Developing Executive and Operational Dashboards

Almost every successful executive, manager and supervisor uses dashboards to track strategy, operations and tactics. These leaders are using dashboards to keep their strategies and operations on track and detect hot spots or areas of concern within the organization.

The use of dashboards by management has increased considerably over the past years because managers have realized that these tools give them the big picture about the business, puts them in real-time touch with the business and ultimately help them gain better insights and make better decisions.

Recent developments in business intelligence and real-time analytic tools that offer not only descriptive and predictive analysis help but also prescriptive analysis assistance has also led to the increased adoption use of executive and operational dashboards.

Once regarded as a cost, IT is now viewed as an enabler of strategic and operational goals and objectives achievement.

There is still prevalent use of MS Excel dashboards within some other big corporations and this is a big concern.

Spread sheets are error-prone and disconnected from the rest of the organization because they are developed and maintained functionally hence limited or “none-at-all” central view of organizational performance.

However, in developing dashboards, executives, managers and other supervisors should know that in order for dashboards to succeed in driving performance improvement within the business:

  • They must be based on the causal links that drive success for organizational objectives
  • Communicate the desired behaviour in the organization
  • Increase the speed, ease and accuracy of decision-making
  • Alert decision-makers to take action; and
  • Use real-time reliable data that enables timely decisions to be made and keep objectives on track.

Today, organizations must be weary of the Velocity, Variety and Volume of data at their disposal.

They must be able to separate the “disinfected” from the “infected” and use that clean data to generate informed dashboard insights.

If the management team misuses dashboard tools, then they will fail to serve the purpose for which they are initially developed for.

Some leaders have failed to benefit from the use of dashboards because they have wrongly used them to micro-manage subordinates.

It is therefore imperative and important that as managers, when you develop and cascade your scorecards and dashboards from the top to the bottom of the organization, ensure that everyone at each and every level of the organization clearly understands what it is that the organization is trying to achieve.

If you are to obtain the subordinate’s full buy-in of adopting best practices and fine-tuning of strategies and business models, it is also important that you avoid using scorecards and dashboards as routine grading systems of individual performance.

Successful development of executive and operational dashboards requires the person or team tasked with the process to fully know and understand the difference between scorecards and dashboards.

Most people use the terms “dashboard” and “scorecard” interchangeably as if there is no difference, but there is a difference between the two.

Scorecards, for example the Balanced Scorecard, are used at the executive level to monitor strategic alignment and success with strategic objectives and give an executive-level view into operational or functional performance.

On the other hand, dashboards are used at the tactical and operational level to monitor the progress or success of tactical initiatives and operational performance on a weekly, daily or even hourly basis.

Dashboards are more detailed whereas scorecards are a summarized version of dashboards.

In order to be successful at developing operational dashboards for your organization, the following approach is very important.

  • Start small and make some baby steps towards the successful roll out of your dashboard implementation project. Remember, “Rome was not built in a single day”. You need to first identify and define few manageable problems that have high chances of success and clear visible effects. Once the concept has proven successful and generated interest across the organization, you can then roll out other dashboard projects.
  • The business manager, not IT, should own the dashboard and lead the project, with IT as the enabler. You need to understand your needs first, generate buy-in from other groups and then work with IT to create an integrated strategy.
  • Develop a model of your business processes and understand the drivers. This will help you select measures that are aligned with corporate strategy and operational objectives and because of the alignment, you will be able to experience greater impact and visibility.
  • Your dashboard should only show the “critical few” metrics or KPIs. Having too many metrics will make it very difficult or sometimes impossible for you to know and understand what drives performance improvement or success. It can also be implied that you are measuring wrong things instead of focusing on the critical success factors.
  • Develop a time frame or timetable for the dashboard roll out process. This is important because the quicker you develop a working system, the lesser the chances of people losing momentum and interest.
  • Since dashboards are used to indicate performance, some people will view them as means to punishment if they fail to achieve the hoped-for results. As a result, you must develop a strong culture of performance that understands that dashboards are just tools to help the organization learn, improve and grow.

In summary, whether operational or tactical, dashboards are important if good managers are to stay on top of their businesses. Both scorecards and dashboards are the lever that changes culture in the organization.

Thanks for sharing:

One Reply to “Developing Executive and Operational Dashboards”

  1. Hi Peter,

    At Verteego ( ), an environmental software vendor, we were searching some data-visualization and dashbaording BI tools to integrate in our apps.

    We tried with Qlikview, a very powerful software. But we were only using 10% of all the features. So we decided to develop our own BI and embedded dashboarding solution, Jolicharts.

    After one year of development, Jolicharts is now integrated in all our product as a dashboarding & reporting solution. It fits perfectly to our need and we are very happy with it.

    We released for everyone as a stand alone SaaS product, if you want to take a look, you can have a good overview of all the features (Charts, Dashboard, API, DB connection,…) with a “forever free” account.

    Do not hesitate to take a look!

    Jolicharts Team

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to get notified of new posts by email

Recent Posts


Leading in Uncertain Times

One of the biggest challenges facing business leaders today is making the right decisions that will ensure their organizations succeed, survive, and remain competitive in an increasingly uncertain and complex environment.

