In today’s business world, competition is tougher than ever before. To gain an edge, business leaders seek out any advantage possible. Business owners need a way to keep their fingers on the pulse of their businesses. In order to remain competitive, business owners have to find ways to easily monitor the performance of their companies. Not surprisingly, many business owners are turning dashboard software as a way of keeping abreast of their company’s performance. With business dashboards, business owners are able to monitor various data points generated by their business activities. Whether these data points come from the marketing, sales or operations departments, business dashboards offer a unique perspective allowing users to view critical data at a glance. Having this information at their fingertips allows the unique benefit of diagnosing problems early and making the necessary adjustments. Unfortunately, however, while there many different types of dashboard software available, they are not all created equally. Choosing the wrong software can not only leave you frustrated, but can do more harm than good. However, every dashboard builder should offer a few key features. Here are eight things to look for.
Easily Customized – Not all employees want the same thing from their dashboards. For instance, sales and marketing need to monitor different metrics. The same goes for the company’s Chief Financial Officer or Operations Manager. Subsequently a dashboard needs to be customizable so that each employee could adjust it to fit his or her needs. Ultimately, the data presented must make sense to the reader. Apart from choosing which metrics to monitor, this also means being able to view the data in a way that makes sense to the user. When users are allowed to arrange and adjust their dashboards in a way that makes sense to them, they are more likely to want to use it regularly.
Drag and Drop – A drag and drop interface will allow users to determine for themselves which widgets are important to them. Thus, users will be allowed to remove or switch widgets which they don’t need. In addition to this, the positioning of various widgets on the screen is important in how users absorb and understand the data. In this way, grouping related dashboard elements can allow users to understand the correlation between various data points.
Dashboard Must Utilize a Single Page – The idea behind a dashboard is to have the data available at a glance. Users should not have to scroll through the page to see hidden widgets. Far too many people try to fit in an excess of data points when in fact the only data points you truly need are the actionable ones. Business owners and their various employees should be able to understand how their businesses are progressing just from a single glance.
Drill Down Capability – Dashboards supply users with a highly-condensed view of the available data. However, this data may not tell the entire story. Therefore it is necessary to allow users to drill down on their widgets allowing them to see even more relevant data. For instance if a sales manager’s Sales Team Response Time widget relays the average time a sales representative responds to a lead, the dashboard user should be able to drill down to investigate patterns such as days and times on which sales response times are slowest. Thus, the best dashboards by default display high level data which can then be dissected into more meaningful portions.
Information Must Be Current – A dashboard is meant to display information that is always up-to-date. This, after all, is the difference between a dashboard and a (static) report. While a report furnishes readers with historical data, a dashboard is meant to supply the user with data that is timely and actionable. If your widgets do not allow you to act on the data presented, they should not be included on your dashboard. If they are, they may be nothing more than a distraction and may prompt you to make decisions based on outdated information.
Data Must Be Actionable – The main reason behind having a business dashboard is to make available data that can be acted upon. There is little point to receiving data that does not help you to make decisions in steering your company. If your data cannot propel you to action, there is no point in measuring it. This is also true for data that is confusing or too muddled. Data should speak to the user in order to be relevant.
Cloud Based – For a dashboard to be fully useful, it must be available in the cloud. Cloud-based dashboards are easier to deploy and are also easy to maintain. Having your dashboard live in the cloud also means that it is available on a variety of different platforms. Thus, if you aren’t able to make it to your office, you can still access it via the cloud. This is especially true since much of the data that you may oversee already exists in the cloud. However it is important to keep abreast of storage limitations that may prevent you from saving as much data as you please to the cloud.
Allow Users to Collaborate – A good dashboard will allow its users to collaborate with each other. Apart from being able to share the same data, users should be able to leave comments and create slideshows. It may even supply you with annotation tools to make communication easier. As an added bonus, your dashboard software may also periodically send you reports and program notifications.
With so many different business dashboards to choose from, knowing which is best suited to you can become overwhelming. With so many features to consider it may be difficult to find the one that fits you and your business the best. However, remember the software you eventually settle on can impact your business significantly. Therefore it is important to examine all of the features and choose wisely.