Dashboard Tools: Simple and Easy to Create

March 15, 2018

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I love using cool dashboards to drive financial results in a business. It is the ultimate tool for a forward-thinking CFO to use data, to create visual insight, and to help drive financial improvement.

In my last article, I showed you a cool, interactive dashboard and demonstrated how easy it is becoming to create dashboards that are available anytime, anywhere, from any device. A new breed of Business Intelligence tools is radically simplifying what used to be a complicated and expensive process to implement.

Business Intelligence Made Easy

There are some super-exciting changes going on in the Business Intelligence world when it comes to making dashboard tools simpler and easier to use. Before we talk about those changes, let’s take a quick look at what Business Intelligence (“BI”) is all about.

Gartner, a well-known and respected research company, defines BI as:

“An umbrella term that includes the applications, infrastructure and tools, and best practices that enable access to and analysis of information to improve and optimize decisions and performance.”

So, a shortened version of the definition might say that BI is the software, hardware, and best practices for using data to make better decisions. BI is a big picture concept… and lots and lots of things fit into the larger concept of BI.

This image does a beautiful job of displaying what BI is all about in a more visual way.

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Let’s explore the components of BI starting at the top left part of the image.

BI starts with grabbing existing data from financial or transactional systems. Then the data is transformed and loaded in the BI tool. In the past data warehouses were the primary way of saving the transformed data and making it available for exploration and reporting. Today you can create powerful dashboards without creating and maintaining a sophisticated data warehouse.

The data that has been loaded is then turned into useful and insightful information. This is a combination of exploring the data (sometimes referred to as mining the data) to discover insights and creating graphical and visual representations of the data to share with the people who make business decisions inside the company.

Effective dashboards shine a light on the metrics that matter so your leadership team can more easily spot opportunities and avoid obstacles. That’s the secret sauce for making better, faster, more informed business decisions.

The ultimate goal in BI is “predictive analytics”. This is where we are using data about what has happened in the past, together with what is happening right now, to forecast (paint a picture) of what’s about to happen. You have achieved the ultimate goal in BI when your dashboards help you create the view through the financial windshield of your business.

BI for Everyone

In my next article, I’ll talk about how the new breed of BI tools is “democratizing data”, moving self-service analytics out of the IT department and into the hands of business users, and making dashboards simple and easy to create and share.

In years past, trying to buy and implement dashboard tools meant you had to design and plan a huge and expensive IT project. Not anymore. Things are changing… fast.

Today you can get a straightforward dashboard up and running in a matter of days.

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Philip Campbell

Consultant, Author

Philip Campbell is a CPA, consultant, and author of the book A Quick Start Guide to Financial Forecasting: Discover the Secret to Driving Growth, Profitability, and Cash Flow Higher. This new book provides a straightforward, easy-to-understand guide to one of the most powerful financial tools in business: a reliable financial forecast. He is also the author of the book Never Run Out of Cash: The 10 Cash Flow Rules You Can’t Afford to Ignore. The book is a step-by-step guide for business owners and managers who want to better understand and manage their cash flow. Since 1990, Philip has served as a financial officer in a number of growing companies with revenues ranging from $5,000,000 million to over $1,000,000,000. He has been involved in the acquisition or sale of 33 companies (and counting) as well as an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. Philip loves helping entrepreneurs and business owners think strategically about the financial side of their business. His consulting work is focused on providing the financial insights that leaders need to increase profits, improve cash flow, and enjoy the fruits of financial success in business. What really sets Philip apart from the average financial person you meet is his passion and excitement about helping entrepreneurs and CEOs take control of their cash flow. In fact, early on in his career, he focused and “preached” so much about the importance of cash flow that people now call him CASH. Philip is the founder of Financial Rhythm, a website devoted to people who are serious about creating financial health, wealth, and freedom in their business. If you're an entrepreneur or business owner, Financial Rhythm is a place to get simple, actionable strategies for creating a financial future that is bigger and brighter than your past. Philip lives in Austin, Texas. You can email Philip at pcampbell@pdq.net.
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