When I formed SpeedConnect in 2001, the idea of a company data dashboard was only a concept, and that concept amounted to little more than a pack of little read paper reports at the bottom of the black metal tray to the right of the desk called my “In Box.”
Today as the founder and CEO of what has grown to be a fast-paced, high technology firm operating over nine states, one of the many challenges I face is how to find and develop a collection of best practices, along with a company culture, that bridges thousands of miles to create a virtual spirit of unity, cooperation and family for our entire team. This challenge is no stranger to the modern day CEO, and for many, spans not only states, but oceans as well.
Today, with hundreds of books and the science of business management behind my MBA, it’s done with the most modern, interactive, integral, multi-platform, API-driven, web-browser-accessible-from-anywhere, company dashboard.
According to Wikipedia, “Dashboards often provide at-a-glance views of KPIs (key performance indicators) relevant to a particular objective or business process (e.g. sales, marketing, human resources, or production). In real-world terms, ‘dashboard’ is another name for ‘progress report’ or ‘report.’”
I like to say, “What gets measured gets done.” It’s an old saying, but still true. The dashboard does that. More than the numbers it presents, it says to its users that if you picked a number for the board, it must be important. In practice, a good dashboard is simple. Too much data, and you are back to the pack of paper reports at the bottom of the old inbox. Just like the dashboard in our cars, one quick glance should tell the driver (team member) all he or she needs to know. Too complicated, or confusing, and it’s distracting from the job of driving. And everyone on our team is a driver.
Moreover, the dashboard needs to describe more than just the data that it presents. What I mean is that the dashboard needs to present key metrics in a way that the user can easily infer what he or she needs at a glance. Just like a good gas gauge on one’s car dashboard, its far more than a white needle angled on a black background, it tells the informed user not only when gas is needed, but it signals how fast gas is being used, and at what rate, and when stops are needed, and can give even impart peace of mind (a full tank), or convey a sense of risk (an empty tank).
When done right, the dashboard brings all the company’s team members together around a common and well-understood signpost. It describes good, bad, progress, failure, good weather ahead or potential danger – and for everyone – what is important. I have to say as a well-seasoned executive, it is a high-performance tool, and something we only dreamed about in school.
What gets measured gets done.