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Ad-hoc reporting is dead: make way for management dashboards

by Chris Shaw

In our information-saturated world it's hard to find reasons to love data. Information is often in the news for the wrong reasons - think the scandal over Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. More often than not we can feel overwhelmed by information - not set free by it. But it doesn't have to be this way. Information can be a help, not a hindrance.

Ultimately, it all comes down to how you manage data, and for many housing associations that remains a challenge.

Most of them gather and store large amounts of information. The data they hold is often collated in an ad hoc fashion. It's pulled together into different systems, by different teams of people, and for different purposes. Pulling it together for strategic purposes such as compliance, performance management or strategy and planning can be either laborious or even impossible.

Management dashboards are increasingly being used by housing associations to overcome some of the challenges of ad-hoc reporting and intelligence gathering.

So why make the switch?

What are the top five reasons to abandon time-consuming and ineffective ad-hoc reporting for the sophisticated functionality of a management dashboard?

1.Dashboards make it easier to access information that's more meaningful. The impact of this can will be felt across your business - from compliance and KPI assessment to service speed, quality and managing costs. You'll find keeping the regulators and the auditors happy will be a lot easier. And you can see the impact of your work more clearly. For example, you might be able to demonstrate that investment in an area has reduced anti-social behaviour or improved community involvement.

2.They will reduce unnecessary staff time. Pulling together meaningful reports from ad-hoc systems is laborious and time consuming. Once in place, management dashboards can significantly reduce the time involved in pulling reports together. Not only that, information will be more up to date and relevant. That leaves you the time to focus on how best to respond to your report's findings.

3.They bring it all together. With a management dashboard there's no need to waste time searching through different systems for things like housing management, compliance and services. With a dashboard they are all brought together into one place. That means 'at a glance', 'real time' monitoring and decision making.

4.They provide a top level overview - as well as an ability to drill down into the detail where necessary and deliver dashboards that are specific to individuals roles.

5.They bring problems to your attention straight away. Management dashboards are simply better at flagging up specific issues as they arise within your business, While this is again important for compliance, it also means you are better equipped to respond to problems.

So if you're already persuaded of the benefits of management dashboards what should you consider before making the switch?

What are the key questions you need to ask? And how can you make it work?

Here's my top five ways to make the most of management dashboards

1.Start by asking: what do we need to know? What are the KPIs which matter to your business? What information is important to you? Then it's about designing a bespoke database which enables you to get that live information in real time - not 30 days later.

2.Make it work for everyone. Think about how to add value for everyone who will use the new dashboards - whether the senior leadership team, departmental heads or the people on the ground. It's all about ensuring the dashboards operate in a way which means you can deliver services more effectively.

3.Access all areas. Make sure your management dashboards are easily accessible to all the staff who need to use them. That means both staff who are office based and those who work out in the field that are using a mobile device. It should be quick and easy to input information.

4.Eye for detail. Visualise how you want your dashboard to look. Take time to think about how each section should look to optimise effectiveness and efficiency. Ask what alerts you need to build in.

5.Put it to the test. Before you go live with your new management dashboards undertake a thorough testing exercise to make sure everything is working properly. Now is the time to iron out any glitches.

If you'd like to know more about how to realise the potential of management dashboards contact us.

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