Many organizational leaders aim to stay informed about changes in financial, performance and sales metrics. An executive dashboard is a valuable reporting tool that offers management a concise and customizable overview of important KPIs. If you’re considering implementing executive dashboards, learning about their features, functions and benefits can help you optimize your organization’s use of them. In this article, we define executive dashboards, share reasons to use them, discuss their benefits, outline how to create one and offer some tips for using an executive dashboard.
What is an executive dashboard?
An executive dashboard is a digital tool that displays key performance indicators (KPIs) to management using visuals and graphs. These platforms update frequently to offer real-time insights to decision-makers efficiently. These dashboards typically prioritize simplicity and readability, so they might present a summary of the most important data to inform decisions without extensive detail.
Executives can select KPIs for the dashboard to show, and they can re-organize the interface to meet their personal preferences. For example, you can usually test different graphic styles to choose one that makes the most sense to you. These dashboards get their data from other internal systems, so businesses might connect the executive dashboard to customer relationship management (CRM) or point of sale (POS) systems to get continual updates. If you aim to provide a holistic view of the company’s status, it’s important to link your dashboard to multiple information sources.
Here’s a list of important characteristics of an executive dashboard:
Flexible: The user can customize the interface.
Adaptable: The interface includes data analytics tools.
Intuitive: The design is navigable and responds to user behavior.
Collaborative: Users can share data with others.
Why use an executive dashboard?
An executive dashboard can help your executive team make strategic, data-backed decisions quickly and easily. This reporting tool also offers upper management an overview of the most current metrics so they can determine business priorities. Many businesses collect and report large volumes of data evaluating various areas of business. Centralizing the most important data and communicating it clearly can help simplify business activity.
Benefits of executive dashboards
Here are some of the benefits of executive dashboards:
By displaying important data prominently on the interface and updating insights in real-time, executive dashboards can help you ensure your team all has the same data. This helps you establish a unified vision and enables you to refer to data when discussing important decisions. With easy access to objective numerical data, dashboards might help decision-makers come to a consensus.
Quickens response time
Executive dashboards communicate which KPIs need attention. This can save management time because they can immediately start seeking solutions instead of searching through data looking for areas for improvement. For example, if you monitor the net promoter score (NPS) and it suddenly drops, this could signal a need for investigation to learn what changed customers’ opinions so drastically.
It’s crucial that decision-makers understand the financial, strategic and internal status of their business so they can make impactful decisions. These interfaces can help connect executives to business activities they might not see directly. For example, executives might not interact with each employee daily, but the executive dashboard can keep them informed about any changes in employee satisfaction.
Executive dashboards empower management to establish benchmarks and quickly determine if the company is meeting goals. Having constant access to current data can help executives measure success as their decisions take effect. It’s vital to evaluate if your team is likely to meet your long-term goals so you can take corrective actions to re-direct if it’s necessary.
The customizable interface allows users to choose a format that’s engaging and understandable for them. Because these dashboards present information differently to each person, individual team members might find unique insights. By offering control over how you view data, an executive dashboard can empower each person’s perspective and foster creative solutions.
Promotes data analysis
These dashboards typically allow you to look deeper into any metric and apply analytical tools to extract meaning from your figures. Executive dashboards offer visualizations, charts and graphics that can help you identify patterns and communicate your insights. These analytics can serve as evidence to support your proposals and help you persuade others to approve of your plans.
Improves employee performance
Executive dashboards can equip leaders with the tools they need to boost productivity and engagement among employees. These tools offer constant updates on performance trends. This gives executives the opportunity to identify challenges in real-time and offer employees support. Alternatively, dashboards also keep management informed about successes, creating opportunities to recognize stellar performances and boost morale.
How to create an executive dashboard
Here are seven steps you can follow to create an executive dashboard:
1. Define your goals
Before you can build an executive dashboard that meets your needs, it’s helpful to determine what those needs are. It might be beneficial to hold discussions with employees and stakeholders to gather different perspectives to specify your vision for the business. An effective executive dashboard reflects the company’s long-term goals, needs and concerns, so it’s helpful to reflect before you move forward with any decisions.
2. Choose your KPIs
Consider your organization’s goals and select KPIs that reflect those goals. You might choose KPIs that relate most directly to your job functions, or you could choose to monitor the same KPIs as other executives for greater alignment. To ensure you’re meeting existing expectations and continually striving for growth, you might consider including some KPIs you’re monitoring for maintenance and some you’re aiming to improve.
3. Choose software
Many software platforms host executive dashboards. It might be beneficial to research options and choose a software system that meets your organization’s needs. When evaluating software, some important factors to consider might include:
4. Locate the data you need
Executive dashboards can only offer you insights if they have access to your data. Identify what data the dashboard needs to calculate your chosen KPIs and learn where your organization stores that data. You can then connect that data. For example, you might link your dashboard to an existing accounting platform that contains financial metrics. You might store other data in a spreadsheet or database. Ensure your data is in a compatible format and load it into your dashboard.
5. Consider different dashboard types
Many software providers offer dashboard types that focus on a particular department. These types might include finance executive dashboards, marketing executive dashboards, operational executive dashboards, helpdesk executive dashboards and sales executive dashboards. These interfaces display relevant metrics to each area of business, and choosing individualized dashboard types can offer executives advanced oversight over the department they oversee. A chief financial officer, for example, might benefit from a finance dashboard that highlights items like gross profit margin and cash flow, while a chief information officer may prefer a helpdesk dashboard to oversee tech tickets.
6. Customize the presentation
A primary feature of executive dashboards is their customizable interface. To optimize your use of the tool, test different presentation styles to find one that suits your preferences. For example, if you learn best using visual aids, you can choose to view data using pie charts, line graphs and bar charts. If you prefer text, you can ask the dashboard to present a list of metrics. These adaptable presentation modes give you control over how you consume the data that’s most important to you.
7. Test collaboration features
Most dashboards include features that make it simple to collaborate on data analysis. Explore your options for sharing data. For example, you might be able to export reports, grant others access to your dashboard and perform collaborative analysis. You can practice working collaboratively on a report to learn how your dashboard handles updates. For example, some dashboards might update automatically on everyone’s interface when a user makes a change. Others might require a refresh or an export to get updated data. To make sure the people who need access have it, set permissions and secure your dashboard.
Tips for using an executive dashboard
Here are some tips that might help you use your executive dashboard effectively:
The goal of an executive dashboard is to gain an understanding of the business’ status quickly and easily. When arranging your homepage, prioritize simplicity and clarity. While it’s tempting to include every insight that could be valuable, limit your interface to the most important KPIs. Aim to minimize visual clutter, and try to develop a dashboard you can view on smaller mobile devices, too.
Translate data into action
To maximize the value of an executive dashboard, it’s helpful if the data it captures can help you take action to improve business practices. Consider including a section on your dashboard that allows you to plan next steps in response to data. Collaborative tools can also help you strategize alongside teammates to develop an action plan inspired by your insights.
Consider stakeholders’ opinions
Depending on their position, different people might have a different opinion about what KPIs are most important to the business. To ensure you choose the right data to monitor, host thoughtful discussions with stakeholders. Getting many opinions might lead you to include meaningful KPIs you haven’t yet considered.