A recent post, The best way to lead in uncertain times may be to throw out the playbook, by Strategy+Business has several good points.

The article is about the COVID-19 pandemic, how global companies navigated through the crisis, and how best to prepare for future disruptions. Here are some key points and my comments.

  • Rather than follow a rigid blueprint, executives must help organizations focus on sensing and responding to unpredictable market conditions.
    • Comment: Senior leaders play a vital role in providing clarity about the organization’s strategic direction, creating alignment on key priorities to ensure the achievement of enterprise objectives, and ensuring the business model is continuously evolving to create and capture value in the face of uncertainty. They must not rest on their laurels and stick to the beliefs and paradigms that got them to where they are today and hope they will carry them through tomorrow. Regulatory changes, new products, competition, markets, technologies, and shifts in customer behavior are upending many outdated assumptions about business success. Thus, the businesses you have today are different from the ones you will need in the future hence the importance of continuously sensing changes in the global economy. Employees and teams often feed off the energy of their leaders and tend to focus their attention where the leader focuses attention. If the leader is comfortable with current business practices and rarely embraces the future or challenges the status quo, then the team is highly likely to follow suit.
  • When it became clear that supply chains and other operations would fracture, organizations began scenario planning to shift production sources, relocate employees, and secure key supplies.
    • Comment: Instead of using scenario planning to anticipate the future and prepare for different outcomes, it seems most of the surveyed organizations used scenario planning as a reactionary tool. Don’t wait for a crisis or a shift in the market to start thinking about the future. The world is always changing. As I wrote in The Resilient Organization, acknowledge that the future is a range of possible outcomes, learn and develop capabilities to map out multiple future scenarios, develop an optimal strategy for each of those scenarios, then continually test the effectiveness of these strategies. This does not necessarily mean that every change in the market will impact your business. Identify early warnings of what might be important and pay closer attention to those signals. In other words, learn to separate the signals from the noise.
  • The pandemic forced the organization’s senior management team to re-examine how all decisions were made.
    • Comment: Bureaucracy has for a very long time stood in the way of innovation and agility. To remain innovative and adapt quickly in a fast-changing world, the organization must have nimble leadership and an empowered workforce where employees at all levels can dream up new ideas and bring them to life. Identifying and acting on emerging threats and potential opportunities is not the job of the leader alone but every team member. To quote Rita McGrath, in her book Seeing Around Corners, she writes, “Being able to detect weak signals that things are changing requires more eyes and ears throughout the organization. The critical information that informs decision-making is often locked in individual brains.” In addition to the internal environment, the leader must also connect with the external environment (customers, competitors, regulators, and other stakeholders), looking for what is changing and how.
  • It’s worthwhile for leaders of any team to absorb the lessons of sense-respond-adapt, even if there is no emergency at hand.
  • Sensing: Treat the far-flung parts of your enterprise as listening stations. The question leaders must ask is, “What are we learning from our interactions beyond the usual information about costs and sales?” Train your people to listen for potentially significant anomalies and ensure that important information is not trapped in organizational silos.
    • Comment: Cost and sales data are lagging indicators that reveal the consequences or outcomes of past activities and decisions. Although this information can help leaders spot trends by looking at patterns over time, it doesn’t help understand the future and inform what needs to be done for the numbers to tell a different story. In addition to lagging indicators, pay attention to current and leading indicators and understand the relationship between these indicators and outcomes.
  • Responding: Improve communication across intra- and inter-organizational boundaries. Leaders should view business continuity as an essential function that acts as connective tissue for the enterprise.
    • Comment: In addition to creating mechanisms that allow the free flow of information both inside and outside the organization, decision-makers should also be comfortable receiving information that challenges their personal view of the world, even if it’s not what they want to hear. Create a culture of psychological safety where people are not afraid to share bad news for fear of getting punished, but rather are acknowledged and rewarded for speaking up. Leveraging the diversity of thought enables leaders to anticipate the future as an organization, decide what to do about it collectively, and then mobilize the organization to do what’s necessary.
  • Adapting: Challenge assumptions, and question orthodoxies. There’s always the temptation to mitigate threats simply by applying existing practices harder and faster. One way to get at those deeper issues and encourage double-loop learning is to ask, “What needs to be true for this to be the right approach?”
    • Comment: In an increasingly uncertain environment, it’s difficult to survive and thrive with an old business model or outdated technologies. Many businesses fail because they continue doing the same thing for too long, and they don’t respond quickly enough and effectively when conditions change. As a leader, stay curious and connected to the external environment, look for market shifts, understand what needs to be regularly refreshed and reimagined, adopt new technologies and capabilities, and adapt in ordinary times but also during times of transition. Unfortunately for many leaders, it’s just more convenient for them to continually downplay the fact that conditions are changing than take the appropriate course of action that drives business success.

How are you preparing your organization for potential future disruptions?

Thanks for sharing:

The Collaborative Organization

These days the term collaboration has become synonymous with organizational culture, creativity, innovation, increased productivity, and success.

Let’s look at the COVID-19 pandemic as an example. At the peak of the crisis, several companies instructed their workers to adopt remote working as a health and safety precautionary measure.

