In the aftermath of the economic turmoil, corporate management is busier than ever making sure their company stays afloat and is profitable. Management teams have been tasked to cut costs and boost profits. Drastic measures are being taken to address the viability and profitability of the business. Performance Management (which includes activities to ensure goals are consistently being met in an effective and efficient manner) is often used to track important indicators of the business in an effort to make such decisions. These decisions, given the market conditions, can make or break the businesses.
How are these crucial decisions being made? And how good/effective are these decisions?
To make good decisions one needs proper insight into corporate performance metrics. Business Intelligence (BI) technology tries to provide the insightful information that management is looking for, usually pulling from a vast array of corporate databases. Business Intelligence may provide data sets, reporting tools, ad-hoc query tools, analytical tools and so on. These technologies organize, transform and present these huge data sets to the proper audiences, allowing them to make better informed decisions. Dashboards, in turn, are a mechanism to provide a graphical representation of this critical information for a particular function. Traditionally, this information has been accessed via reports. Dashboards have proven to be a much quicker, more efficient mechanism for presenting high level information.
Consider, for example, a national sales manager reviewing a 10-page report every morning, flipping through page after page to see how all fifty states are doing. This can be a burdensome task. Now consider a dashboard with, say, five graphs on it. One of the graphs is a US map with states grouped according to three different colors based on their current sales performance. What the sales manager needs to do now is have a quick glance at the US map for states in red color. This alerts the manager to the states that need attention. He or she can address the sales teams in these states, ignoring the others because they are performing as expected. The effort to identify problem areas just dropped significantly over the efforts to page through a multi-page report.
Quick and easy visibility into performance data is but one advantage of using dashboards. Other advantages include multi-level drilldown, alerts when thresholds are met, highlighting of interrelated data throughout a dashboards, and more. However, these benefits are topics for future blogs!
Zahid Ansari, iDashboards