This post will highlight some ways dashboards in ActiveStrategy Enterprise (ASE) software can make your monthly business reviews smoother, more effective, and a lot less stressful to prepare for.
Let’s first set up the basic scenario. You have all of your strategic performance metrics in the system. Your boss sees that several critical performance metrics are under-performing (the software is displaying red or yellow stoplights next to each of them). Of course, these measures need to be reviewed as soon as possible to determine what sort of corrective actions are in place–or should be put in place–to reverse the negative trends.
This type of review (having a constructive, data-driven discussion about areas of your scorecard that are under-performing) is what we call a business review (your organization might call these something else like “state of the business” or “major initiative review” meetings). Whatever you call them, these typically involve spending days or even weeks gathering lots of data, talking to all of the various departments or people who might be contributing to the measures, preparing a massive slide deck that summarizes all of the trends, provides reasons for under-performance, and explains what actions are in place or will be soon. Then you have to hope that what you prepare will be on-target enough to answer your boss’s questions.
This scenario can be much different if you’re using ASE software during your reviews. Ahead of the meeting, you just need to be sure that you and your team have all of your measure data up-to-date, initiative status reports complete, and variance reports filled in (which should already be done since the system will remind you to do so whenever these items are due).
If you haven’t already created a dashboard or briefing book that pulls together the data for this particular review discussion, you can create one within just a few minutes by linking the relevant scorecards, measures, initiatives, and commentary together into the view you prefer. Once you have it the way you’d like it, it will automatically refresh and display the most recent versions of everything you linked to it every time you open it. (Compare that to creating a new PowerPoint deck with linked Excel charts and tracking down project status updates from dozens of people by email and umpteen phone calls.)
When it’s time for the review, instead of pulling up your slide deck, you just go to a web browser, bring up your dashboard or briefing book, and display it on a projector. Because you’re live in the system, you’ll always be a click away from more information. Need to drill into top-level sales and see which product lines are lagging? Need to find out why on-time delivery has plummeted in your primary product line? Curious to see how this has affected new order rates and customer complaint rates? Or perhaps your boss asks questions that take you down a totally different path to see if new products in the pipeline are stalled and why? With just a few clicks you can explore your entire hierarchy of performance measures, dig into root causes, see who is responsible for performance, and what’s happening to fix it.
ASE has many tools that let you view performance in different ways, including Briefing Books, Visual Maps, Scorecards and Dashboards. For this post, let’s take a look at this snapshot of a dashboard.
This dashboard is displaying a Balanced Scorecard on the left and key charts on the right. The layout is easy for any user to change. The scorecard, on the left, is displaying the perspectives, objectives, and measures that have been linked. One click can also display any linked improvement initiatives directly under the objective or measure to which they are linked.
After a quick glance at this dashboard, I could easily say that this business review is going to lead to some tough discussions. Why are the action items overdue (indicated by the red flags on the scorecard)? Why are only two measures green, while the rest (11) are under-performing? Where are the rest of the action items for the other under-performing measures? You can bet there will be some new action items and at least a few new improvement initiatives as a result of this discussion.
If the top-level dashboard doesn’t have all of the answers (and it never does), the reviewer could reveal many more details for each measure by clicking on the measure names. The entire framework of objectives, measures, and initiatives is linked in ASE, so you can always keep drilling to learn where causes of top-level problems originate, as well as why they are occurring (using information from owner Variance Reports and initiative status reports). If there’s a dead-end and no answers are available, an action item can be created for the appropriate owner to do more root cause analysis.
Back to the dashboard, the reviewer can also use its Reference Center, which displays all of the action items, comments, external links, and attached documents linked to this dashboard. This provides a great way to circle back to previous review discussions, ensuring that Action Items were completed. Action Items can be linked from the dashboard and directly to the under-performing object. Consequently, the measure owner (who is accountable) and the dashboard owner (perhaps the executive performing the business review) will have direct access to the Action Item to update or review the status.
This was a quick intro to dashboards, so feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions on how to use them successfully in your next business review. There are many features I didn’t touch upon!