In this article, we’ll present a case study about a fictional manufacturing company that is planning for its quarterly meeting, which will look back over the last few months.
Strategic dashboard for decision-making
In anticipation of the meeting, the company’s Business Intelligence team will work to create a dashboard that will be shared with the company’s senior management. The dashboard should provide key information about the company’s overall objectives, such as performance for the previous quarter, and the impact of the changes discussed at the previous meeting. To do this, it will focus on several key indicators (revenue, costs, profits, etc.).
Beyond simply conveying information, we’ll look at how the team fulfills their mission by sharing the results from their analyses, which actions to take moving forward, and finally, the impact that these actions will have on the company.
The fact is, in today’s very competitive entrepreneurial environment, having the right information is key to implementing a successful overall strategy. The company’s leaders will therefore need effective tools to help them make decisions, and the strategic dashboard is designed precisely for this purpose.
Information leading to action
In most cases, a company’s decision-makers don’t have the time or expertise necessary to analyze and process the huge amounts of data available, and will rely on a dedicated team to do this.
This means that an effective strategic dashboard doesn’t make readers do the interpreting work: the dashboard presents conclusions directly, along with the corresponding recommendations. As Avinash Kaushik so aptly says, the meeting “becomes a discussion about the actions rather than an argument about the data. That is how you know you are winning.”
Developing the dashboard
This is surely the most important step of the process, because it leads to a formal framework for dashboard creation. The team asks some important questions to serve as a project roadmap.
This type of dashboard should enable the company to address the following issues:
- Evaluate what worked well and what did not, pinpoint the reasons, and above all, propose a series of actions to implement for the next quarter;
- Identify the positives and negatives from the previous period;
- Define the different actions to implement to improve the company’s overall results, while defining new strategic objectives for the following period.
The dashboard will serve to help leaders define objectives and strategies for the company in general.
The dashboard will be divided into 2 main categories:
- Important financial KPIs (revenue, costs, profits, return on investment, etc.)
- KPIs related to employees (salaries, satisfaction levels, turnover rate, performance, etc.)
Data aggregation and processing
The company knew that it was important to shift to 4.0, successfully building a modern IT infrastructure. It automates data extraction and processing, which presents a significant advantage by ensuring high-quality, comprehensive data.
The team therefore doesn’t have to load data from different sources and process them to generate the above-mentioned KPIs. Finally, different data analysis techniques are applied to help others understand and explain the results.
Information to present
The dashboard has three main parts:
- One part is an overall view, summing up findings from the analysis conducted by the analysts,
- A financial part,
- A human resources part.
Let’s look at each of these parts in more detail.
Formatting and viewing
For easier reading and navigation, the dashboard is separated into three sections in different tabs. In a dashboard, the important KPIs generally appear in a visible location at the top of the page, and then the tables and graphs are placed at the bottom.
Choosing the tool
The company decided to invest in custom software that provides access to a dashboard.
The final strategic dashboard
Presenting the dashboard
Tab 1: The key takeaways
The first page of the dashboard helps with decision-making, because it groups the most important information that requires attention from decision-makers by highlighting the results of the analysts’ research.
As mentioned above, leaders will focus their discussion on the different information presented and the resulting actions.
- If X sector is less productive the others, should we update the machinery, or allocate more workers?
- Labour needs seem to change depending on the season, so should we start taking this into consideration to optimize the workforce?
- Employee satisfaction doesn’t seem directly tied to compensation, but rather to other factors like training. Should we plan to increase ongoing training opportunities?
- Most workers’ performance seems to depend on the time of day. Would it be possible to adapt the schedule and make it more flexible?
With all of this information, leaders will know exactly what to focus on during the meeting, and to really study the issue, they will be able to interact with the data in the “Costs” and “Human Resources” section if they feel like they need more details.
Tab 2: Cost analysis
This part covers the financial side of the company and contains 3 sub-sections:
- An overview that sums up the company’s finances in one page—ideal for a quick overview of current budgets and how they are used.
- A view of the company’s profits and losses,
- And finally, a view of the cost variances with respect to previously set objectives.
Tab 3: Human resource analysis
Employees are a company’s main asset, and there should be a section dedicated to them in the dashboard. This section contains 3 sections.
- A human resources overview: as for cost monitoring, this view is designed to provide a snapshot of strategic data about employees.
- A view of performance helps readers evaluate the efficiency percentage, and to find ways to optimize it;
- A view of team skill development: this relates to trainings provided by the company to study their impact on productivity and employee satisfaction.
After long discussions, the meeting ends, and a series of actions should be proposed. Unlike at a standard quarterly meeting, because of the dashboard, this one was able to provide an overview of the company’s various strategic performance indicators. With this clear picture, the decision makers now know which very precise actions to take.
Once these actions are in place, new questions will certainly arise, and the team may need to conduct additional analyses to answer them, but it will be much more clear which direction to take. This exercise should be viewed as an ongoing process, and through improvement, companies can set themselves apart from the competition.