The Dashboard Concept

Even if you are careful about selecting only a core set of metrics as described above, it still takes time to wade through many different charts and graphs and it's difficult to synthesize all the information to make good decisions. If you are overwhelmed with data, the solution is to create a concise yet complete dashboard where all the important information is available at a glance, ready to inspire action. What makes a good dashboard?

It's Short

A good dashboard fits on one page, one side of one page, to be precise. And don't cheat by using minuscule 6-point type. Be serious about enforcing the discipline of minimal but key information. This is critical if executives are to use the metrics. This means that only a few metrics can make it to the dashboard. If you must maintain metrics that are not on the dashboard to analyze detailed operational issues, fine, but don't bother creating detailed metrics unless you actually take the time to review them, interpret them, and take action based on the results.

It Shows Key Metrics Against Targets

The dashboard should give you a complete picture. Would you drive a car that has a speedometer but no gas gauge? (It creates problems. I know because I used to own such a car and I ran out of gas more than once.) Gather metrics for all the key areas of the organization, selecting from all four categories of metrics: revenue, cost, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. Not only should you strive for completeness but you must also show targets and achievements against the targets. (Think about the red zone on the gas gauge: useful, no?) Let's say that response time performance is on the dashboard. You should not only measure the percentage of calls responded to within the response target, but further compare that percentage to where you want to be (typically 90-95%). If you pick a 90% achievement target and you are performing at 85%, show that you are below the mark. Targets may change over time to reflect improvements in performance (or declining standards, but that's less glorious). Targets are especially useful for outsiders to the functional team, who often find it difficult to gauge how well things are going from the metrics. How can one interpret a sales forecast if it doesn't show the sales quota?

It Shows Trends

Experienced functional managers do well with snapshot data because they have completely internalized the workings of their team and they can tell immediately from a single number whether the trend is up or down, and how significant the change is. For everyone else, time progressions are very useful. It's positively uplifting to see that the forecasted revenue is inching up every week, even if you are still below the quota. And it's instructive to spot a downward trend in customer satisfaction, even if you're still above target. Looking back four to six time units is usually enough (and should still fit in the one-page limit of the dashboard).

It's Visual

A one-page format with targets and a time progression makes dashboards easy to read. To further improve readability, add visuals if possible. If a picture tells a thousand words, five pictures on your allotted one page tell a long story. For example, try a red light/green light format to show whether you are hitting targets. Or illustrate the time progressions with line charts that also show the targets. Do you want more ideas and you are willing to invest a few dollars and hours? I recommend The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte, a classic with many inspiring examples drawn from many different areas, although not a single CRM dashboard.