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Making Better Decisions Based on Real Time Data

Many association leaders are looking to mature their organization’s management culture. One common initiative is teaching executives to make decisions based upon data and organizations are turning to executive dashboards as a means to deliver that data.

Despite being a great idea, it does raise a variety of questions. What data do we need? How do we harvest it at a reasonable cost? How do we get it in front of our key decision-makers so they understand and use the information?

Executive dashboards can bring key data points to the surface and help you make more informed decisions. Dashboards often collate data and display it in a visual format that can be consumed in minutes on a regular basis. By democratizing data, dashboards free up analysts’ time for more technical and important tasks.

When designing your dashboard you should consider 6 key elements:

What are your goals and how would you gauge success? Determine your short, medium and long-term goals. Also, list any stages and degrees of success that are critical to achieving these goals.

What key indicators will you need to track in order to understand your relative position to your goals? Understanding what to track is the first item to nail down. Many organizations already receive consistent reports concerning their membership size, financials and events.  Your dashboard should consist of information that strengthens your decision making.

How will data points relate to each other to provide insightful and actionable information? You have chosen your key indicators but they may be useless alone and without context. Data relationships and the resulting formulas are based on your goals. Actually achieving those goals depends on the conclusions you can draw from data relationships.

Where will this data come from?   Often the data needed exists in a diverse set of databases, post-it notes and applications. The collection of data should be as automated as possible and consistent.

How much flexibility do I need? Do you need the flexibility to do segmenting or lightweight modeling within the reporting?  Web based tools and downloadable files can help you pull key data points into external tools for modeling purposes.

How can this data be best understood? Making sure that the data can be easily understood and consumed is paramount to a successful executive dashboard. Information architecture design determines how best to display the information. Tables, graphs and charts are just some of the tools that a fully realized dashboard may draw upon.

Planning an executive dashboard takes work. However, once these items are established a dashboard can efficiently provide you with information required for regular decision making. Also, with datasets in place dashboards are typically easy to modify and extend.

Reporting and Automation

At Breakthrough Technologies we use a diverse set of reporting tools to help automate processes – including custom scripts, Jaspersoft, Pivot and Google Analytics.

Generating reports is one thing, but making the time to access them is quite another.  We find that setting up emails from the dashboard to deliver timed snapshot reports ensures that our clients receive the data they need on a regular basis. Imagine having a PDF of all your key performance indicators in your inbox and in each of your staff leaders’ inboxes every Monday morning. They don’t even need to remember to browse to the dashboard portal.

Recently, Breakthrough Technologies has joined as a community partner with JasperSoft, one of the leaders in open-source business intelligence platforms. If you don’t have enough information to validate some of your initiatives, we highly recommend implementing an executive dashboard with the Jaspersoft open source reporting platform. Your dashboard will harvest your organization’s data and create opportunities for your management team to make better, faster, smarter decisions.

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