B2B organizations that embrace analytics and best practices in data management can improve efficiencies, cut costs, and grow faster regardless of size or industry.
Distributors can gain more refined insight into their supply chain.
Manufacturers can monitor and manage the performance of numerous components and machinery in their warehouses and factories.
Marketers benefit by analyzing customer touchpoints from site visits to calls/emails and purchases.
Despite evidence that deeper insights mean better decisions, some organizations still struggle to make sense of their data to improve operational efficiencies.
Listed below are some best practices for data management and visualization.
Align data and analytics to business outcomes
Technology in data analytics is changing fast. Data management and analysis teams handle large volumes of data and different complexities that were out of reach until recently.
Real-time data analytics provides the most current and actionable information. Ensure your data is easily accessible from your ERP or other applications in your business operations to save time and reduce errors. (If your system is outdated and unable to support these requirements, it may be time to look at more modern, connected software).
Every department has goals and priorities that drive its activities. Start by Identifying unique departmental goals and objectives to create meaningful analytics with the most impact.
Use data visualization for data analysis
Everyone can be a natural data analyst with the right data visualization tools. When handling information at scale, our visual capacity is unmatched for making sense of it. Even individuals with no coding skills can spot values that don’t fit in the pattern.
Gartner defines dashboards as a reporting mechanism that aggregates and displays metrics and key indicators so they can be examined at a glance by all possible audiences.
However, not every dashboard visualization tool is easy to use. It’s easier to understand data and make informed decisions when visuals are well-designed and with well-presented data.
Best practices for creating dashboards to help motivate and drive business activity
1. Define the dashboard objective and audience
Having answers to the below questions forms the base of a valuable dashboard:
Who do you want to help?
Since your goal is to make life easier for a specific someone in the business, your decisions should consider this from the start. Write down the name of the person or group you are creating the dashboard for.
What is their role in the business?
Be specific when defining their role in the business, as this will uncover KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Two or three daily tasks are enough.
What are their goals?
Do they care more about leads or sales? Are they looking to improve their social reach or manage customer support calls better?
Which are the ideal KPIs to help them attain their goals?
How do they view these KPIs currently?
They might be using excel documents that can be too big or a CRM not designed for this purpose. Understanding their current system will help you create something better.
2. Ensure data is clean and correct
ou can consider many different data sources depending on your working scenario. Consider data sources outside of the department for better, actionable insights. For instance, sales and marketing teams work together, so connecting their data is ideal.
As you collect data, ensure it’s accurate, consistent, and compliant with company procedures. Automating this process helps avoid wasting time and reduces errors.
3. Pick the right charts for your data type
Use various charts to represent different data. Below are some chart types and where they are appropriate:
Bar charts – are simple and effective when looking at trends, comparisons, and cohort analyses. When comparing two or more items or values at a fixed point in time, your best choice is a bar chart.
Pie charts – although these charts are controversial, they are ideal when you need graphs to represent a percentage of portions to a whole and when your figures add up to 100%. Each component becomes an individual slice of the pie.
Line charts – are used to visualize trends and development over time.
Tables – provide detailed information that might be difficult to represent in a chart graphically.
Gauges – are perfect for identifying KPIs that need special attention.
Area charts– are ideal for emphasizing the magnitude of change, whether positive or negative. They are similar to a line chart but with the area beneath filled in.
4. Making colors meaningful in your dashboard
Different colors evoke different emotions, so brands are specific with the color scheme they choose for their business. To make a good dashboard presentation, you should consider your color scheme carefully.
Dashboard colors help draw your eye to critical information, identify data relationships, and highlight potential issues early on.
It’s important to note that when designing dashboards, you should be mindful of certain limitations some may have with color blindness. Red-green color blindness is the most common, and we should not rely too heavily on these colors to convey key differences in dashboards. Providing context to users who cannot see these hues, such as visual arrow indicators or icons, will help them understand the metrics better.
Maintain consistency throughout your designs. For example, if the color blue indicates Sales in one chart, it should represent Sales in all graphs. In this way, colors consistently convey the same meaning across all charts.
Use a three-color palette in a design with the traditional 60-30-10 color rule. Make your dominant color account for 60% of the color in the design, while two accent colors use up the remaining 30% and 10%. Another way to keep your palette balanced is using shades and tints (or lighter and darker versions of a chosen hue.) In this way, you can develop your color choices without overpowering your design.
5. Keep the dashboard clean
Having a cluttered workspace can affect your productivity and dashboard. It’s essential to stay organized and keep the dashboard clean. If the dashboard creates anxiety in you, it’ll probably cause the same feeling in your audience. Focus on a couple of metrics to tell your story, and you’ll be good to go.
6. Track actionable data
Data can be powerful and awesome; however, it can only do so much for the business – it is how you put the data to use matters a lot. Focus on data that influences your business processes, hiring decisions, annual goals, SLAs, and more. If you have more FYI data instead of actionable data, it’s not worth tracking. The purpose of the business isn’t to stay busy collecting and storing data but making decisions based on facts.
Building a data-driven culture in your business is easier said than done. It’ll take a lot of practice to create welcoming dashboards with precise metrics, but it’ll be worth the trouble.
For a head-start, work with a data-focused technology partner so you can achieve efficiencies rapidly and transform your data into a goldmine of insights.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Turnkey Technologies empowers B2B, mid-sized to enterprise organizations to optimize their data and processes to achieve more, in less time, with less expense, for over 27 years. As a Gold Microsoft Partner, we turn our magic using Microsoft technologies, our singular focus. We support Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, Finance & Operations, CRM, and more with a professional team that is dedicated and trained in all things Microsoft. www.turnkytec.com
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