Business Analysis

How (and why) to use a Business Dashboard

09.02.2022

In my role at Active Directions, I help clients build easy-to-understand dashboards that monitor their business performance. The beauty of a cloud-based dashboard is that you can get a clear, regularly updated view of your business performance across many key metrics. Dashboards give you transparency, help you develop contingency plans, and help you better manage your customer relationships.

Over the years, we’ve built many effective dashboards for clients, and in this article, I m sharing a few of the most important lessons, I’ve learned along the way.

1. Understanding your data is powerful

Having visibility across the key functions of your business is crucial to growth and success. A dashboard can pull data from many different sources which means you can get a bird s eye view of your business and then drill down into different areas of focus, as required. In my experience two of the business functions that benefit from a dashboard are Supply Chain/Operations and Sales.

The Dashboards I build, help businesses with demand planning, stock forecasting and managing inventory. I also work with Clients to build Customer-facing dashboards that allow their key accounts to have a clear view on supply times, stock levels and delivery tracking.

Stock Forecasting

Column graphs can be used to measure the amount of product that is in various stages along the supply chain for e.g. either on the ground (OTG) or in transit.

Dashboards with bar graphs can help you keep track of stock levels across your product mix so that you know how much of a particular product you have left and when to order more.

Sales

I’ve also found that Dashboards are an incredibly motivating tool for Sales Teams. Not only do you get an up-to-the-minute view of how your Sales are tracking day-to-day but the transparency across your Sales Division acts as a real motivator.

A line graph with a daily target can make reporting very simple and clear and an easy way to track sales against a target day-to-day.

Gauges can also be utilised to keep track of daily/monthly targets to provide a visual representation of the performance analysis of a company.

2. Working with Data doesn’t have to be complicated

I always tell my clients that we can build a dashboard with any of the data you have access to. At Active Directions, we can help you centralise and organise all your data, identify which key metrics you want to track and because we re tool-agnostic we ll create a dashboard that works for your business.

We use a range of BI tools to do dashboarding:

Power BI

This Data Visualisation tool from Microsoft is super powerful. You can collate data from lots of different sources to create interactive, immersive dashboards and reports. Your data can be an Excel spreadsheet, or a collection of cloud-based and on-premises hybrid data warehouses. Power BI Desktop is a free self-service data analysis and reporting tool that you can install on your Windows computer and connects to more than 70 data sources.

Power BI Pro is a paid service that allows you to share data dashboards and reports with other Power BI Users.

Klipfolio

With Klipfolio you can automate the monitoring, exploration and sharing of your metrics and KPIs using their real-time dashboard and analytics platform. It brings all your metrics together in to one place and is great for businesses as they scale.

Klipfolio has tiered monthly pricing depending on requirements and its Pro subscription allows a 15-minute data refresh so you can get up to the minute information to make data-driven decisions.

Tableau

Like the two options above, Tableau is an integrated business intelligence (BI) and analytics solution that helps you analyse key business data and generate meaningful insights. You can collect data from multiple source points like SQL databases, spreadsheets, Google Analytics and Salesforce to create a collective dataset.

Tableau can be customised depending on your industry vertical and can either be installed onto desktops or used as a cloud SaaS application. You can start with a free trial and then move to a licence that suits your requirements.

3. A simple Dashboard is a gamechanger

The most important thing to remember is that a Dashboard needs to be easy-to-understand and use. There is no point in creating a complex dashboard with 100s of data sources if they don t help you tell the story you need tell. A good dashboard design will make the complex simple, correctly represent the data and users should be able to drill down as they need to.

Tips and Tricks
  • Don’t complicate things! Simple models are better at being able to demonstrate what you want to showcase to your audience.
  • Ask for feedback. Going the extra mile to improve your reports/models so that they are functional and useful is so important for onboarding and sustainability.
  • Research is key. Most questions you have about what data you want to show or how best to use a platform can be answered through online forums and other examples.
  • Seeing how others set up the dashboards and data sources can ensure your model/reporting is exactly as you want it to be.
  • Keep trying and failing! Each time the report/model is not quite right you learn new tricks as well as new ways of effectively showcasing your data.
About the Author
Darcy Barlow is a Business Analyst at Active Directions. He helps clients build easy-to-understand dashboards that monitor their business performance. Darcy can help businesses scale quickly whilst effectively managing stock levels and delivering transparency in sales reporting.

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