If you’re running a successful business you’re probably looking at some important numbers on a weekly or monthly basis. While there are a number of names for these number reporting systems (Scorecard, Critical Numbers, KPI’s) most of our clients call them a Dashboard. We’ve helped a lot of clients automate these over the years so we wanted to share a few common problems that clients develop when they use a company dashboard along with a few quick ideas to make them easier and more beneficial to use.
Problem 1: You spend too much time collecting information for your dashboard each week
We work with countless managers who tell us they spend most of their time before the weekly dashboard meeting sending emails, stopping by people’s office and making phone calls to get the information they need for their dashboard. The root of this comes from not having a good central location for storing and reporting your information. A lot of our clients have a number of locations where information comes from such as their accounting system, CRM (like SalesForce) and often outside vendors. This makes data collection time consuming.
Solution: Create a single place everyone posts information. This can be as simple as creating a Google Sheet that everyone can access from anywhere that has an internet connection. At a glance you can see who has updated their information and then send a single email to everyone who still needs to check in. If you want to get more advanced you can do what some of our client do which is pull the data in automatically. A lot of online software applications like SalesForce, PayChex, or your local SAP install have what is called an API that lets a computer request the information automatically for you. This allows you to get data in real time if you want but regardless it eliminates the time people spend.
Problem 2: The data isn’t meaningful
How often have you heard this in a company meeting? “Our sales pipeline is looking really good.” What does “really good” mean? Was it “kinda good” last week and now it’s better or was it “Amazingly good” last week and now it’s dropped to “really good?” Most numbers need to have a trend line so we can see if we are getting better or worse. Again the simple solution is to get the numbers off a marker board or piece of paper and put them into a spreadsheet. If you track the numbers weekly create a spreadsheet with 52 columns and save them each week instead of erasing them and putting them up each week. After a few weeks you’ll have a trend line so you can see what is improving or declining.
If you want to get really fancy consider creating a 12 week trailing average for numbers that tend to fluctuate a lot based on weather, monthly cycles, or something else beyond your control. If you have the budget to create an internal website (intranet) that stores and reports these numbers on graphs you’ll see a huge difference in employee engagement when they can get the information themselves. Lastly, share information with people that matters to them. Make your dashboard have different views so people see what matters to them instead of getting lost in all the clutter.
Problem 3: No one takes action on the numbers
The last problem is one of the saddest we see when we start working with clients. They’ve made a huge investment in developing their company dashboard, they spend a lot of time each week updating it and sharing it with the team and then… no one does anything with it. You tell everyone late shipments are around 50% and everyone nods their heads and leaves the meeting with no change in behavior. We have seen a really simple fix to this. Update the number more often then you are doing it now. For instance if you update it monthly start updating it weekly. If weekly then update it daily. Put the goal at the top of a board and then constantly update progress each week. If you update the numbers prior to the reporting period it makes people feel like they can change the final results. If you just tell them “last week we did 50%” they don’t feel like they can adjust it.
Again, this can be automated by an application and putting the result on a monitor. One client has a monitor with 3 key numbers that get updated every 5 minutes. The monitor is in their production facility where everyone can see it.
In summary if you are running a company dashboard now you can improve it by giving everyone one easy online place to update their numbers, turn plan reported numbers into trends so everyone can see change, and lastly make the numbers visible before the reporting period so people feel they can impact the final result.