By Gerrit Olivier, CEO of About IT
Modern dashboards go well beyond pretty graphics with some drill-down capability to look at the nuts and bolts of what lies beneath. And they go beyond requiring businesspeople to wait while IT administrators write a series of reports to divulge the necessary information. Most importantly, they’re accessible to the small to medium businesses now – offering all the pertinent information – and not just the big enterprises with budgets for large enterprise technologies.
Nothing hones a keen appreciation for actionable data quite like a recession. Cash flow visibility is crucial, as are transaction insights, accurate and realtime bank balances, debtors on 30, 60, and most crucially 90 days, those overdue, and the business’s own 90-day forward looking commitments.
More significantly than that, modern solutions will analyse historical data by customer, for example, to determine how long specific customers actually take to pay. Some pay on 45 days even though they’re on a 30-day contract. There’s no need to police those invoices because you can rely on them to pay. Policing them just costs you time and money and could even turn loyal customers away. And you can use the same approach to forecast payables for your own business.
These are big advantages to smaller and medium businesses. For many it can be a struggle to get on top of their current business situation, everything from cash flow to KPIs, branch sales to specific product sales, or contract management and staying on top of recurring expenses.
The analytics dashboards available to smaller operations today are more intelligent than ever before and they can be automated to a far greater extent. Getting visibility into the type of information they share at a glance, even on a mobile platform like a smartphone, is like comparing travel by steam train to jet aircraft. It used to take the accountants at small to medium businesses hours to days or even weeks to be able to gather all the data, massage it in spreadsheets, then present it to the executives. But now you don’t have to work with spreadsheets or get IT to write reports.
This type of cost-effective dashboard analytics is eminently possible today because of cloud services, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and the digital technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that significantly reduce the barriers to entry.
Businesses use these dashboards in a variety of ways. One business I worked with used the dashboard to reduce its inventory of slow moving items by 50% and released R30 million in working capital as a result. Others use the dashboard to identify areas of poor growth, eliminating unnecessary low value debit orders, and to help them analyse supplier B-BBEE certifications.
It can be difficult for many organisations to track these issues when they grow even modestly. But, while it required much elbow grease and a few late nights to identify and deal with these issues in the past, that need no longer be the case. The solutions are within reach and many companies are beginning to use them. That’s why Gartner says that dashboards remain the number one business intelligence (BI) and analytics tool, even for large enterprises. And using them means instant access to all the important information to make the right decisions to weather the recessionary storm.