Two years into the pandemic, they are now asking their employees back to the office full time or are planning to adopt a hybrid model.

The need to preserve our collaborative culture and accelerate innovation are two of the top benefits being cited by organizational and team leaders for bringing workers back.

Collaboration is indeed essential for the achievement of team goals, functional objectives, and the overall success of the organization.

Today’s breakthrough innovations are emerging from many interacting teams and collaborative relationships.

When teams, functions, and organizations collaborate, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; group genius emerges, and creativity unfolds.

But, what makes a successful collaboration? What are the key enabling conditions?

  • It extends beyond the boundaries of the organization. Business success is a function of internal and external relationships. Instead of viewing your business in vacuo, understand that you are part of an ecosystem. External to your organization, who do you need to partner with to enhance your value creation processes, achieve/exceed your objectives, or successfully execute your strategy?
  • Ensure the objectives are clear and there is shared understanding by everyone. Unclear objectives are one of the topmost barriers to team and organizational performance.
  • Foster a culture that encourages opinions and ideas that challenge the consensus. People should feel free to share their ideas and not hold back for fear of others penalizing them or thinking less of them. Collaboration is hindered when one or two people dominate the discussion, are arrogant, or don’t think they can learn anything from others.
  • Groups perform more effective under certain circumstances, and less effective under others. There is a tendency to fixate on certain topics of discussion amongst groups which often leaves members distracted from their ideas. To reduce the negative effects of topic fixation, members of the group should be given periods to work alone and switch constantly between individual activity and group interaction.
  • Effective collaboration can happen if the people involved come from diverse backgrounds and possess complementary skills to prevent conformity. The best collective decisions or creative ideas are often a product of different bodies of knowledge, multiple opinions, disagreement, and divergent thought processes, not consensus or compromise.
  • New technologies are making collaboration easier than ever, enabling us to increase our reach and broaden our network. Although new technology helps, it will not make your organization collaborative without the right culture and values in place. First, define what you want to achieve through collaboration then use these tools to promote creative collaboration.

How else are you championing collaboration within your organization to create value and succeed?

Thanks for sharing:

Preparing for Geopolitical Shocks

Geopolitical instability has steadily increased over the past years, and uncertainty in the global economy is at an all-time high. Thanks to globalization and advances in technologies, we now live and work in a tightly interconnected world, one in which the boundaries that previously separated domestic from global issues have disappeared.

Threats are no longer confined to traditional political borders, social structures, and geographic boundaries. Geopolitical shifts have dramatically altered the global economic landscape and brought politics and business together.

The rise of China as an economic and politically influential power has threatened the dominance of the United States as the world’s largest economy. Although the opening of China and a market of 1.4 billion people have benefited both countries, it has also intensified competition and sparked U.S. economic and technological espionage accusations against China, leading to strained relations between the two giants.

U.S. companies operating from China have felt the impact of this tense relationship. The opposite is true for Chinese companies in the U.S.

Across Europe, national populism is on the rise and now a serious force. In 2016, the United Kingdom shocked the world when it voted to leave the European Union, generating reverberating effects across markets.

Banks and financial services companies that once benefited from the EU passporting system have had their cross-border banking and investment services to customers and counterparties in the many EU Member States impacted, causing them to reimagine their value proposition models.

The recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia is another example of a geopolitical event that has had devastating effects on human livelihood and businesses. Although the conflict between the two countries has risen over the years, I think it’s fair to say that few political analysts, governments, and businesses predicted a war to happen.

The war has created a humanitarian crisis, rattled global commodity and energy markets, caused prices to soar, and forced many international companies to temporarily suspend their Russian activities or completely cut ties with the country.

Global supply chains which are already fragile and sensitive due to the COVID-19 pandemic are now facing new challenges in the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Multilateral economic sanctions have been imposed on Russia. A state of affairs that was unthinkable months ago and is now threatening to derail the nascent global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the global domino effect of geopolitical events and the shrinking of the distance between markets and politics, the need to better understand and more effectively mitigate geopolitical risk has become more urgent. The business impacts, whether direct or indirect, vary by company type and industry sector.

Your company may not be able to prevent wars between nations, but you can anticipate and better prepare for geopolitical shocks:

  • Integrate strategy, risk, and performance decision-making. Consideration of risks to business success is an important part of the strategy selection and execution process, not an afterthought.
  • Develop a better understanding of geopolitical trends and how they are changing. For example, what are the megatrends in business, politics, and technology that are making geopolitical risks more diverse, prevalent, and consequential?
  • Assess the links between these geopolitical events and business performance. What are the events that matter most to your business? For example, how might current global political trends pose physical, business, and reputational risks to your parent organization?
  • Anticipate how these trends are likely to play out in the short, medium, and long terms, and develop mitigation strategies for each geopolitical scenario. Proactively anticipate and plan for radically different worlds, instead of reacting to problems as they arise
  • Review your mitigation strategies as the world changes. Are they effective enough in case of a major shock?
  • Develop capabilities for continuous learning to anticipate, address, and recover from geopolitical crises.

What do you think?

Thanks for sharing: