Throughout the ages, businesses have flourished in a steady stream of incoming intelligence. A successful business operation needs knowledge about the market, customers, competition, and their own performance. Hundreds of years ago, information as in raw data was astoundingly valuable. People paid great money to understand the nature of their business environment. Today’s reality is different. There are many cheap ways to accumulate a lot of data. You face new challenges. Huge piles of information sitting in databases don’t contribute to the company’s growth. You need to analyze all that data in order to make sense of it and use it in your daily choices. Finally, all this analyzing should result in dashboard reporting. But we’ll come back to that a bit later.

Fortunately, there are many places to start your journey in the world of business analytics (BI). Most businesses use rigorous statistical analysis in order to explore the possibilities hidden in the organization’s data. Some companies even hire sociologists and psychologists because they are very well-versed in the statistics due to the nature of their academic work. When companies are driven by data, they acknowledge that data is part of their corporate resource toolbox, using it as a competitive advantage against other players in the field. In the past, the competitive advantage was clear because not too many companies ventured into hard statistics. As of now, you can be sure that most of your competitors are using data in one way or another. If you don’t do the same, you’ll definitely be left behind.

Business analytics apply many different statistical analysis. Prescriptive analytics is very popular because it analyzes past performance in order to uncover suggestions for the future. Many executives see this kind of analysis as a golden gateway into becoming a fortune teller. Of course, that’s not true. There are always dangers hiding in misinterpreting the data or painting the future in unrealistically wide strokes. In reality, no one knows what the future holds for us, but the prescriptive analysis can control some of the variables of tomorrow’s reality.

Another very popular business analytics method is descriptive analytics. This type of analysis is all about the present state of your company. If the analysis uses real-time data, then you can be sure that the results might be especially usable even on the same day of crunching the data. You might find ways to optimize your marketing ROI, shipping power, or workforce wages. Descriptive analytics use methods that are endorsed even by the people who are thoroughly skeptical about the trustworthiness of prescriptive analytics.

What do you do with all the analyzed data? First, imagine the process. Let’s say we want to analyze our company’s website. Your data exists on the server, but we want a way to analyze it. Right now, it’s just bits and bytes. Google Analytics comes to the rescue! It’s a free web analytics tool that you are probably already familiar with because of its ubiquity both in corporate and personal website management world. After Google Analytics has analyzed your website, you know that the site has had 19,087 visitors today. So far, so good. But we want to see how it will compare to the next three days. And someone from our company wants to see the relationship between TV ads and site visitor rates. That’s where dashboard reporting comes into play.

Humans are visual creatures. We need visual input in order to grasp the nature of things; regardless of them being street signs to guide our car ride or visualizations of complicated data for making crucial decisions about a company’s future. Many services similar to Google Analytics offer some visualization tools, but would you really start taking screenshots and endlessly compiling them onto a single canvas? Probably not. And hiring someone to do it isn’t ‘so 2007’, it’s just a plain waste of money. Harsh judgment? Not really as there are many business dashboard reporting tools available that serve the needs of both smaller and bigger companies by integrating input from an array of different sources.

Dashboard reporting is an innovation that has a similar history to some other inventions. Many of us are already familiar with the concept of a dashboard. Cars have dashboards to notify us of our speed and other indicators that are essential to safe driving. A bunch of creative people took the notion of dashboards and connected it to business activities: hence, the concept of business dashboards was born. In other words, you are able to see all kinds of metrics that help you make decisions about steering your business in one direction or another.

The biggest benefit of dashboard reporting is its high customizability. A single blueprint for a successful dashboard doesn’t exist. All the details depend on your particular company and the surrounding industry. And you are able to create many different dashboards depending on the target audience and the department where the dashboard will be used on a daily basis. Some dashboards don’t need to be created for long-term use. For example, you might have a meeting with the CEO and you want to pinpoint 5-10 KPIs that are relevant to the topic of your meeting. If you use a good business dashboard software or online service, you are quickly able to assemble the report’s puzzle pieces into a clearly understood picture.

Using a business dashboard allows you to effortlessly communicate important data about your organization. Let’s look at two illustrative examples. There’s a board meeting of a company that specializes in managing a big retail store chain. You need to show some progress and decide to use a dashboard report. On the dashboard, you could put this year’s vs last year’s sales, stores opened this year and revenue. Some of the numbers could be graphed, some could be just boldly showcased in one of the dashboard’s modules. Now, let’s imagine that you have to persuade an investor to finance your online business. You could display the conversion rate, organic traffic sources, top mobile devices, and the number of conducted online transactions. Once again, you’d make sure that each data set uses an appropriate index, graph, or meter. For example, no need to use a line graph to show the top mobile devices.

Conclusion

Modern businesses need to keep up with the changing times. An easily implemented business dashboard can boost your sales, help you visualize crucial data, and make better decisions. Investing in a business dashboard is becoming a new standard for many companies and organizations worldwide. Don’t be late to the party!

By Ravi Kumarr Gupta

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