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How to Build SAP Business One Dashboards That Offer Value

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Jalene Ippolito May 5th, 2016

With respect to your business, you might be wondering exactly what a dashboard is and why you need one. Everyone should be pretty comfortable with their vehicle dashboard. Your dashboard has many gauges, but most of the time you’re only concentrated on two of them:

  1. Speed

  2. Fuel tank level

Identify your business KPIs

Your speedometer is a gauge, or as we’d call it in business terms, a key performance indicator (KPI). Just like speed is a useful “KPI” in your car, letting you know that you’re driving 100 km/hour, your business has many KPIs that indicate performance in various areas. Some examples might include:

  • Banking KPI – you have $100,000 in the bank right now

  • Receivables KPI – you have $550,000 in open receivables

  • Payables KPI – you have $245,000 in outstanding payables

The point is, you probably already know what your obvious business KPIs are – the ones that are common across most organizations. But there might be other KPIs that are really important to your business. These typically reflect what governs your success if the needle moves upwards. For example, Nucor (they’re in the steel business) decided that their most important KPI was ‘profitability per ton of finished steel’ (Good to Great).

So what’s the KPI that defines success for your business? Only you can answer to that question. However, once you know the answer, a thoughtfully crafted dashboard can help you keep tabs on your most important indicators so you always know the status of your business.

Create a dashboard that reflects your top KPIs

It’s easy to overthink dashboards and make them more complicated than they need to be - which also makes them less useful. When I was still a university student, the audio visual technician in my department gave me a piece of advice. He said that if you’re doing a presentation, the audience should know what you're talking about within the first four seconds on a slide. If it takes longer than that, then you’ve failed. The same is true for dashboards. Of course this depends on how familiar the viewer is with the dashboard – perhaps a slightly more complex dashboard is OK for someone who looks at it all the time. That being said, for any dashboard or KPI that is meant to be used across a wide variety of users, the rule of thumb is to keep it as simple as possible. In this age of ‘drilling down’ to the next level of data, you don’t really need to display everything all at once in the same screen.

Dashboard tools

There are a number of tools available for creating dashboards out of both polished and unpolished data. What do I mean by polished data? Well, that just means that the data has been analyzed and presented in such a way that it is easy to put into a pie chart or bar graph. Once you do have data that makes sense, there are many dashboard creation tools that can be downloaded for a small fee, or even for free. Typically, the trial versions of these tools do not include the complete set of features as seen in full paid for versions. However, these free versions can often be sufficient to meet basic dashboard creation needs without investing too much time or money. SAP Lumira and Microsoft Power BI are both examples of freely available dashboard creation programs that can be upgraded for more features. Even the free versions sometimes allow you share your dashboards online with others (and that's kind of the point isn't it – letting the people in your organization know how you're performing). One thing to be aware of – if you want to share dashboards online, then you’re likely going to be uploading your dataset onto a cloud server somewhere. Any reputable company like SAP or Microsoft will be doing so via secure web connections.

Using native SAP Business One HANA dashboards

Any ERP solution worth its salt should include a dashboard tool. SAP Business One offers users the ability to customize their own dashboards, so each individual can see the information that's relevant to them. It's simple, intuitive and gives you a quick path to valuable insights.


May 5th 2016
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