[SSB#20] Delectable dashboards!
A newsletter from
Welcome to the 20th edition of our newsletter "Supersonic Business", a fortnightly publication by Mantle, written by me, Laura Landmark, with a focus on business growth, value and performance management, in other words, all things that make a business better.
Thanks for being here! P.S. Was this email forwarded to you? Get your own!
Sandnes, Norway, Saturday morning, 13th June 2020 ☀️
"Supersonic Business" is sent from me, a Management Accountant, to those that have a leading position in SME's (small/medium businesses), and their accountants. The vision for the newsletter is to share information, tips and tricks to build healthy, thriving businesses from the 'inside out', it is written from the finance and administration perspective.
I hope you enjoy [SSB#20], write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any feedback or questions.
I LOVE SUSHI!
I also love watching the chefs make sushi, it is a form of art. My 10 year old has got the taste for California rolls, (arguably a lite version of real Sushi!), so luckily when we go to the mall, we are no longer dragged into MackyD's or BurgerKing. Instead, we make a B-line for Sabi Sushi. Here we get to sit and watch the chef's piece together various platters of Maki (rolls!), Nigiri (lumps!) & Sashimi (raw fish) and salads into platters of delectable feasts.
What has this got to do with Dashboards?
So what on earth has this got to do with Dashboards? well, nothing and everything.
The thing is, when you go to a good sushi restaurant, like Sabi Sushi, you can be pretty sure that the food will look and taste just as good every single time.
I will say that again, it will LOOK and TASTE just as good every time, and by that I mean it looks and tastes THE SAME...... EVERY TIME! 😋
What is a Dashboard?
I think we all know what a dashboard is, even if we have never used them in business.
A dashboard is an overview on the performance of 'something'. It conveniently brings all the most critical data into one place so that you can see all the most important information at the blink of an eye instead of having to go searching.
We have dashboards in cars, planes, boats, and trains, and let's be honest, we would not consider taking a trip in a vehicle without one.
In business, it is the same thing, over the last 10 years or so, it has been possible to create online dashboards that give you a birds-eye view of your business so you can quickly spot your opportunities and threats. Your treasure troves, or icebergs so to speak.
This means you can quickly make proactive decisions to accelerate or slow down your business in order to line up your resources (cash, people, products, natural resources, relationships ++) in order to speed towards the up-side and away from the down-side.
Dashboards enable knowledge, visibility and control by providing valuable information about your business on a single screen.
Here is an example of some dashboards
"The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight"
- Carly Fiorina
Back to Sushi!
When you are using dashboards or graphical reports to interpret your data, consistency is the key.
Just as with the sushi plate, you are served up your data the same way every time.
This means that your eyes get trained on where to look, and your brain is able to interpret what it sees many times quicker than if you are being served up the same information in different ways every time. You learn to trust what you see.
I was in some meetings a while ago, where we were reviewing some company critical figures. We met several times, and the presenter showed us the figures in a different format every time.
It was very disorientating and distracting and frustrating. The best strategic conversations are stimulated from understandable and consistently presented information. Of course, the numbers will vary every time, but the order of things should remain the same.
"Consistency supports productivity"
A place for every bite!
The other thing to say is that the Sushi plate is never overcrowded. There is a place for everything. It is not like the chef starts putting on the rolls, then runs out of space, so shoves the extra ones into a heap at the bottom of the plate, it is all carefully planned. Just like a dashboard, it is important to lay it out well.
Bare is beautiful!
Using minimal 'ink', keeps things clean. Put the most important information top left (don't waste this prime real estate with a logo), and try to avoid rolling tables. Rolling tables are created where there is not enough space to see everything in one go, so that the user needs to 'work' to see all of the data.
In other words, make it easy for the user to see everything in one glance without having to scroll up and down. You definitely don't want to go searching under your Sashimi for your wasabi!
Well designed dashboards are interactive and will allow you to drill down into appropriate lower levels of detail as necessary. They bring your data alive, all served up in perfect bite-size pieces.
Cheap is not cheerful!
Sushi costs, it is not free. Great sushi chefs have trained for a long time, and they practice every day. I remember going for a cheap plate of sushi when I was on holiday, and it was disgusting. There were bits of shell in the rolls, and the rice was soggy, and the fish... well. Let's just say it was offputting.
Good sushi exudes quality, it is fresh, beautiful, and delectable. It is worth waiting for and paying good money for. Rather this, than a cheap dragon roll any day!
It is the same with dashboard design. There is a right way of doing it, and a wrong way, and when you are screwing these things together, time needs to be taken on getting each element right.
The users are going to be opening & using these dashboards for a long time to come (hopefully), so it is worth investing time and energy in creating a tool that will work for them. The dashboards need to be easy on the eye, informative and intuitive. You should be able to look and get a full overview of the performance and position in seconds without having to move your eyes. This means the designer really needs to understand the user.
Keep up the standards!
As a sushi chef, you have to work to a standard, you cannot go off on your own creative flair, you need to consider your audience and their expectations, what they have come for?
