Best Practice: Building Financial Dashboards the CALUMO way

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At CALUMO, we're always working on new innovative ways to display data for non-accounting people.  Dashboards are the key. Dashboarding is an area I really enjoy working in because it's the icing on the cake (read "showing off the great work we do").

Process for Dash Development

When I build a dashboard or a report, I have three rules:

1. Build something basic and share early

Sharing your dashboard early with your users gives them a taste of what's cooking. Just like when you make a meringue, you taste-test it as you go so you know how to adjust for perfection. Sharing the dash early is about getting on the same page at the beginning of the building process rather than the end.  This reduces the time it takes to build the dashboard tremendously. Remember, most people don't know what they want without first seeing what they don’t.

CALUMO’s unique use of Excel really supports me here.  I can start with a mock up in Excel, publish that to a pure web-page and get an immediate  feel for how my dashboard will present.  If I already have a mock-up in Excel – I can achieve all of that in less than a minute.

2. Ask for feedback from the users regularly

I like to have a conversation often so I can produce the best result in the speediest time frame. I also make sure I listen and not push to for something I believe they need - the users of the dashboard are the subject matter experts here. If I build a dashboard I like, and they don’t, it just won’t get used.

Again CALUMO supports me incredibly well in this process.  Every ad-hoc view, published report, template and dashboard in CALUMO has a unique url.  Once I get to a place where I am ready to get feedback, all I need to do is press the share button and my audience can click a link and go straight to my dashboard as its shaping –and on any device!  No logging in or navigating – just straight to the good stuff.  If my users can surf the web they can interact and provide feedback effortlessly.  They can even slice my dashboard back into Excel, modify it and republish it – in other words tuning on the fly is as it should be, easy and fluid.

3. Iteratively improve

Sometimes consolidated reports or dashboards just aren't right this month or this year because people have changed, the companies focus is different or better measures have been discovered. It's Okay to update, change, recreated and redo.

You guessed it – CALUMO has me covered here too.  Because CALUMO actually keeps the original report I published I can return to it at any time by single click access from CALUMO’s vault then make whatever changes are needed to keep my dashboard fresh and current.  I should also note here that some things don’t change and CALUMO reports and dashboards are designed just to keep working through time.  We have clients who continue to use every day reports that were first published more than 5 years ago.  They always show current data but the layouts haven’t been touched in all of that time.  Time spent creating them has just continued to be leveraged everyday for the last 5 years – Incredible!

Financial and Non-Financial Ratios

We love to see financial and non-finical ratios like these:

  • DSO
  • Utilization %
  • Forecast Revenue and EBITDA/EBITDA % for the current month and next three months
  • Operating Margin and %
  • Current Ratio
  • Cash Ratio
  • Pre-tax and post-tax ROE %
  • Top 10 Customers
  • Top 10 61+ days overdue
  • Top 5 regions Sales
  • Bottom 5 Region Sales (so we can help them, not punish them)

The time periods for these KPI's depend on the data. DSO, for example, is purely historical. Utilization is both historical and forecast. Some data is best reported monthly, quarterly and annually.

Primary dashboards will contain all the high-level data displayed as numbers or charts. This dashboard is typically customized for groups of users. The CEO and CFO sees a different report from the field managers. Utilization can be a single number, but revenue is a chart with the last 12 month's data.

Guided Analytics

If I want to drill into any of the pieces of data, I use Guided Analytics. If I drill on the Utilization number, it will display a more detailed utilization report. Drilling doesn’t just show more utilization numbers on the same screen; that’s not enough detail from one click.

By using Guided Analytics, users can get greater detail without getting lost and without having data they don’t need to see. But they can get see related transactions if they want.

A common UX across devices

When it comes to reports and dashboards, familiarity breeds acceptance and drives use. CALUMO ensures this because same reports function 100% the same on all devices - from work PC to smartphones and tablets. CALUMO users use so many devices; and CALUMO works on all of them.

Key Indicators

Try to fit all key indicators on one page if you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you can't. Think about a few pages but have the landing page with the real key indicators then offer more detailed dashboards below those KPI's. Your focus is to have people alerted to issues on a Dashboard so they can concentrate fixing a problem or improving a situation.

Dashboard 3

If you need help on anything reporting or dashboard related, dont hesitate to get in touch here: wleitch@calumo.com

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