Business Tips | Data Strategy

I like to keep my ear to the ground in the world of business intelligence, so when I come across something that is unfamiliar to me, I tend to geek out a bit. Recently, as I was researching dashboards (as one is so often doing), I came across an interesting video from Noah Kagan about proactive dashboards.

He was discussing some of the most common pain points of an executive trying to grow his company and gain traction. He wondered why – no matter how hard his team worked – nothing was moving his revenue numbers. He had no clue what was going wrong or what he could do to improve his results to reach his targets.

Then, he broke it down…

  • Can you control your revenue number?
  • Can you control the number of customers you have?
  • So… what can you control?

In order to increase revenue, he had to get more customers. He knew that one step in the right direction would be to conduct more outreach. Finally, something he could easily measure, track, report, and – most importantly – control.

It seems that recently, many entrepreneurs and business owners have latched onto the trend. When asked what he does to set and track department-specific goals at Location Rebel, Founder Sean Ogle told Forbes:

“[My proactive dashboard] helps me focus on the metrics and data I can control rather than worrying about what I can’t. Now we have a much tighter system for tracking that we can use and will be able to drill down directly to see exactly what is working and what we need to improve”

I decided to dig a bit deeper to educate myself on what proactive dashboards are all about. I found that there is much more than meets the eye!

Proactive vs. Predictive Dashboards

Proactive vs. Predictive Dashboards

While the term proactive dashboards is fairly new, there has been some buzz around the idea of predictive dashboards for some time now. However, it’s important not to get them confused, because they are very different concepts.

Predictive dashboards are groupings of charts and graphs that describe a single phenomenon, such as sales and profitability. Since humans are good at pattern recognition, they can draw actionable insights from the valuable patterns and trends in the data. Understanding the past and creating a model from it, and then extrapolating that, can be used to predict the future of sales, finance, production, and pretty much any other business area.

Proactive dashboards, on the other hand, are not used to predict the future. They are used to inform your future self by tracking your activities and the progress you are making towards achieving a goal.

How to Build Your Own Proactive Dashboard

How to Build Your Own Proactive Dashboard

  • Define a clear goal
    • The whole purpose of a proactive dashboard is to align and track your efforts towards a goal. When your goal is specific and measurable, it is easier to see the impact of your efforts. The timeline for achieving this goal will vary, but in most cases, it will be set for a quarter or year. Remember that this is your high-level goal – like revenue, for example.
  • Map it out
    • If you are trying to get a certain number of sales, for example, you will want to plan out how to break that number down into achievable monthly goals. This will help you see whether or not you are on track for the annual (or quarter) goal. Then, you add in all of the activities and tasks you are doing to hit those numbers. You can set initial goals and adjust depending on whether or not you are reaching your monthly objective. It’s a living dashboard.
  • Revise your plan
    • It might take some time to figure out what does and doesn’t work. While your proactive dashboard will only include things that you have control over, you will need to look at those numbers in relation to a secondary number. If you dedicate yourself to accomplishing a task and it is consistently not impacting this secondary number, chances are that they don’t correlate as well as you thought they would. Consider another way to reach that goal.

Read next: Why Your Startup Needs Dashboards

Things to Consider When Setting Up a Proactive Dashboard

Things to Consider When Setting Up a Proactive Dashboard

  • Think about the formatting
    • Your proactive “dashboard” can be anything from a simple Excel spreadsheet to a visually-appealing and interactive dashboard with charts and graphs. Either way, you shouldn’t be overwhelmed with the idea of building a dashboard.
    • There are plenty of tools and resources out there to help you create an effective proactive dashboard, whether you need help with technique, strategy, or design. You may even find some helpful information on this very website (*gasp*).
  • Measurements must be dependent on you
    • The key word here is proactive. Therefore, you can’t measure anything that already happened (retroactive). For example, if you are looking at revenue numbers, that is retroactive data. Your future actions can’t change those data points. There is nothing that you can do about it and it is completely independent of you. Instead, you needed to measure something that depends on you entirely. Noah measured the number of outreach emails he sent out, for example. That was it. He just couldn’t include the number of responses or anything else that was out of his control.
  • Experiment
    • Don’t be afraid to add or remove things from your proactive dashboard. You may start out measuring some tasks that don’t necessarily make a difference when it comes to reaching your goals. You may also want switch up your goal and see if there is a better return on (time) investment for a smaller or larger number. You have to get comfortable making adjustments, even if it seems small.

What do you think of the concept of proactive dashboards? Leave a comment below, or find us on social media @iDashboards to join the conversation!

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Jennifer Horne Sr. Digital Marketing Coordinator @iDashboards

Jennifer Horne handles SEO, PPC, content and digital marketing for iDashboards. She has won multiple 30 Rock trivia competitions, makes a mean green curry, and loves living in Detroit.


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