Dashboards are an essential tool for ExO’s to measure and manage their organization. With the vast amount of data created daily, business intelligence dashboards are a great way to visually represent data and make real-time metrics available to the entire organization.

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What is a dashboard in business?

Dashboards are an internal presentation of real-time data analytics you need to run your business. They reflect essential company and employee metrics and allow you to implement short feedback loops. 

The popular saying “what gets measured gets managed” is applied here. In the case of Exponential Organizations (ExOs), where growth is so rapid, dashboards are essential to allow management to make decisions that keep up with the pace of change. 

A second key component of dashboards is using OKR’s (Objectives & Key Results) as a performance management system.

The importance of dashboards in business intelligence

Business intelligence dashboards are essential to understanding how your organization is doing in real-time.

The sustainability of your business relies on one thing: remaining relevant in an ever-changing world. Without staying up-to-date, you won’t turn a profit. 

So what’s the best way to understand where you are?

The short answer: Build comprehensive, relevant, real-time dashboards.

Given the enormous amounts of data from customers and employees, ExOs need a new way to measure and manage the organization. This comes in the form of an adaptable, real-time dashboard with all essential company and employee metrics accessible to everyone in the organization.

Thanks to the internet, sensors, and the cloud, etc., it’s possible to have extremely valuable metrics in real-time. But, to make the best use of this data, dashboards must be developed to be easy to understand and provide meaningful analysis.

When dashboards are built well, employees can make intelligent decisions about managing organizations in real-time!

Getting dashbords in business right

When putting together a business intelligence dashboard, it’s vitally important to ensure that the metrics tracked are real value metrics opposed to vanity metrics. 

Real value metrics allow you to make meaningful decisions and improve the organization. While vanity metrics only make you feel better. 

An example is tracking total users vs active users. Total users of your product are a vanity metric as thousands of people can sign up, but you won’t make revenue and grow unless they’re actively using your service. It’s essential to build dashboards that provide the most meaningful information designed into a visual that’s easy to understand.

Here’s how to implement dashboards in business:

  1. Identify the value metrics
  2. Identify the audiences that need dashboards
  3. Track, gather and analyze data in real-time
  4. Use a framework to display metrics in the most efficient and usable way possible
  5. Make the metrics accessible and transparent
  6. Improve the dashboards when required

The best business dashboards provide the most valuable metrics in the simplest way possible. A complicated dashboard results in lower adoption rates, reducing its effectiveness.

The importance of dashboards for ExO’s

There are various reasons why dashboards are beneficial to a business, including:

  • Visibility and transparency: Visibility supports the alignment of effort, accountability and autonomy. Transparency refers to dashboards exposing information people need to be successful. Dashboards help you answer the following questions: What are my objectives? Who is doing what? How do I coordinate? What information do I need?
  • Shortened feedback loops: Real-time data analytics makes for better, faster decisions, increasing the tempo of Build-Measure-Learn. Anyone raised on online games and the internet thrives in this environment.
  • Reduce cognitive load: Great dashboards are as simple as possible but never sacrifice clarity. They don’t make you work for your insights. They get your attention if something unexpected happens or goes out of bounds, but otherwise, keep quiet. They use visuals and colors everyone can distinguish.
  • Constantly improve and evolve: Your dashboard will evolve if you’re growing a business in a fluid environment. As an early startup, you might measure progress in terms of business hypotheses validated. As an established firm, you might measure value creation and profitability. A new competitor may prompt you to track market share and customer churn closely. Build-Measure-Learn. Repeat.

Dashboards of value metrics, used in conjunction with OKRs, are becoming the de facto standard for measuring ExOs—everything from the company as a whole to individual teams and employees.

Using OKRs in your ExO

Many ExOs are adopting the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) method. Invented at Intel by CEO Andy Grove and brought to Google by venture capitalist John Doerr in 1999, OKRs tracks individual, team and company goals and outcomes openly and transparently.

In High Output Management, Grove’s highly regarded manual, he introduced OKRs as the answer to two simple questions:

  1. Where do I want to go? (Objectives)
  2. How will I know I’m getting there? (Key Results to ensure progress is made)

In addition to Intel and Google, other fast-growth companies using the system include LinkedIn, Zynga, VMWare, Slack, Adobe, Spotify and many more.

Some characteristics of OKRs:

  • KPIs are determined top-down, while OKRs are determined bottom-up
  • Objectives are the dream; Key Results are the success criteria (i.e., a way to measure incremental progress towards the objective)
  • Objectives are ambitious and should feel uncomfortable

In general, up to five Objectives and four Key Results per initiative are optimal, and Key Results should see an achievement rate of 60 to 70%. If they don’t, the bar has been set too low.

Tips for getting started with dashboards in your business

Keep it really simple, and take implementation one step at a time. There can be discomfort as leaders become accustomed to exposing critical data previously kept close to the chest, no matter the value to the organization.
Prototype with a spreadsheet—ideally, use Google Spreadsheet or multiuser Microsoft Excel. At the start of each meeting, share the prototype and go over each metric. Figure out what is helping and what is not. Add, prune, update.
Tool-up with care. Tools can be confusing, opinionated, expensive and force their workflow on you. Automate and distribute at scale once you have a workable model.

Here’s what not to do when implementing real-time dashboards in your business:

  • Rely on static reports, PowerPoint slides or verbal reporting
  • Forget to assign a person accountable for each metric
  • Build a solution without involving everyone the metric effects, top to bottom
  • Be inconsistent
  • Turn development and maintenance completely over to external consultants. Maintain the capability to update your dashboard in-house, training vs outsourcing

Prerequisites of the dashboards attribute

  • Real-time metrics tracked, gathered and analyzed
  • OKRs implemented
  • Cultural acceptance by employees

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