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August 23, 2011

Do you mockup Dashboards before developing real ones?

In all of my consulting gigs, it is usual for the users to send Excel and powerpoint attachments containing dashboard looking presentations.

These are hand made, sometimes with manually handcrafted data, sometimes through other extracts and so on.

Often times, the management is presented with these as the final dashboards.

The management is happy, atleast no one is complaining. Part of the reason that no one is complaining because the management is aware that is really complicated to creat dashboard style presentations of summarized data.

Imagine, thousands of rows of multiple extract files is summarized in just few charts. IT is a huge feat. And kudos to all the users who are doing it. They are brave and they push the limits of excel to the max.

Most of the BI dashboard projects start with these Excel attachmentes. Now go automate it using our dashboard software. That is the requirement.

So as a dashboard developer/consultant my job is to present the best design. Sure the users existing work is useful but definitely should not bias my design. The logic in the Excel files is useful in understanding how the numbers are crunched but that should be it.

I usually sketch the dashboard on a paper using markers and then start the conversations. Most often times the user is surprised to see how different and interesting ways you can represent the same data.

So what do you use to mockup Dashboards?

Dashboard Wireframes

Posted by Small Business Dashboards at 1:30 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2008

Fatal Flaws in BI

Flaw No. 1: Believing that "If you build it, they will come"
ImageOften the IT organisation sponsors, funds and leads its BI initiatives from a technical, data-centric perspective. The danger with this approach is that its value is not obvious to the business, and so all the hard work does not result in massive adoption by business users — with the worst case being that more staff are involved in building a data warehouse than use it regularly.

Gartner recommends that the project team include significant representation from the business side. In addition, organisations should establish a BI competency centre (BICC) to drive adoption of BI in the business, as well as to gather the business, technology and communication skills required for successful BI initiatives.

Flaw No. 2: Managers "dancing with the numbers
ImageMany companies are locked into an "Excel culture" in which users extract data from internal systems, load it to spreadsheets and perform their own calculations without sharing them companywide. The result of these multiple, competing frames of reference is confusion and even risk from unmanaged and unsecured data held locally by individuals on their PCs.

Read remaining 7 Flaws at Dashboards Examples

Posted by Small Business Dashboards at 8:45 AM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2008

Dashboard guide for small businesses

Guide to Small Business Dashboards : What small businesses should keep track of and what are the tools available.

Dashboards are essentially one-screen, customizable computer snapshots comprising charts and tables of your company’s key indicators: sales reports (daily, monthly, year-to-date), cash on hand, profitability, back orders, inventory levels, payroll, accounts receivable and payable, etc. Costs range from about $150 to $1,500 for an off-the-shelf program, but there are also Web-based subscription models that start at about $150 a month.

What is the important information that SMBs should have it at their finger tips?

Small Business Dashboard solutions

Posted by Small Business Dashboards at 11:45 AM | Comments (2)

June 13, 2008

Quickbooks Expense Analysis and Sales Dashboards

Quickbooks Dashboard
Quickbooks is a very popular "micro ERP" application and dominates the Small Business Market. One of the benefits of using Quickbooks for my own business is the simplicity and ease of use. You can run a report and from the report you can drill down straight to the transactions. I learnt a lot of things using quickbooks just by running reports, finding the reported amount in the wrong account, I would then drill down straight to the transactions, change the account, and when I refresh the report ...boom.. I can see my changes. Instant productivity!

When it comes to reporting, there are very few options for Quickbooks. Quickbooks is for small to medium sized businesses and SMB's power the US economy. As of yet, very little has been done to empower the SMBs in their reporting and Analytics.

In one of the surveys it was mentioned, most of the new Small business's fail not because of their execution or anything else but because the owner never realized where the problem is. To keep track of your business, you need to actively monitor who is your top customer, what is your open account receivables, what is your inventory etc.

Sure, all of this information is available right in Quickbooks but the problem is you need to run seperate reports to get all these informations. So lets say it typically takes 5 mins to run a typical report and if the business owner where to run say 10 different reports on a daily basis that itself accounts to a precious 50 mins of his/her time.

A small business is often bootstrapped and obviously there are no administrators who will run the reports so all of the onus falls on the owner to keep a daily health check of his business.

This is a major major pain and the most painful part is that this is a tough part to comprehend, understand and implement for a small business owner.

The below screenshot is for Expense Analisys Dashbaord

Quickbook Dashboards,Quickbooks Reporting,Dashboards,dashbaord

The above dashboard is very dynamic. You can change the period type to Year,Quarter, Month, week or Days. The first chart shows the Expense trending by period, instantly tells you how you are managing your expenses.

The 2nd chart tells the Average Expense/Day which is an interesting KPI and the remaining two charts show the expense by payee (vendor) and by Account.

Now take a look at the below Sales Dashboard

Quickbook Sales Dashboard,Sales reporting,Quickbooks

Here is the chart listing:

-"Sales by Period" (Year, Quarter, Month, Week, Days)
-"Average Sales/Day"
-"Top 10 Customers"
-"Top 10 Products"
-"COGS by Period"

Similarly you can take the Quickbooks database and build a series of dashboards for Inventory Monitoring and integrate different pieces to it.

Posted by Small Business Dashboards at 8:00 PM | Comments (6)