This is kind of strange, as in most other restaurants, I expect the chef to use his creativity, and seasonal ingredients to create me something unique. I welcome a surprise in most restaurants and would be disappointed if I just got served the same old thing every time with little variation, like in the school dinner hall.
Not so with Sushi, this product follows a standard, and I would expect Chef A at Sabi Sushi to produce exactly the same product as Chef B.
Same for dashboards, they offer a standard view, so if person A views them, they will see the same thing as person B. There is only one source of truth, and one answer, so everyone in the company can work out from the same foundation. The interpretation of the current situation doesn't depend on which excel book you open, or which system you look in.
Now of course modern-day visualization tools mean that you can also 'help yourself' to information, a bit like the self-service sushi on the conveyor belts. But in my opinion, there should always be at least some set menu's, ie static executive dashboards that remain consistent, so that the users do not become overwhelmed or confused, by all the 'choices'.
Consider your colours!
The colours are important too, who wants brown sushi?
No, we expect to see greens, oranges, blues, whites, lights and darks, and it is no accident how these are put together.
Just like a dashboard, where the colours also need to be considered. There are a huge number of people, males especially who are colourblind, so one needs to use colour blind-friendly pallet if you want to make sure that "STOP" doesn't end up being interpreted as "GO"!
See the big picture
Lastly, you want a bit of variety on the sushi platter. One might love California rolls, but you don't want to overdose on them!
An executive dashboard too should offer up information from a variety of sources. This might include financials and cash but might also include information from your human resources (HR) system, or your CRM system, or your production or logistics system, all combined to give you a relevant overview of your performance.
We are regularly called up on to integrate data from diverse systems, and to combine this with financial data from the accounting system in order to create the basis for a holistic view.
We do this by setting Uniifire to work (our integration platform). We send out digital pipes from Uniifire to suck up data into Uniifire's powerful data engine where it is combined, crunched, transformed and enhanced ready for serving on the management dashboard.
In summary, dashboard design is an art form in its own right
"A performance dashboard is a practical tool to improve management effectiveness and efficiency, not just a pretty retrospective picture in an annual report.”
- Pearl Zhu
Contact me on email@example.com or on LinkedIn if you would like to know more about how we use technology to make life in business easier and the way forward clearer.
* * *
Never allow your business to be unprepared for unforeseen events again
This article talks about the uncertainty created by Covid-19, and that even though we don't know how long this will last, the economy is circular, so we will at some point bounce back.
They assume that those who rebound the fastest and most successfully are the ones who had a plan
Having a solid financial plan means you have a rolling forecast with built-in variable assumptions, cash flow models and dashboard reporting of your key performance indicators (KPIs). It means being in control and measuring progress against goals.
If this doesn't sound like your business today, the article challenges that we "never again" allow ourselves to be caught off guard. We should be preparing for scenario A, B and C in good times and in bad.
We at Mantle love working with customers who see the value in investing in management dashboards before the ***t hits the fan (again)!
Read the full article here
A designer’s guide to creating effective dashboards
This article echos some of the ideas I laid out in my newsletter. There is a knack to dashboard design. There are so many great tips in this article, they go into great depth, and not a sushi roll in sight!
One important thing about dashboards is you are able to reveal data and information at the appropriate time, bit by bit in a drill-down system
They explain that data visualization is the presentation of data via graphics and pictures. Its primary objective is to help decision-makers identify patterns or understand difficult concepts that may go undetected in text-based applications.
Read the full article, it is packed full of great tips, click here
Dashboard Design: best practices and examples
This article offers more great reference material for creating killer dashboards. They explain that dashboards are for providing users with a global overview to the most important information. They describe dashboards as being a sort of business homepage.
They discuss how to decide what to put on the dashboards, then they compare a car dashboard which shows all the critical info about running the car, including speed, performance, fuel, direction etc. We don't look at a car dashboard to read the news or check in on LinkedIn!
Read the full article here
6 Mistakes while designing dashboards
Don't you just love youtube videos that give you a tonne of great knowledge in less than 5 minutes? This is a short video with some really key points to consider when designing dashboards.
They talk about what types of graphs or charts to use, so think about how to layout the dashboards, and the importance of making data dynamic. No one wants to log on to the dashboard to see static non-interactive data.
The whole point is to turn data into usable information to make decision making in business a whole lot easier.
Books on the bedside table this week.
This book claims to be a 28-day process to achieving any goal. Andy has some really interesting insights, he explains things in a way that creates some real ah-ha moments.
I am not a procrastinator, but I am really enjoying the spin he puts on getting things done!
Always end with a thanks!
🙏Thanks to our lovely landlords at FOMO who hired the icecream van to come and give us free lollies at lunch yesterday! 🌻
Something to watch
Here is my recent webinar on simulating the future with rolling forecasts, which are about the best management tool that I think exists (rolling forecasts, in general, that is... although mine is also pretty good!) 😁
Thanks for reading & see you next time
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