Great Small Business Ideas to Start: Information dashboards and monitoring performance
O ne of the biggest challenges in business is to avoid information overload, focusing instead on ﬁn ding and using the right information, at the right time. This can be achieved using a simple “dashboard” approach.
An information dashboard is simply a set of key business indicators highlighting daily (or weekly) trends in performance and productivity. Dashboards are an increasingly popular method of managing key aspects of a business, such as sales, from the top of the organization through to each individual. They enable people to know exactly where they are compared with the plan, and why. Consequently, dashboards measure not only results but also what activity has been done to create them.
HSBC has become more focused on customers and sales, rather than maintaining a traditional focus (common among banks) on processes and internal issues. Several of HSBC’s business units have achieved this by providing sales information to employees in the form of dashboards.
Sales dashboards highlight key issues: the number of leads and their sources (highlighting what to continue leveraging and what to ﬁ x); the quality of the leads; the effectiveness of salespeople at using leads and making appointments with customers, and ability to convert appointments to sales.
As well as driving sales, this dashboard approach has other advantages:
- Managers can help salespeople improve performance by focusing on issues relevant to each individual.
- It promotes a sales-driven culture and focus within the team.
- It provides the pipeline numbers that measure activity and not just sales.
The information provided by dashboards means that managers know where to focus their support. They do not need to focus on salespeople whose month-to-date sales are behind if they have appointments for the rest of the month, whereas they do need to support people with no appointments booked, even if they are exceeding sales targets. Information from the dashboard approach can be communicated widely, providing a common language and focus in an organization.
For example, in HSBC Taiwan large plasma screens are provided for employees. As well as presenting key messages, themes, and news, they highlight sales information, which both informs and creates competition between individuals and teams.
- Assess your information requirements and make information routinely, consistently, and reliably available, by asking the following questions:
– What information is needed?
– How should it be presented?
– When does it need to be supplied (timing and frequency)?
– Where does it come from? This determines the quality of information and puts facts into context.
– What restrictions are there? For example, whether some or all of the information is conﬁdential.
– Which decisions and activities will it support? It helps if people know why information is needed.
- Generate the right data—ﬁn d out the best way to acquire information (eg surveys, telephone calls, meetings, and interviews).
- Review and analyze information. Decisions come down to judgment, but quantitative statistical methods will highlight trends and anomalies, while scenario planning, modeling, and simulation are useful techniques for generating and assessing the right information.
- Store and retrieve information, ensuring it is widely accessible, clearly labeled, and categorized. It needs to be relevant and up to date. Establish criteria for adding new information and discarding (or archiving) old, irrelevant details. The system and processes for storing and retrieving information need to be cost-effective.
- Act on information. Three tactics are useful: monitor decisions, act methodically, and manage the constraints (in terms of time, resources, and other pressures).