No matter what business sector you’re in, raising the bottom line is probably your organization’s chief KPI. While spreadsheets are a longstanding – if not iconic – tool used by countless finance professionals and departments, they fall short of delivering the actionable insight and ease of use that a financial dashboard can provide.
In short, a financial dashboard allows businesses and their finance teams to track, analyze, and understand the financial status and performance of their organization. What’s more, this type of dashboard provides a layer of data visualization that spreadsheets could never contribute, making it easier than ever to track profit margins, sales, expenses, and more – all in crystal-clear detail.
5 Types of Financial Dashboards
There are a variety of different types of financial dashboards. Each type focuses on a specific area of analysis, which makes it easy to stay organized and gain actionable insight. When you try to cram too many financial KPIs into one dashboard, you may end up causing more harm than good.
Some of the most common types of financial dashboards are profit and loss, cash management, financial performance, profit margin analysis, and accounts receivable and payable dashboards. Depending on the size of your organization and the scope of your goals, one, several, or all of these variations could be beneficial to your organization.
Profit and Loss Dashboard
As the name implies, a profit and loss (or P&L) financial dashboard is a report that summarizes revenue, expenses, and cost acquired throughout the course of a fiscal year. At its core, a P&L statement is successful when it demonstrates the following:
- Whether the organization gained or lost revenue throughout the financial year
- Why the business made or lost money
- What costs could be reduced to increase the profit margin, etc.
In short, P&L dashboards are much more than a bank statement; they help upper management find new ways to reduce unnecessary expenses and raise the bottom line. Some common KPIs for P&L dashboards include gross profit margin, net profit margin, operating expense ratios, and operating profit margin.
Cash Management Dashboard
Instead of focusing on where finances landed at the end of a fiscal period, cash management reports hone in on what the business’ current cash flow situation is like. Often, these dashboards are most useful for determining whether the company can afford its short-term financial liabilities and debts. Two important metrics for cash management dashboards are:
- Current ratio: How the business’ cash blow stacks up against the money it owes short-term, including the liquidity of the business.
- Quick ratio: The business’s ability to pay short-term debts but without taking liquidity into consideration.
For both your company’s current and quick ratio, you should aim to have a ratio higher than 1:1 to ensure that you can pay off your obligations. In the end, monitoring cash flow is one of the best ways to improve the financial health of your company. When you compare your projections to your actual results on a dashboard, you can quickly identify areas in need of optimization.
A profit margin analysis or CFO scorecard pulls financial information from every corner of the organization and creates a simple, streamlined place to manage budgets and view income statements. It should also include cash flow information and detail the value of specific assets.
The dashboard example above allows you to easily measure your actual assets, cash flow, liabilities, and income statement against your forecasted numbers. You can also view AR and AP aging by territory for different time ranges, such as week-to-date (WTD) and year-to-date (YTD). Click here to interact with this CFO scorecard and learn how to build a similar one for your organization.
Financial Performance Dashboard
Financial performance dashboards seek to provide a high-level view of how a business should spend its revenue. It also highlights the primary metrics that influence the organization’s overall balance. Four useful metrics to include are:
- Return on Assets (ROA)
- Working Capital Ratio (WCR)
- Return on Equity (ROE)
- Debt-Equity Ratio (DER)
By combining these four metrics, users gain a bird’s eye view of revenue liability and investment opportunities – the keys to monitoring the real-time success of the company.
Accounts Receivable & Accounts Payable Dashboard
This type of dashboard (also called an AR & AP dashboard) helps financial personnel itemize and understand where the business stands in terms of its accounts receivable and payable. Two of the most important metrics for this type of financial dashboard are:
- Accounts payable turnover ratio, or how quickly the business can pay off suppliers and other bills/overhead. In short, this metric tells you how many times your company can pay its balances over the course of a year or another specific timeframe.
- Accounts receivable turnover ratio, or how quickly a business can collect payments owed by clients and/or customers. This metric also measures how effective the business is in extending credit, and the number of times it can collect payment during a specific period.
Best Practices for Financial Dashboards
Just like any other business dashboard, financial dashboards meld the precision of data with the beauty of data visualization. One of the many benefits of data visualization is that it allows users to chart their organization’s performance, while also highlighting hidden correlations between seemingly unrelated metrics.
In order to do this, though, you’ll need to create a clean, simple, and functional dashboard. Here are a few guiding principles:
- Know your charts and graphs. Picking the right chart or graph may seem like a simple task, but it’s more complicated than simply finding a chart that looks nice. Study your metrics and identify which ones convey information most effectively.
- Focus on the user experience. Try to remove the “middleman” of having to read and actively comprehend information – especially numbers. By focusing on removing as much mental work for your users as possible, you’ll be one step closer to creating a dashboard that accomplishes its end-goal.
- Don’t be afraid of negative space. In other words, avoid a cluttered dashboard! Clutter makes it challenging for users to understand metrics and distracts them from the overarching data narrative. By utilizing negative space in your dashboard, you’ll draw attention to the most important metrics.
- Practice, practice, practice. Just like your company’s financial strategy, your dashboard requires monitoring and ongoing adjustments. Once you’ve launched it, reassess its effectiveness after a set period of time, such as 30 days. Continue this cycle so your dashboard doesn’t grow stale, and instead grows with your company.