What's On Your Dashboard?

I’ve always been a big fan of the dashboard approach. My first exposure to it was nearly twenty years ago now. I’d got the nod on a large deal for what today is called ERP, but back then was simply ‘financials and distribution’ software. As part of the final sign-off, the chief bean counter wanted us to meet the top man. In those days, it was typical for just one PC to be in situ, even in corporations like this (a successful division of engineering conglomerate Glynwed) so it was all green text on black cubic screens. (You could splash out a touch more and have amber text instead!) As preparation, I was shown a single screen from their current system that we were replacing. It was littered with a series of boxes highlighting various figures, and was what the big boss looked at every single morning.

I went back to my techies with a printout. They were all suitably impressed. My superstar colleague, a one-time coder extraordinaire that amazingly morphed into a super new business seller, Colin Harris, spent the intervening weekend conjuring up the same intel from our demo systems. (Why hasn’t report writing got any quicker?) It demmed like a dream. A sweet and surefire deal clincher.

When I started my web-based software endeavours, I too wanted dashboard info. My intel was all tabular, focusing on client engagement, growth and development as well as our service response stats. Recently, a new business unit I launched got me thinking of more graphical insights.

Then, in a smirky aside during his latest roadshow presentation, salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff recounted when in a high-level meeting he felt envy directed at him because via his Blackberry he could get an instant handle on any figure. Turns out he has 14 dashboards across his business.

They’re such a good idea yet the reason why so few people have one, is that they are notoriously tricky to set up. Trying to collect and collate (and automate) the accurate, fully compliant, content required in real-time often proves a killer.

As a sales manager, how can you de-couple reliance on those in the field to input raw data from unearthing process and micro-management stats? How do you reconcile qualitative and quantitative measures? What is it that you constantly want to know, in real-time?

As a salesperson, what are the metrics that show the direction you’re headed, or alert you to a potential issue needing addressing? What are the alarm bells you want to hear ring on deals, and what are the tell-tale signs of imminent success?

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