Why Your Organization Needs an Executive
Performance Dashboard (EPM)?
Customers won’t stay loyal if they have don’t have big incentives to do so. Suppliers are not as eager as they used to be to give sweetheart deals to win your business. Employees want the best working atmosphere possible because—don’t let anyone fool you—good people are still a precious commodity. Shareholders are tired of scrawny returns on their investments. Good business today can be gone business tomorrow if you can’t satisfactorily answer these multiple constituencies.
So, in this environment, how do you keep your organization competitive? The answer used to be to throw a lot of money into technology and hope that somehow you’d come up with the right answer. In the free-spending 1990’s it often worked, but it’s not a good idea. Even if it was a good idea, however, now, there’s not a lot of money to throw around. In today’s tight economy, every dollar must be very carefully spent, and every project must provide maximum ROI.
My pick as the way to spend your dollars wisely and achieve maximum ROI is to build yourself a top-notch Enterprise Business Intelligence (BI) platform. Sure there are myriad technologies out there that purport to save you money and give you faster access to better information, but BI tools—enterprise portals with an Enterprise Performance Dashboard (EPD)—really deliver the most bangs for the buck.
Many organizations now have—or have started to build—enterprise portals to serve at least part of their stakeholder community. But, as grandiose as those portal projects may be, they reach their full capability only when they are topped off with a first-rate analytical tool that management can use for viewing the organization real time and making quick, accurate decisions on the information they have. That tool is an Enterprise Performance Dashboard.
Enterprise Performance Dashboards have many advantages, but here are my top five:
1. An EPD puts analytical power into the hands of executive decision makers.
2. With an EPD, the organization can pinpoint and focus on Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).
3. EPD’s facilitate the development of enterprise-wide goals and objectives.
4. With an EPD strategic planning becomes a year-round activity instead of a year-end activity.
5. Through their emphasis on KPI’s—EPD’s enable the organization’s management team to better track, understand, and manage its performance.
Analytical Power in the Hands of Managers
EPD’s make it possible for executive managers to access the kind of analytical technology formerly available only to IT people who had the time, and technical background, to operate intricate analytical applications. Most BI tool suites offer a single screen, browser-based snapshot of the business, with drill down capability. The information is presented to the executive audience with charts and graphs, allowing for quick understanding. Management can also perform on-the-fly “what if” and sensitivity analysis.
Focus on KPI’s
Through their ability to provide a one-screen snapshot of critical information to management for quick, accurate decision-making, EPD’s enable the organization to focus and act on that information which is most critical to the organization’s success—the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) of the organization.
At its fingertips, management has access to information (almost always financial or production related) that is absolutely critical to the effective performance of the organization. There is no morass of data to wade through. There is no information to be culled from mountains of statistics that may or may not be relevant to the organization’s success. With a focus on the top 30 or 50 or 75 KPI’s that you determine are most critical to your organization’s ongoing effectiveness, you can streamline decision making to focus on and achieve success.
EPD’s are most often accessed through the enterprise portal—or at least via the organization’s Intranet. This common access and portability provides consistent information to all users, but still retains the ability to be customized according to security and user needs. Via shared management of KPI’s and problems raised by their performance levels—while still providing individualized security—EPD’s enable critical decision makers in all business units to develop, stay focused, and work together on meeting a common set of organizational objectives. With a common set of objectives, the organization can work as a symbiotic system to enhance performance and grow the business.
Ongoing Strategic Planning
Because of the need for copious amounts of information and the inability to coalesce that information readily, most organizations have traditionally performed the strategic planning process on an annual basis. However, with the capabilities that a dashboard provides—especially when it can be accessed through an enterprise portal that facilitates online, real time communication between decision makers—executives can engage in an ongoing strategic planning process.
Ongoing strategic planning facilitates more thorough planning. With the real-time capabilities of a dashboard, executives from all business units can align their individual strategies and make changes to those strategies to accommodate the achievement of enterprise-wide objectives. In this way, both the individual units, and the company as a whole, have their planning needs addressed, and the resulting strategic plan meets the needs of all stakeholders.
Improved Performance Management
It used to be that when managers wanted an idea of how the organization was meeting its performance objectives, they ordered a report from IT. It often took a week or more to receive the report. By that time the information was useless. While the advent of data warehousing shortened reporting times significantly, it did nothing to alleviate the fact that information still had to be gathered and presented in a non-real-time fashion.
However, with a dashboard, information can be obtained real-time. With one glance, users can see the status of KPI’s that affect them, and the organization as a whole (security permitting). Also, when KPI’s veer too much off target, the dashboard proactively alerts decision makers, in the form of red-alert buttons on the interface—or emails sent directly to appropriate users. This real-time information enables quicker, more responsive decision-making and results in better, more flexible performance management.
The Bottom Line
It’s hard making decisions about spending money on a relatively new technology. It’s also sometimes not easy to justify IT spending because there’s not an immediate, obvious payoff with many IT projects. The value is there down the road, but it might be a long road with some projects!
However, with an EPD, the payoff starts almost immediately. The project timeframe is usually quick (3 to 6 months), and the results are visible almost from the day the system goes into production. The advantage of building a dashboard is clear and tangible: having an EPD enables you to leverage the information resident within the organization to manage your business more successfully.
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