One of the greatest management challenges of the 21st Century is guiding large and complex organisations towards their goals. Technology plays a vital role in visioning the strategy and communicating it throughout the organisation as part of a broader performance management regime. Dashboards and scorecards are a key management tool that can be used to execute that strategy, says FSN writer Michelle Fabian.
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Dashboards and scorecards are complementary tools doing different jobs, says Bob Bedard, CEO, deFacto, “whilst scorecards are static reports that present a collection of key performance indicators (KPIs) together with performance targets for each KPI, dashboards provide a single consolidated real time view for performance against a range of KPIs across different parts of the organisation”.
Dashboards are an invaluable tool empowering management to take a proactive approach reviewing performance in real time and enabling more accurate decision making. Tony Bray, Managing Director, Intuitive Business Intelligence believes this is key, “as a senior manager would you rather know that you breached several KPIs a few weeks ago or be instantly warned that you are getting close to breaking a KPI, so that you can take corrective action? The value of dashboards lies in their ability to provide a ‘tap on the shoulder’ which alerts the user to a potential issue that, left unchecked would have a negative impact on performance”.
In an environment where senior management do not have the luxury of time to sift through numerous reports to make key business decisions. Bob Bedard believes “dashboards compliment reports by appealing to a different, more natural way of assimilating information – visually. The old saying of a picture is worth a thousand words has a direct corollary in the world of data visualisation. This combined with a movement from processing terabytes of data to Big Data, more and more people need to digest and make good decisions faster. So dashboard technologies are becoming even more important.”
This requirement for dashboards and the added value they bring is why many organisations have turned to specialised dashboard vendors rather than resorting to dashboards which have been built by BI Vendors. As Alex Oritz, Director of Product Marketing, Host Analytics believes “that in BI Vendors’ quest to be all things to all people they have made overly complex systems that are expensive and hard to manage and evolve by non-IT professionals. We see substantial demand from customers who are looking for easy to use dashboards that they can set-up and change themselves without having to call an outside specialist. Independent dashboard companies have shown organisations they can get up and running fast with little outside resources and without breaking the budget”.
A number of dashboard vendors including CXO-Cockpit, Intuitive Business Intelligence and Host Analytics as well as providers of CPM software such as deFacto now offer their products in the Cloud. The Cloud lessens the burden for organisations of owning and maintaining the software themselves potentially saving money, freeing up resources and increasing flexibility.
However, one dashboard vendor CXO-Cockpit has gone a step further building a dashboard along with an iPad and iPhone app to allow users to gain access to their financials on the move. This is becoming an increasingly popular service, Marcel Vlug, CEO, CXO-Cockpit has seen the numbers of inquiries for the app increase rapidly, “since the middle of last year 50% of the information requests were primarily about the CXO-Cockpit on iPad.” These requests have been driven by senior management and executives keen to be able to access key strategic information wherever they may be and make informed decisions quickly and accurately.
The important role a dashboard plays in flagging underperforming KPIs as well as in a slow growing economy spotting those that are over-performing has led to many organisations turning to cloud based and mobile solutions so that business managers can view KPIs on the move. CXO-Cockpit appear to be leading the way with their iPad and iPhone dashboard apps, however it is likely that a number of other dashboard vendors will be ‘hot on their heels’.