In general, most business owners and managers like people. You might say that they’re “people people.” Most got into the business they’re in because they had a good idea, a way to sell that idea, and they enjoyed it.
However, few business owners and managers enjoy poring over business data and reports all to find bits of seemingly random data that can be pieced together for a more efficient way to run their operations. Although it’s a good skill to have, it’s one that few professionals truly enjoy (often accountants, actuaries, or bureaucrats), and it’s simply not a common skill.
But having access to and understanding data is important. Knowing how various parts of business performance affect other parts, especially issues with revenue and spending, is critical to business operations in the short and long term.
Most users can be quickly overcome by mountains of business data that is difficult to decipher. Not too long ago, it could even take an experienced accountant considerable time and effort to mine the Excel reports to get this information. Data is so overwhelming in its entirety that trying to narrow your focus is too challenging (similar to the adage about not being able to see the forest for the trees).
Business and Financial Dashboards Show Your Business, At-a-Glance
Fortunately, dashboards now make staying on top of these issues much more simple. They allow the business owner to have instant access to the specific data they need, in real-time, so they can make informed business decisions. This is inherently better and more accurate than trying to make business decisions based on data that could be days, weeks, or even months old.
The dashboard screens are often the home screen within their business management or accounting system, and essentially provide instant reports delivered via interactive graphics. This can greatly ease the burden on accounting professionals tasked with explaining the data to their clients. Dashboards make data understandable and intuitive.
The increasing adoption of mobile devices has also greatly increased the value of dashboards, allowing professionals to quickly monitor their KPIs while on the go.
Do You Know Your Dashboard KPIs?
Similar to the dashboard in a car, these business and financial dashboards give a visual display that allows management to continually monitor performance across important areas. These are known as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). They can be top level stats such as sales revenue and expenses, but can also be more narrowly defined to focus on specific product categories or expense types, regions, invoicing, accounts receivable, customers, benchmarks, or staff productivity.
Effective dashboards allow management to quickly drill down into underlying data.
5 Types of Business and Financial Dashboards
Another major benefit of dashboards is that they can be customized to show data that is important to the role of a specific user. For instance, a sales manager will want to track different KPIs than a manufacturing or shipping manager, and different still are the needs of the business owner or the accountant. Users can customize the settings of their dashboards to display the information they need to access at-a-glance to better perform their duties.
Operational and Financial Dashboards
There are many types of dashboards, most of which can be categorized as operational or financial. They depend on the needs of the individual user.
Accounting managers, for instance, will often want access to:
- revenue tracking,
- account watch-lists,
- real-time bank account data,
- AR aging,
- period comparisons,
- budget-to-actual analyses,
- overhead costs,
- cash flow projections,
- debt management,
- profit margins,
- overall business productivity measurements,
- and profitability.
For businesses with employees, additional tracking of labor costs, billable hours, and lost time is essential.
Users managing specific departments will need access to:
- specific production or sales details
- staffing productivity,
- inventory information,
- and customer-focused reporting.
Dashboards for Freelancers and Micro Businesses
Although larger enterprises are most concerned with the concept of business analytics and KPIs, even freelancers, gig economy workers, and individual entrepreneurs can benefit from them. And they are simple enough for almost any professional to use and understand.
For these small businesses, core data to track on a dashboard might include:
- pending and paid invoices,
- tracking the progress of projects,
- and year-to-date revenue.
When it comes to monitoring the performance of an Ecommerce business, the most important KPIs, include:
- website stats,
- website sales conversion rates (and period comparisons),
- and affiliate sales data.
But you can’t overlook traditional business financial data. Your dashboard should also include information such as:
- trending categories,
- inventory and cost of goods,
- and customer service metrics.
And Google Analytics provides an essential tool for most eCommerce or informational websites, offering data on traffic volume, source, location, pages per visit, and duration of visit.
Dashboards for Accountants
Accounting professionals also need access to financial dashboards, but with the added complexity of overseeing the activities of multiple clients. As such, dashboards for these professionals need to display which clients have activity that needs attention (such as potential problems with cash-flow, banking data, and spending). Accounting dashboards should also offer the ability to:
- track client financial transactions,
- view account data,
- monitor client user activity via an audit trail,
- and drill down into client books, when necessary.
5 Benefits of Business and Financial Dashboards
- More Efficient – Dashboards give users a quick overview of KPIs without having to dig through multiple reports and perform tedious analysis.
- Customizable – With the ability to tailor dashboards, each responsible user in an organization can keep track of the information they need, without having to weed through extraneous data.
- Proactive, Real-Time Responsiveness – Having at-a-glance access to live data allows users, and their accountants, to more quickly address potential problems.
- Drill-Down Capabilities – Since dashboards are built atop of the business management and accounting system, users can quickly dive into more granular reporting—even down to transactional details.
- Remote Access – Cloud-based accounting systems with dashboard views allow users, managers, and their accountants to stay abreast of the most pressing issues, even when traveling. It means you’re always able to readily present data to third parties.