboard filters all information from managers’ dashboards into a report so he or she can take the pulse of the entire business at any time.
What type of business will benefit from an information dashboard?
It is imperative for every organization to manage its business performance to achieve goals and objectives. This is true for nonprofit and for-profit businesses of any size, in any industry. If you do not know where you stand today, how will you make changes in the business to improve and grow? Any business that has various departments or divisions by scale and size will also benefit from information dashboard capabilities. Top managers and executives can use this software tool as a way to regularly check performance so they can lead their departments. 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, and report on accounts receivables, cash flow, etc., and see a daily summary of all activities.
How does a business get started?
Buying the software is the easy part. You’ll choose a 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. But the program will be useless if you do not do some preliminary soul searching to evaluate your business’s goals and key performance indicators. What do you want to measure? Where does that data reside in your existing system? 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? All of this planning precedes software installation. It goes back to the old rule about input and output.
How can an information dashboard affect the culture of a company?
Daily reporting makes everyone in an organization aware of his or her performance and how his or her contribution directly relates to the company’s success. Managers can see how their departments measure up against the goals set for them. Everyone knows where he or she stands on key performance indicators. This can help unify employees’ efforts toward achieving established goals. The daily report is a progress checkpoint and employees can determine how they can work smart to stay on target. With performance information constantly available, there are no surprises. If used correctly, information dashboards can be a basis for incentives. Most companies have annual reviews for employees, but the information managers share during these meetings is usually after the fact. It’s too late for employees to change or improve. With real-time data, managers can continually review performance and keep employees informed.
Considering the significant investments businesses make in technology and data systems, an information dashboard is one way to harness this investment and use that data to improve everyone’s performance.
SASSAN S. HEJAZI is Director of Technology Solutions at Kreischer Miller in Horsham, Pa. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (215) 441-4600.