Everyone can agree on the benefits of an integrated and optimized financial management system – improved efficiency, reduced costs, better data and insights – but how should an organization get started? In this series, we outline three critical components needed to build a technology foundation that pays dividends for your organization.
Leading an organization to success in today’s dynamic and competitive environment demands strategic insights extracted from high-quality data. Dashboards serve as a top layer of your accounting technology structure to highlight critical information and keep it accessible. This allows leaders to act quickly but not precipitously, making informed decisions based on performance metrics, industry trends and other key data points.
Details to Drive Change
As the final phase of a strong accounting infrastructure, dashboards can help you drive change, accountability and improvement. At organizations of every type and size, strategic improvements hinge on full understanding of what’s happening at a granular level. It’s virtually impossible to identify and eliminate inefficiencies without data that provide visibility into processes and clarity around performance.
But even when the data is correct and up to date, it may not reflect the full picture or provide the answers users need. Which information is relevant? Is there additional context to frame the data that will make it more meaningful? Asking the right questions is crucial.
How Dashboards Help
Dashboards present key information in an easy-to-grasp visual format. Whether they’re used to monitor, analyze or contextualize important data, these graphic interfaces keep the metrics that matter front and center, so the information is available to users without digging – or even having to think deeply about it.
Dashboards are often customized to align with users’ needs and role within the organization, so that what a user sees depends on their individual job duties and responsibilities. For example, a typical organization might establish dashboards with permissions such that:
- CFOs and C-suite executives have visibility into revenue and operational efficiency
- Directors and program managers can access metrics related to programs and budgets
- Project managers can see costs and completion data for their specific project
Your organization may look quite different than this example, but there’s no cause for concern. Customized dashboards allow each organization to configure role-based dashboards for key user groups that align with its unique structure and activities.
Offering Additional Context
Reports based solely on internal financial metrics don’t always offer a complete understanding, and dashboards can help solve this problem. Decision-makers often benefit from knowing more about why the numbers are as they are, or how they relate to other information.
For nonprofits, including outcome metrics into dashboards and tying them back to the organization’s mission can help leaders understand progress toward mission and the scale of success. For-profit businesses have their own set of outcome metrics and goals, such as comparing current performance to last month, last quarter and other relevant periods or product lines.
Benchmarks can be extremely useful in a dashboard for both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. How does the company’s current performance (e.g., growth, safety profile, sales, employee turnover, etc.) compare to industry wide metrics? Are these numbers in line with regional or niche-specific averages? Nonprofits may want to include benchmarks from credible organizations such as the Charity Navigator and National Council of Nonprofits.
Thoughtfully constructed dashboards provide an elegant solution that keeps employees, managers and leaders well-informed and on the same page, with constant access to key insights that can inform decisions. The result is a more efficient and effective organization at every level. For help creating dashboards to optimize processes and inform decisions at your business or nonprofit, please reach out using the form below or contact your RKL advisor.