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Lessons From The Worst Dashboards We’ve Ever Seen: How Not to Present Your Clients’ Financials

Posted on 23rd March 2017 in The Forecast

Written by Amy Harris

How would you feel if we asked to photograph your Dashboards? Would you struggle to pick just one and gleefully submit them all or would you retreat backstage to hair and make up for some serious titivating? Fear not, this blog post isn’t going to point the finger, instead, we wanted to anonymously share some “common mistakes” so you can transform your Dashboards into model versions. Read on, your clients will love you for it!

Let’s begin by setting the record straight on the term “Dashboard” and what FUTRLI is/isn’t. We don’t think of ourselves as simply a Dashboarding app. We’re not here to display historical information on a single page. But that’s the issue with most Dashboards, they’re not focused on your financial forecast and what the business said it would achieve. Every single business plan – submitted by multiple departments, from marketing to success – should be on-point with your forecast. Tell your clients to think of this as their business brain.

Dashboards: it’s plural for a reason

Now, don’t get us wrong. Dashboards are brilliant and, of course, there is massive value for your client if you can present their insights clearly. It’s just that the overall objective shouldn’t be software-focused ie/ To Build a Beautiful Dashboard. Instead, it should be to answer the questions and concerns that your clients have about their business, or to help them unlock areas of growth potential. And trust us, that’s going to require far more than one Dashboard.

Your client’s business will change every day, so your Dashboard might need to change too – and that’s why thinking of them in a singular sense won’t work for you or your client. When you have tunnel vision, you’re not equipped to truly advise your client on the best future for their business. There could be errors you need to avoid right now, you just can’t see them. A beautiful management report is a fantastic tool in your armour, we don’t deny that. But to really advise your clients, you’re going to need Dashboards, plural. That’s why the Dashboard feature is such a pivotal part of FUTRLI. It allows you to hone in on the past, present or future, any way you want. Start looking at the big picture, then drill into the detail: that’s up to you.

You have to know your audience

It’s easy to get so excited by a new client, or a new piece of work for an existing client, that you forget what the real objective is and who you are creating it for. Stop, for just five minutes, and ask yourself…

  • What are they like as a person?
  • How do they like to learn and interact with their team?
  • Who are they managing?
  • What’s their day like – from work to family? Are they on the move for example
  • What business are they in?
  • How savvy are they when it comes to technology? Same question when it comes to the business
  • Is this the first time you’ve worked with them in this way?

You cannot create anything of value for their business unless you really know them so make this step one.

Tell a great story

Just like your favourite book or movie you cannot underestimate the importance of telling a great story. If your blockbuster hit gave away the ending in the first five seconds or revealed a plot twist before even introducing the characters, you wouldn’t be on target for that Oscar win. It’s the same with your Dashboards and again, we stress the point that they can be plural. Use one or multiple Dashboards to tell a story.

The first Dashboard might introduce the client to a high-level monthly “Health Check” and include some introductory metrics that they need to keep an eye on – cash flow, the P&L and some core KPIs, for example. Use the Dashboards as a conversation starter and a workflow for your meeting with the client. Therefore, don’t have random KPIs, which have no relevance to one another, plonked on a Board. It will end up confusing you and it will definitely bamboozle your client. For example, one of our clients sells chocolate and they export this product globally. The first Dashboard focuses on a consolidated view of the business in all markets, but further Boards drill into the detail with a focus on ‘Europe’, the other on ‘The USA’ and finally ‘Australia and New Zealand’. This allows them to assess overall business performance and identify trends within each region that require action.

Death by numbers

This Dashboard makes me cringe. If my accountant presented this information to me I would struggle not to fall asleep. I certainly wouldn’t get excited about my business. Hannah and I have such difference styles when it comes to assessing our business information but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. This goes back to knowing your audience. I am a visual person so I want to see my business trends presented in graphs and charts. Numbers are fine, sometimes, but please don’t blind me with numbers and make this beautiful app look like a spreadsheet. I have spoken to so many of our partners about this subject and I love asking questions about their “lightbulb” moment. This happens when their client a) understands and b) (yippee!) shows enthusiasm. If this experience hasn’t happened to you yet, you are liable to think that your clients “don’t care” or they “have it covered”, when really there has been an enormous communication breakdown. When the client gets it, because they understand what you are sharing with them, the magic happens. When you are preparing your Dashboards it is important to remember…

  • To balance the information you display – don’t just use tables as shown above
  • Don’t leave plain “white” space in-between your Insights because it looks messy and unfinished
  • To use a mixture of Card (Report) sizes so they are not all the same which is again, boring for the eye
  • Don’t have an entire Board for one Insight and another which is cluttered with 24 Insights
  • Don’t forget Presentation Mode, which allows you to keep your dashboards neat and tidy because you can enter full-screen mode for any insight when you need to

Unless you’re on the dancefloor, no good comes from an all nighter

If you have a meeting at 08:30 the next morning and you’re pulling together your Dashboard at 23:00 then you’re going to struggle to do a great job. You could make life easier by using one of our templates, we have industry examples for gyms, creatives, hospitality and many more. You can also reference our KPI Library which has hundreds of KPIs defined by industry, so you can speak to your clients confidently about the drivers that affect their business.

Relevant and beautiful dashboards allow you and your clients to easily identify what’s good or bad and what action needs to be taken. Let’s face it, we’re all pretty lazy and who has the time or patience to hunt for an answer. That’s why FUTRLI is designed the way it is. It’s a new way to run a business, by looking forwards, not backwards, and it is focused on how your clients’ are performing against their expectations. Follow these easy tips and we can guarantee you beautiful dashboards. But, fear not, if you have any issues, we’re still here to help.

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