March of 2020 brought many changes to how owners manage their business. The workforce became remote—or at least hybrid for a period of time—the way businesses interfaced and collaborated as a team and with their clients also changed, as did the way businesses monitored financial performance.
Prior to the pandemic, reports might have been dropped on a manager or owner’s desk to review the performance for a team, project, client or firm as a whole. Often, these reports were backwards looking and not strategic in nature. Suddenly, with a remote or hybrid business model, owners needed to be more forward looking, and real time information became even more valuable. Did your organization evolve to track performance measurements digitally? If not, recognizing the need to shift to leveraging technology in order to make better business decisions is the first step in transforming the process.
|This article is featured in O’Dwyer’s Oct. ’21 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine
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Gain better insight into your business with dashboards
How much time does your organization spend pulling reports? Do you have the visibility you need into key operational data? Is your data stale by the time management looks at it? Does it provide any actionable information?
Data collection and processing can be time-consuming for many PR and marketing organizations, especially when you need to pull data from multiple places. The amount of data a single business generates can be overwhelming and challenging to access, interpret and update on an ongoing basis. This is compounded by the fact that many teams cultivating this information are not centrally located anymore.
More often than not, this information represents historical data and offers little insight into steps you can take to evolve your business based on the results.
The good news is it’s possible to monitor operational and financial data in real time through dashboards that give you a better pulse on your business.
How are dashboards different from Excel spreadsheets?
Experienced business leaders are familiar with the trends of their operations, but drilling down into that information can help identify inefficiencies and ways to improve productivity.
Presenting and comparing data sets in a graphical format enables businesses to capture valuable insight often hidden in the rows and columns of Excel spreadsheets.
Dashboards not only provide timely, easy-to-digest information, but they’re also accessible anytime and anywhere. Putting information at your fingertips enables you to quickly identify issues and opportunities so you can easily pivot and make more informed business decisions. They also allow businesses to continuously analyze large amounts of historical and current operational and financial data and turn that information into actionable insights.
Dashboards are customizable, aggregate data, present information in a visual format and update in real time. Technology makes this possible, bringing data together from multiple sources and making it available to you in the cloud so you can access it whether you’re traveling or working from home, day or night, from any web browser, tablet or phone. This allows you to track data such as current sales activity down to the hour or even minute.
Data presented in a visual format also helps business leaders quickly analyze performance and trends, compare time periods and drill down into key metric categories.
There are many tools out there, including Power BI and Tableau, that allow you to answer questions about business activity quickly and eliminate the need to pull together reports manually and after the fact.
Metrics vs. key performance indicators
To create meaningful dashboards, you need to establish your key performance indicators and ensure you capture the right data to monitor and track that information. While the terms “metric” and “KPI” are often used interchangeably, they are, in fact, different. Metrics are quantifiable data relevant to the performance of a company such as: revenue, expenses, profit margin, website clicks and number of employees.
KPIs capture information related to a specific organizational goal that’s defined, achievable, measured, tracked and monitored. Examples of KPIs include: year-over-year growth in service lines, employee retention/turnover, project/service profitability, utilization (billable vs. non-billable), revenue per employee and project overruns.
Determining your KPIs
Identifying your KPIs depends on many factors, including the goals of your business. Working backward from there can help your organization determine the KPIs necessary to track to measure your success.
To bring this data together, it must be tracked individually and consistently. Many PR and marketing businesses aren’t the best at tracking time by project, but this information is necessary to drill down and measure profitability, utilization and revenue. Again, we can turn to technology to help capture time and how salaries are allocated. When tracking KPIs, you may start to notice things about your business you previously were unaware of. As a result, your KPIs may evolve as you develop new goals based on the information.
Once you have the KPIs and metrics you want to track and have identified where the data will come from, customized dashboards can bring this information together to provide you with better, more timely information to run your business.
Creating custom dashboards
Imagine being able to track the profitability of a project in real time from your smart phone. Having the ability to make timely adjustments to a project plan is vital while managing a business in a remote or hybrid environment. Leveraging technology through the use of dashboards can make this possible. Programs like PowerBI and Tableau can help harness the multiple lines of data running through your business every second to create tools for the business owner to execute plans successfully. There’s no longer a need to spend time waiting around for the latest report to be dropped onto your desk or sent to your inbox. Create a plan to establish dashboards for your business that you can access anytime from one of your many devices while managing your business.
Dominic Rovano, CPA, is a Co-Partner in Charge of Janover LLC’s New York City office.