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Executive Dashboard: A What-And-Why Guide With Examples

Reading time 8 minutes

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Since you entered the C-suite, your life has become rife with decisions. Not only that, but the uncertainties also seem to have multiplied just as much. Your business systems contain the raw data you need to answer your questions. But getting it out of them is slow, tedious, and painful.

You remember only too well how you used to spend most of your time huddled behind your monitor. Frantically typing away at your keyboard, massaging that raw data into something usable.

There has to be a better way!

There sure is. This article will tell you how you can use executive dashboards to your benefit. It dives into what they are and why you need them. And it tells you what an effective dashboard looks like and how you can organize them for everyone in your business.

What Is an Executive Dashboard (Cxo Dashboard)?

The dashboard in your car shows you how and what your car is doing: its speed, the revs and temperature of its engine, the fuel level, whether lights and indicators are on or off, and more. You have all that information available at a glance thanks to simple visual signals like gauges and indicator lights.

Executive dashboards do exactly the same thing for your business.

They reveal the state of your business using charts and visual metaphors similar to gauges and traffic lights. The metrics and trends of the key performance indicators are on it, derived through business analytics from the raw data stored in the systems in use throughout your business’s departments.

Unlike your car’s dashboard, executive dashboards allow you to drill down into the data to analyze in more detail what is going on. For example, your dashboard may show that actual revenue is spiking and exceeds your forecasts. Drilling down into that figure allows you to figure out where that unexpected revenue is coming from and identify what it means for your business’s future.

Why You Need an Executive Dashboard

In this digital and ever-faster changing world, every business has little choice but to respond faster to the changes around them. It means you have to make more decisions more frequently, which in turn means you need information about the state of and trends in your business faster and more frequently.

There is no way that manual processes and old-school managerial reporting can deliver what your customers want and what you need to make decisions as fast as you need it.

It’s by digitizing and automating more and more of your value streams (the activities that produce your unique value to your customers) that you can keep up. That’s why nowadays every business is a software business.

That means you need digital transformation and a strategy to make it happen. Digital transformations are challenging enough. What you need is one page that gives you the bottom line on the health of your business.

Executive dashboards, such as the business analytics section of Plutora’s platform, use business analytics to do exactly that.

They are designed to monitor your execution of long-term strategies by showing your key performance indicators and their trends. And they put it all into the context of your projections or your industry’s benchmarks. In addition, they are flexible and easily customized to your ever-changing needs and can provide you with information in real time as things happen.

More Benefits of an Executive Dashboard

Your Gut Can Lie

Gut feelings are important. We use them to make decisions when we are faced with an overwhelming number of often contradictory factors.

Unfortunately, your gut can lie. Our brains evolved with many cognitive biases that allow us to respond quickly and decisively in a dangerous and complex world. Trouble is that these cognitive biases distort our perception.

Driven by the raw data in your business systems, executive dashboards show an unbiased and undistorted view of what’s happening in your business and can help you make data-driven decisions.

Out of Sight, out of Mind

When you start a new initiative, enthusiasm is high. A few weeks in, the picture is no longer as bright. The day-to-day business has taken over again, and the shiny objectives have faded into the background.

Executive dashboards perfectly increase the visibility of the objectives and everyone’s progress toward them. For bonus points, show them on monitors placed strategically around your offices.

Everyone Is a Player

When you show people a number on a chart that they can influence with their actions, they can’t help but want to drive it higher. It’s why games have scoreboards and give badges and privileges or more power and tools as you progress through the levels.

Making the numbers that matter visible through dashboards activates the same effect. That’s how dashboards help drive ongoing improvements.

Anatomy of an Effective Executive Dashboard

Effective executive dashboards generally have three sections:

  • Your key performance indicators will be at the top. Using charts and visual metaphors like gauges and traffic lights, they’ll give you an instant feel for your organization’s health.
  • Trends of these metrics take up the middle, again using charts because seeing two lines of values instantly gives you a sense of how they are related.
  • The bottom part of the dashboard is for additional detail. It’s where you may find tables. For example, a top ten of your most valuable customers, or the most recently closed deals and their values.
Plutora Business Intelligence - Total Cost of Ownership TCO

Executive dashboards benefit from being highly focused, showing at most three key metrics. So expect to have many different executive dashboards.

The most common way to organize them is to have one overall dashboard and more specific dashboards per value stream or department. It’s also common to find dashboards for each important initiative and project, especially the long-term ones like a digital transformation.

Examples: Executive Dashboards for a SaaS

Let’s say you are running a SaaS (software as a service) business.

Your overall dashboard would probably focus on these metrics and their trends:

  • Monthly recurring revenue (MRR) and annually recurring revenue (ARR).
  • Customer satisfaction in terms of a customer satisfaction score (SCAT) or a net promoter score (NPS) and how likely customers are to recommend you to their friends and family.
  • Customer churn (or attrition rate): how many users and businesses cancel their accounts in a given period.

Customer satisfaction is influenced by a lot of factors. One of them is the responsiveness and effectiveness of your help desk when answering your customers’ questions and solving the problems they have with your product.

The executive dashboard for your help desk staff could have metrics on the following:

  • Cycle time: the total time from when a ticket is opened to when it is closed.
  • Age of open tickets.
  • Ratio of opened and closed tickets over time.

The teams developing your product would have their own dashboards showing agile metrics.

Executive Dashboards for a Digital Transformation

During a digital transformation, you have to do more than keep tabs on “business as usual.” You also want to track the status and progress of the transformation project, such as the quality and reliability of the software development that it requires and the effectiveness of your transformation. You’ll need to track how well they deliver the objectives you aim to achieve.

Plutora’s Analytics for Digital Transformation is just the solution for that.

The dashboards in solutions like Plutora paint vivid pictures of your business, allowing you to take its temperature with a single glance. This is crucial for strategic decision making, as the dashboards show you what you do well and what needs further improvement. On top of that, they allow you to quickly analyze which improvement will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Save Yourself From the Headaches of Old School Reporting

Uncertainty will never fully be replaced by certainty. To stay ahead of the game, you will always have to make decisions and take action when you still feel you need more information. That’s just the way it is.

But now you know how executive dashboards make your key business metrics easy to digest for everyone and that they deliver the data and insights as fast as you need them. You can make the strategic decisions that will move your IT and your business forward.

So don’t wait any longer. Request a demonstration to see with your own eyes what executive dashboards can do for you.

Marjan Venema Marjan Venema

Marjan is a Smart Blogger certified content marketer, working from the Netherlands with over 30 years of experience in software requirements, analysis, development, and support for the Business Planning and Analytics, Financial and Manufacturing industries. Her specialty is writing comprehensive engaging content that makes complicated and complex topics easy to understand and consume. She writes straightforward language in a conversational style and illustrates abstract topics with concrete examples.