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Businesses have an incredible amount of information flowing into them. It is often impractical for people to process the data and make quick assessments and corrections to the business without some sort of simplification tool. One such tool is the dashboard. It is simple view of the key metrics of a business. One can take a quick look at it and see the state of the company—much like one can glance down at the dashboard on a car and see what is happening.

On a dashboard, some metrics are can be combinations of multiple other metrics. A weighting system is used to aggregate similar metrics.

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Dashboards sound simple, but in reality, there large amount of background work to collect and consolidate the information they show. You have to have systems in place to collect and process reliable data. That data must also be posted to the dashboard in a timely manner. If the data collection methods are flawed, overly time consuming, or error prone, the dashboard becomes an ineffective tool.

Dashboards should be simple, and contain only the most important data. It should also be very clear about what a normal operating condition is, and what an abnormal condition looks like.

It should be as close to real time as practical. The shorter the delay between problem and identification, the less costly they generally are.

Dashboards don’t necessarily contain the corporate goals. Instead, they may track measures related to the activities that lead to hitting those goals. The theory is that if a team is consistently doing the right thing, good results will follow.

This method—measuring activities instead of results—often leads to a more proactive business. Sales calls completed might be a good dashboard indicator that correlates well to sales. It is much more immediate, and much more actionable.

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