As purveyors of accounting services and software tools, we get asked more and more about dashboards that supplement or replace traditional financial reports. So, first, what is a dashboard? Simply put it’s a combined graphic and tabular representation of an organization’s results, showing both meaningful financial and nonfinancial information for a period of time that can be more readily understood by a nonfinancial person, such as a Board member or program manager.
Some accounting software packages have built-in integrated dashboard builders. For example, Abila Fund Accounting 100 has an optional module call the Visual Analyzer that generates information showing budget to actual comparison, financial position with key ratios, and a snapshot of accounts payable and accounts receivable status, all capable of drilling down into the detail. Most likely other dashboards are built in Excel using its extensive formatting and graphing tools. There are also commercial financial dashboard software products that generate internal information as well as comparison to outside measurements.
This will be the first in a series of posts about dashboards. We want to share our knowledge and experience and find out what our readers are doing as well. To start out, our friend Nancy Church posted an article to her blog about asking the right questions before creating dashboards. Knowing why you develop dashboards and for whom are important. Nancy provides a general framework that we will lean on in our further exploration of the subject.