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Tech Tips      

Is your business or non-profit on track? Do you know for sure? Can you prove this in a compelling way that your funders will understand?
I experienced a couple of things this week that got me thinking about being on track.
First, of course, was Tax Day. Spending hours reviewing my finances, in light of the decisions I made last year, and making sure that Uncle Sam has received his full portion,
definitely gives me pause and often makes me second-guess some of the financial decisions I made in 2008.
Second, I attended a Federal pre-retirement class. This is a nice perk that the Federal Government provides for its career employees. My husband and I spent two entire days in a classroom with 50 or so Federal employees (and a few spouses) who plan to retire within the next 5 years. The firm conducting the class presented information to help us make the right decisions prior to our retirement. More than once, it was evident that it was too late to make the "right decisions." All that we could do now was to choose the best path still open to us. If only we had known...
This month's RoadMap discusses the business dashboard, a tool which can help keep your organization on track. When formulated carefully, a business dashboard, just like the dashboard on your car, gives you focused information that helps you know immediately that you are on the right track.
Read this month's Tech Tutor Tips for information about a new "gotcha" being used by software companies when it is time for you to renew your subscriptions.
RoadMap: A Dashboard for Your Organization
What gets measured gets done! Are you measuring what really matters? Most business owners and non-profit executives know what is important for the success of their organization. However, they often fail to measure those things. Or, when they do measure, they do not report the results in a simple, compelling way to help decision-makers understand at a glance which areas of the business need additional attention.
Like a car dashboard, a business dashboard gives you information at a glance. It allows you to see where you are, where you were, and where you should be. It is a low cost tool that can be changed easily as the needs of the business change. It is a living document which evolves over time.
Here are the steps to follow to create your Business Dashboard:
  1. Decide What to Track
    Define a list of measurable goals. Select 5 to 10 key measurements that are essential for your business success.  The trick is to turn data into intelligence...what metrics confirm that you are reaching your goals?
  2. Decide How to Track
    How much data is too much data? What do you really need to know to keep your business on track? Your goal is to track just the right amount of data. Is collecting more data always better? Not necessarily. Collecting a large amount of data is time consuming and can result in a cluttered dashboard. On the other hand, a greater amount of data will give you flexibility and allow you to more easily adjust your dashboard as your business changes. More data allows you to answer a wider range of questions about your business without going back into your files to collect additional data.
  3. Design your Dashboard Carefully
    It is critical that your dashboard is clear and easy to understand. It should also be easy to read, using harmonious color combinations that present visual cues about their meaning. For example, many dashboards use green to signify good results and red for bad results. Only the most important metrics should appear on the front page. Details and raw data can be available on tabs or links for those users who need to drill down into the information.

    The dashboard can be created in Excel or in HTML. It should be updated at least weekly and should be available on either a public or private area of your website so that it is easy to access on a daily basis.

A carefully defined business dashboard will become one of your most useful management tools. The information contained in this one, frequently-updated set of reports will satisfy the needs of your executives, managers, directors and funders. Once it is in place, you will find that it is used often by a wide-range of stakeholders. It will make managing your business easier and it will allow you to sleep well at night, confident that you will know right away should your business go off track.

What does a business dashboard look like? Here is a link to a sample business dashboard: Dashboard Spy HTML based sample dashboard.

SmartSite Technology can help you determine what your key metrics are, and can help you create a compelling business dashboard for your organization. Please Contact Us to discuss your business dashboard project.

SmartSite Technology serves as a virtual IT Department for small and medium sized businesses and non-profit organizations.  We provide all of the information technology services that a business needs to compete in today's marketplace.
Our goal at SmartSite Technology is to help each of our clients to be a success!! We know that technology is not a core competency for many small business owners and non-profit professionals. We believe that every organization benefits when they automate their business processes. We work closely with all of our clients, even those who are uncomfortable with computers and technology, to help them introduce automated processes into their operations. 
Contact us today to discuss your technology needs.
Dixie Groutt
SmartSite Technology
Copyright 2009 SmartSite Technology. All rights reserved.
April 2009
In This Issue
RoadMap: A Dashboard for your Organization
Your Tech Tutor Says...
Be Aware of Software Auto-Renewals!!
tutor pic number 1
As reported by Bill Husted in his Technology column in the April 19 edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it is becoming more critical to pay attention to the renewal dates on your software licenses. This is especially important if you have decided that you want to change vendors.
Software vendors have been watching the success of the automatic renewal practices of magazine publishers, and have decided to copy their tactics. Some software vendors are now renewing your subscription without first gaining your permission. They are simply charging the renewal to the the credit card you used to originally purchase or renew the software license and then sending you an email informing you that the charge has been made.
This practice is not yet being used by the majority of software vendors, but the practice is sure to spread as vendors realize that inertia will keep most of their customers from canceling the renewal or from even making a complaint. Vendors also make it hard to counteract this tactic, because you usually cannot opt-out of the automatic renewal online. You have to call the company to deactivate the auto-renewal.
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