Figures are vital to secure the implementation of any project. They have many virtues: they allow you to anticipate, to pilot, or if needed, to change tack along the way while managing your business.
As a company leader, you must have a clear vision of the way awaiting for you and your company. It is crucial for you to set your goals in terms of turnover, recruitment, strategy or cash management. Thereupon, what indicators to trust? Advice from friends? Insights from your staff? Or from your own experience? No, you must better trust figures, because they are a trustworthy and reliable source of information that you will be able to compare in the long run.
The previously mentioned virtues of figures are related to the implementation of an efficient dashboard. It’s a steering tool that summarizes the activities and results of your company by processes. A dashboard identify some indicators, which we will review later on, that allow you to control if you achieved the goals you have set. Ultimately, such a tool will help you to take the decisions needed to run your company.
There are three types of dashboard:
– The strategical dashboard, or “balanced scorecard,” that is oriented toward the strategy of the company, and therefore a long-term steering tool.
– The budgetary dashboard, to compare the budgetary forecasts and the actual figures. To finally compare what you have planned to what has really happened. This type of dashboard is a middle term steering tool.
– The operational dashboard. What is the status of the decided action plan? Has the Apollo project gone as planned? The operational dashboard is first and foremost a short term steering tool. With possible consequences in the long term.
For companies, a management dashboard is as useful to keep an eye on important aspects of your operation as a dashboard to drive a car. Its main asset is that you can modify it as you want according to the goals and the specificity of your business. Moreover, each administrator of your company can configure his own dashboard according to the specific needs related to his position and responsibilities.
But managing a business through its financial status is a bit like driving a car with the only help of rear-view mirrors. By using your dashboard properly, you will obtain much quicker the relevant information to take your decision compared to the financial status information that often arrive 5 to 10 days after the end of the month.
The dashboard will help you to take actions during the ongoing month, and to avoid bad surprises at the end of the month. What you have to remember from this article is that the dashboard is your allied with the sound management of your company.
Before building your dashboard, you must think about the aspects of your management that you have to strongly put under strong surveillance. You must ask yourself the following questions:
– Does your sales team reach the goals being set?
– Are the sales representatives, without knowing it, losing some of your most important clients?
– Does the purchasing team manage to obtain the goods that are crucial for the production, on time, with a competitive price and in good shape?
– Is the turnover rate of your perishable goods inventory below the critical point?
Then, for each of these aspects, you have to identify the source of information being available, then make sure that the disclosed information will be correct, quick to obtain and requiring only few manipulations.
Information from the dashboard can come from the accounting or from another database (from CRM, for example), from a manufacturing system, or even from an external source that is related to your industry. Important and non-financial information can also be disclosed through the dashboard, such as the number of orders, the number of extra hours, the number of credit notes, etc.
If data must be manually entered in your table, if data arrives several days after the happening of the facts, if its cost is high, then its usefulness will considerably decrease because your reaction speed will also decrease.
When you decide to think about the parts to supervise, and about the source of information that will feed your supervision, you might have to reconsider some of your working methods. For example, if the procurement managers do enter its data into the system only once a month, it will be difficult to track the inventory and the purchases within a dashboard that will disclose the current status, in real time…!
5 to 9 indicators is a good range, 7 being ideal. This forces you to sort out and to focus straight to the point. Make sure not to transform it into a reporting tool and to find the right balance between the 4 types of indicators to supervise:
– Performance indicators: according to goals to be set.
– Steering indicators: monitor the means allocated to reach the goals.
– Lighting indicators: if external data influence the company and/or its markets.
– Impact indicators: measuring the direct and indirect effect of the actions of the company environment.
The goal is first and foremost to contrast achievements, goals and forecasts.
Restrict the pollution of indicators: as any measuring tool, either physical (the temperature of a room, for example) or economical (like the churn), the indicator can be subjected to disturbances that will impact its quality. Implementing a good dashboard requires therefore to necessarily protect it from this “pollution.”
– The quality of data: no one can make a good product without good raw material. Data that are necessary to the calculation of your indicator must be regularly monitored in order to improve management dashboard: reliability of the sources, freshness of this data, completeness, non-alteration, etc.
– Human perturbations: an information system never invents data! There is always a human touch behind it. And sometime a risk of manipulation. Did the sales representatives provide you all their figures? Has the remaining amount of work on a specific project being voluntarily underestimated? Those are sensitive but crucial questions that you have to solve to test the quality of your indicators.
– The context of the indicator: an indicator always improves in relation to a context or another indicator. A growth of 600% can seem extraordinary, but it’s not that surprising if the initial turnover is 1 000 $. Be therefore careful to the comparison of indicators and always ask yourself, “Do I am comparing it to a relevant reference point?”
Above the core indicators (turnover, sales, active clients, new clients, etc.), here are 5 other indicators that can be relevant to your business actions:
– The gross margin: it’s what the company earned in real. The turnover and the selling price are core indicators, but they don’t include all the information, for example the resources that are necessary to the production (investment, intermediate consumption, outsourcing, etc.) or the special offers (discounts, buy 2 for 1, etc.). With the gross margin you can monitor the profitability of the company.
– The funnel: the current sales are only an indicator to measure the performance of your company at a certain time. The sales funnel concentrates all the commercial opportunities (identified prospects, current inquiries, sent invoices, etc.) and to keep an eye on the forecasts during the upcoming months. If your monthly figures aren’t good but that the “pipeline” is important, don’t panic and don’t take too early decisions.
– The conversion rate: with CRM software, it’s very simple to follow all the steps of the customer experience, from the lead to sales, through the approach phase and negotiation. The conversion rate, a key indicator of direct and digital marketing, allows you to identify missed opportunities, and during which step potential clients have abandoned their action. It helps you to understand and correct some anomalies, for example if the ordering process on your sales website is too long, or not well designed.
– The client ownership cost: it is the average expenses that are necessary get a new client (advertising, retargeting, print, sales offers, etc.). If it is mandatory to plan a communication budget to get your business or your products known, the amount must be reasonable compared to the revenues being created. Linked to other indicators related to the activity of clients (for example, the life value or the average shopping cart), the client ownership cost allows you to analyze if you are particularly efficient and to measure your ROI.
– A qualitative indicator such as a customer loyalty rate or the number of claims: they are relevant to prevent a decrease in sales by taking into consideration the negative experiences mentioned by clients. Many customer satisfaction indicators like the NPS (Net Promoter Score) are easy to implement to identify the strengths and the weaknesses of your business, for example the quality of the product, the delivery time or even the after sales service.
Do not hesitate to solicit your sales and marketing teams to adjust your selection and design the ideal dashboard, according to the specificity of your business. For example, list down the key indicators by sales channels (online, on mobiles, in your shop) or by geographical zones will provide a global cartography of your activity and will help you to identify the improvement opportunities. Or moreover, if you realize that the amount of the average shopping cart of a channel is stagnating for many months, you can decide to implement a more aggressive cross-selling strategy.