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A basic guide to interactive dashboards for small business

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Small Business Owner Invoice Mistakes

Business intelligence in an interactive dashboard can summarize your financial data in a visual and easy-to-understand way so decision-making is easy – and problems can be spotted early.

Once the preserve of large businesses (it originated in huge corporations in the 1950s), its functionality has filtered down to even the smallest business – and our guide – A basic guide to interactive dashboards for small business – explains how you can benefit.

Most of us have created simple graphs in spreadsheet applications using the automated tools. This is a way of visualizing data. If one bar in a graph is taller than another, then clearly that value is higher. We can see that at a glance, rather than wading through tables of figures.

Business intelligence is like that spreadsheet graph – but on performance-enhancing medication.

With just a few clicks, you can transform your profit and loss ledger into a series of attractive tables, charts and standout figures, known as a dashboard. Your dashboards might show overheads, expenses, net profit percentage and more.

If you want to drill down into your expenses, as one example, you can click the graph to see a listing complete with variance year-on-year.

Business intelligence is about providing insight into data in the quickest and most intuitive way possible, and giving you the freedom to creatively explore it. This means you can be more reactive and responsive on a daily basis.

Our guide includes straightforward advice on:

  • The competitive advantage business intelligence dashboards and reports offer even the smallest business owner—including sole proprietors or partnerships.
  • How business intelligence can directly improve your business decision-making – including examples drawn from real-world businesses.
  • Five essential dashboards you should be using within your small business: Sales Trend Analysis, Financial Hygiene, Analysis of Aged Debtors, Analysis of Aged Creditors and Business Snapshot
  • The dashboards included in small business accounting software to show how you can quickly and easily implement the tools within your business, along with guidance on how the tools work.

Excerpt from A basic guide to interactive dashboards for small business

Introduction

To be alive today is to generate data on a minute-by-minute basis. Instant messages from family and friends on our smartphones, financial transactions when we purchase a coffee – data paints an incredibly accurate picture of us whether we like it or not.

Businesses are no different and the rise of sophisticated, cloud-enabled accounting software means there’s a constant flow of financial data within your business. Again, the data paints a picture that’s accurate – but also invaluable.

The data can provide insights that empower the right decisions for growth. Problems can be spotted before they even arise. For example, you’re able to keep tighter control over creditors, leading to shorter waits for payments – and therefore improved cash flow.

You can see which customers are providing most business, both right now and projecting in the future, and therefore focus on them.

Taking control of your data also means admin tasks take less time, meaning you can focus on what drives you and your passion within the business. Turning your business data into invaluable insights sounds difficult – but it isn’t.

There’s a whole area of technology called business intelligence dedicated to the task. Business intelligence means you can view reports and dashboards showing your live financial data in useful and visually appealing ways, such as in graphs and pie charts, or by picking out the most important headline figures.

The intention is to tell you everything you need to know with little more than a glance – and that might be all it takes to spot a problem or an opportunity.

Collect your cash

It’s important for any business owner to know exactly who owes them cash—how much, and when they can expect to receive it from their customers.

Looking at the Analysis of Accounts Receivable dashboard, the first thing you’ll see is in the Debtors Days section is that it shows 134.54 and is red. This means that on average, your debtors are paying you every 134.54 days compared to the average credit terms of 37.31 days that you have set for your debtors in your business. We’re all aware of the phrase “cash is king”, and this is especially true for a start-up business where money is tight. As a business owner, you need to closely monitor how quickly your debtors are paying you—and for this mission, the color red is not acceptable.

Looking at the Accounts Receivable Age Summary, you’re able to view how much you’re owed and for how long it’s been outstanding. Straight away, you’ll notice that there is $140k sitting in the 120 days category and $76k older than 120 days—which is cash that’s outstanding and needs to be collected by you. By clicking on the 120 Days heading, the interactive chart shows you that the outstanding amount largely relates to a specific customer: BMC.

If you then right-click on BMC and click Drill Through, you can immediately drill-down to the specific customer information and follow up with the appropriate person for the outstanding amounts. You’re also able to view what BMC’s average credit terms are, if there are any sales this month to them, and what amounts are due and/or overdue. You can then take immediate action.

Summary

Even just ten years ago a guide like this couldn’t have existed because the technology behind business intelligence had yet to filter down to the small business sector.

Now even the smallest business owner, such as a sole proprietor, is given the kind of visibility into their business that encourages growth.

In this guide we look at the benefits of business intelligence, and how financial dashboards provided by business intelligence tools can empower a small business.

The final step is to embrace the revolution within your own business—and to let the power of business intelligence take your operation to the next level.

A basic guide to interactive dashboards for small business

Want to know how to use data to make the right decisions so you can grow your business? Download this free guide and learn how business intelligence tools can reveal insights that will keep your business moving.

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