Remember high school? Remember having to read a Shakespeare play or some exceptionally long and boring work by a now-forgotten Victorian author? And how your English teacher could extract information and meaning from the way Heathcliff glanced across the room?
That's exactly the way most decision makers feel today in data rich businesses. There's a lot of data out there, and somewhere deep inside that data there's some real information that can matter to the business. There's a trend line that indicates why customers are leaving, or an indication as to what's happening with product quality. How can you make distinctions and decisions based on several significant sources of data that generate thousands of megabytes every minute?
What managers need is what every high school kid relies on in senior english class - Cliff Notes. Only, these Cliff Notes are now called Dashboards and Score Cards. There is a distinction between the two.
Score Cards provide a short synopsis of key metrics in the business based on the "balanced scorecard" approach developed by Kaplan and Norton as a way to capture and measure business performance. This is a specific approach that captures data about Customers, Internal Business Processes, Financial Metrics and Learning and Growth Metrics. These metrics are captured and reported.
Dashboards are simply a method of distributing information to an interactive web portal or the desktop. Balanced Scorecard results can be published to a dashboard, or a firm can devise its own set of management metrics and publish its own metrics and measurements on a dashboard.
What's important about Score Cards and Dashboards is that they should present information that a manager needs about key performance indicators that allows the manager to understand what's currently happening, what processes and metrics are in or out of tolerance, and what items are most important. I'd like to see more information presented to managers about trend lines and predicting problems or challenges in the near future, but let's take it one step at a time.
There are several applications I've worked with for dashboards, but my favorite is QlikTech's QlikView product. There's really only one reason I like this one over other dashboard and business intelligence tools. I like it because it can be deployed quickly and is very flexible. As my needs change, the application can quickly change to report the information that is most important to me.
So, use your Score Card as Cliff Notes on the Dashboard and get a handle on your business.