Six Questions to Ask Yourself about Your Dashboard Reporting
The ease of access to information dashboards provide, helps to increase productivity and minimize costs due to error. When a project manager can easily track timesheet and billing detail, schedules, budgets, Earned Value Analysis, and Work-in Progress in one place – his or her projects are more likely to be completed on time and within budget. Likewise, when a firm leader can easily track firm key performance metrics, backlogs and pipelines, that firm is more likely to be successful and profitable. Whether you’re managing an entire firm or an important project – having the right data at your fingertips is fundamental to driving results.
Here are 6 Questions you need to ask yourself about your dashboard reporting.
1. How accessible is my data?
- Is your data on an old server and older application? Think about this – if that server fails you can be left having to purchase not only a new ERP system, but also paying for consulting and programming services to recover lost data.
- Is it on someone’s desktop? If so, staff are probably not able to access reports on their own. Having one gatekeeper for reports can be a bottleneck for your firm which can result in delays or decisions being made without adequate information.
- Is it on multiple servers and applications? When data is kept in multiple places it often results in staff exporting data from one system to another and files being moved back and forth between various spreadsheets and applications. This opens the door for error and a loss of data integrity.
As a best practice keep your data safe and secure on a server in the cloud – where people can access information quickly when they need it. Anywhere, anytime access from any web browser and device will help keep staff stay informed and productive even when away from the office.
2. How flexible is my reporting?
Can you filter data so that users get only the information that is relevant to them and what they need? Your system should enable role based dashboard reporting that can be easily customized for specific users and roles – as it automatically filters content according to a user’s login and access permissions. In addition, dashboards should enable drilldown capability to let users access information behind summary dashboards without having to search in multiple places.
Your system should be flexible to present data in a way that works for a variety of needs. Numbers people may want to see the raw data or detailed tables with lots of numbers. Other people may prefer graphical displays with high level pie charts and trend lines. Your system should be flexible to accommodate various needs.
3. How much confidence do I have in the accuracy of my data?
Your system should provide ease of access to real-time data so that everyone has confidence that the information they are working with is up-to-date, accurate and reliable. A real-time solution lets you capture and report on information immediately. There is nothing you need to do. As information is collected, it will flow to dashboard reports automatically.
With real-time dashboard reporting – your firm’s staff will make important decisions based on data, not gut feel or guesstimates. Since real-time information helps them identify potential issues much sooner, staff can be proactive in addressing issues before they become major problems. This helps to minimize budget overruns and project failure.
4. How frequently should I be looking at my data?
Well that depends on the data. Some data is time sensitive and needs to reviewed immediately. Trend information, on the other hand, is captured over time and viewed at various intervals. Some data should be viewed daily – like cash in the bank, delivery deadlines, and staff schedules. Other information may only need to be viewed weekly like receivables, payables, project resource utilization, project workloads, and project performance comparisons.
What’s important is that everyone involved in project delivery understand the information they should be tracking and how frequently they should be monitoring it. Time should be dedicated to review this information as required. Lastly no one wants to be the last to know – so be sure your system lets you set up alerts and notifications to avoid surprises.
5. Is my reporting user friendly and intuitive?
Are your users able to run their own reports when they need them and not rely on administrative staff? Are reports easy to find and able to be generated in a minimal amount of time? Can users build their own dashboards and reports and easily modify existing ones as their needs change? (This is important as you want to avoid costly customization from vendors and third parties.) If users get stuck are there resources they can rely on like resource user guides, online help, online communities or support teams?
6. Is my reporting future friendly?
As your business changes you’ll want to revisit the status of your dashboards and reporting. As your firm grows you may find you need more scalable and elaborate reporting. For instance, if you’re a small firm that has grown quickly, you may want to departmentalize or implement some sort of segmentation to better understand the different areas of your business and how you’re performing. You’ll also want to ensure your reporting can scale to growth without placing a burden on administrative staff.
To prepare for this – it’s important to understand that it could be challenging for your firm to learn a new system during a time of rapid growth. Successful firms prepare for this by implementing new systems just ahead of the curve so their staff is ramped and business processes and key performance metrics have already been established.
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