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Dashboards Redux

Back in May of last year, I wrote the following post, which in essence said “There’s a lot of talk about dashboards, but I’ve encountered very few myself.”

Well, while attending the Aptify Users Conference a few weeks ago, one of the speakers was demonstrating the dashboards available in the Aptify product (which are, quite frankly, pretty slick). But the speaker went on to say “This is one of the most underutilized portions of our system.”

So  I’ll ask again, why aren’t more associations using dashboards? Do they not see the value? Or is it just to difficult to get them working correctly?

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  • In my experience, dashboards are a management tool that an organization must evolve into. Dashboards are good at showing at a glance the information that executive management needs to monitor progress toward or maintenance of a business performance goal, and to effect business changes that make an organization more effective.

    Studies by industry analysts show that the evolution into effective use of dashboard technology can sometimes take a year or more. There is an iterative process, a feedback loop, by which an organization first uses BI tools to discover what data it has that is useful for business performance management, and institutionalize those reports and data into daily, weekly or monthly business processes. Through that feedback loop, the organization learns what data is effective in monitoring as key performance indicators for the business, what additional data needs to be captured, and what data is meaningless. Ultimately, only those metrics which are valuable to measuring the health of the organization become worthwhile to build into dashboards. As an organization matures, the KPIs evolve and change. What is an indicator of performance today may not matter tomorrow, or may become so ingrained in the organizations culture over time that it is less important to monitor through a dashboard after a while.

    In my view, many associations still have yet to define what those goals are, or don’t have a culture that is oriented towards business performance management. Wes, you often touch on this issue with your comments that state, “it depends on what you want to accomplish”. Those organizations that know what they want to accomplish will more likely succeed with dashboards to help them accomplish it.

  • Bob Nedbal

    I agree with Dan’s points. I think organizations need to be at a certain level management maturity and have an understanding of business-technology alignment before the concept of a BI dashboard can realized. In addition, commitment in both $ and time are then required to successfully implement, maintain and iterate the performance management tool.

    Any readers of this blog who’ve encountered dashboards in non-profits; I’d be interested in hearing a) are they actively used and b) a description of their characteristics. What metrics are tracked? Is data collection and analysis automated or manual?

  • Wes Trochlil

    I agree with both points, but it still confounds me as to why associations that have been using the same system for many years (which implies some level of success and maturity) are not embracing dashboards.

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“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

“We came to Wes because we were very frustrated with our existing AMS and we wanted to improve our capabilities as soon as practicable. Wes very quickly helped us through a process of identifying our needs, identifying potential vendors, and selecting a new system that we’ll be able to move into very quickly. I especially appreciated Wes’s candor about our processes as well as the systems we were looking at. He was a great resource to have in a period of high anxiety for our organization. I would highly recommend Wes for any similar project.”

Jack Chiasson, CMP Executive Director
National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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