Revenue is the lifeblood of a business, which is why companies are so hungry for actionable insights from their data. One of the tools that was intended to help dig out those precious insights from mountains of business data was the CEO dashboard. This single screen of visualised key performance indicators (KPIs) was supposed to give executives the ability to peer through the complexity of their business operations and find out with one glance how well the company is performing.
These dashboards are all about business strategy, but here’s the thing: they completely fail when they’re used to drive business tactics and everyday decision-making.
The Caring & Feeding Of CEO Dashboards
Dashboards weren’t designed to extract actionable insights in real-time from your metrics. They were invented to provide the big picture, but what you should really be paying attention to are all the many little stories. Those little stories are business incidents: the daily (even hourly) wins, losses, successes and missteps occurring in a company. They are the individual tesserae which comprise the mosaic.
Dashboards are incapable of providing both the detailed granular data which comprise the KPI and the context in which to understand a given KPI in relation to all the others which are visualised (and even more importantly, the metrics which aren’t). Like we mentioned above, those dashboard tools are all about driving business strategy, and they fail when used to drive business tactics. In the fast-paced, globally connected business world, it’s the tactics that ultimately carry the day. This is why real-time decision-making is a necessity for companies looking to survive and thrive.
Hurry Up & Wait
Unfortunately, dashboards prevent today’s CEOs from acting at the speed of their business, stymieing them with built-in business latency. To see why, consider the following process of actually using those dashboards:
- Determine what KPIs should be included on the dashboards. Choose carefully, because you could miss something important by not including the data you really need.
- Decide what source metrics and formulas are needed to produce the KPI. Often, the KPI you want doesn’t already exist in the form which you need to consume it. Thus, you’ll have to find the table or report which contains the inputs you need to generate that KPI. This is perhaps the biggest hurdle to gaining real-time actionable insight by using dashboards. The data which feeds those KPIs aren’t streaming into the dashboard in real time. Much of that data comes from reports which are generated by IT and can be days old by the time they are run again and refresh your dashboard.
- Choose how to visualise the KPI. When it comes to chart types, colours and text options available on these dashboard tools, it’s an embarrassment of riches. Never mind the actual embarrassment of lack of real-time rich insights.
- Monitor all the KPIs on the dashboard. As if you already didn’t have enough to do.
- Discover one of the KPIs isn’t what it should be. Either it falls short of a goal in your strategic plan, or it unexpectedly jumps and you’d like to know why.
- Executive switches to another tool to do the analytics, or more accurately, hands off the analytics grunt work to an analyst. Either way, a separate analytics tool will need to be used because dashboards are solely KPI visualisation tools, and are quite good at misleading you. Dashboards can’t explain why a KPI is behaving the way it is. To get that answer, you need a proper analytics tool which can drill down to granular metric-level data. As real-time analytics vendor Anodot explains, not only can a CEO dashboard mislead you, but it also can’t distinguish correlation from causation which means you can receive exactly the opposite message the data is sending.
- Executive or Analyst spends time drilling down deeper into the data in order to find the clues which explain the KPI value/trend. This is where a lot of business latency occurs. KPI analysis using traditional business intelligence (BI) tools is often iterative and time-consuming.
- Analyst figures out what went wrong. Let’s hope they figured it out quickly enough for you to do something about it.
- Analysts and the rest of your team decide on a response. Finally, you get to act.
Dashboards Are On Their Way Out
Only solutions which continuously monitor every metric in real-time are able to give you the response time you need. The new breed of AI analytics solutions which are supplanting these obsolete dashboards are also able to pinpoint the cause of sudden unexpected behaviour in your KPIs through intelligent correlation. This means that the clues you need to react to the business incident are provided at the same time that incident occurs. And with the right clues provided at the right time, you can make right decisions.