Financial advisors are constantly under more pressure to stay on top of the numbers while being able to deliver insights at a moment’s notice. Fortunately, modern tools give businesses the ability to create visibility, accountability, and insights as fast as they can log onto the web. For many financial professionals, the financial dashboard is the home base, go-to, HQ, nerve center, bread-and-butter tool that keeps all the critical financial numbers within reach.
What is a financial dashboard?
A financial dashboard gives a visual overview of a business’s most important metrics to ensure advisors can always give informed and up-to-date insights to executives. It’s a data-management tool that allows financial advisors to track essential finance KPIs and manage cash flow more effectively.
Essentially, financial dashboards help everyone across multiple departments see how the business is progressing towards its financial goals in real-time. A financial dashboard tracks spending, sales, and profits in great detail in order to meet and exceed a department's or company's financial goals.
Financial dashboards usually emphasize visuals for charts, graphs, and barometer graphics while displaying information on an easy-to-understand user interface. These dashboards may also supplement static financial analysis tools, like budgets and financial forecasts.
The same information could be generated manually in a spreadsheet, but more financial advisors are turning to advanced technology with more capabilities than a basic spreadsheet.
Why? Because when you’re communicating complex information to decision makers, it’s best to make it simple. Complex tables and graphs can lead to head scratching confusion instead of getting decision-makers the information needed to direct the business with confidence.
Also, if you’re wondering what’s the big deal about a financial dashboard, a great way to discover for yourself is to try a data management tool like Causal. There’s a free version that’s perfect for small teams or if you just want to dip a toe in the financial dashboard and broad toolset before investing heavily in a platform.
Benefits of a financial dashboard
Financial dashboards boost efficiency, facilitate cross-team collaboration, and improve decision-making. Dashboards improve productivity by enabling financial advisors to give answers quickly and focus on supporting the business’s overarching goals, rather than running specialized spreadsheets for different departments all day.
They can be customized to enable even those without a financial education to gather insights quickly, reducing the time financial advisors spend answering simple questions. Reducing back and forth communication and manual spreadsheet updates improve productivity and efficiency not just for financial advisors, but for anybody touching the data in the organization.
Financial advisors often have to reply to emails and phone calls from various departments, executives, and stakeholders needing updates on various financial information. With financial dashboards, they can find this information quickly or enable peers to answer their own questions.
Advanced financial platforms (like Causal) update themselves and automate data importation, eliminating the need for tedious spreadsheet updates. And if you have multiple data sources such as an ERP, CRM, or other platforms, a financial dashboard with APIs to these disparate databases gives you instant, real-time access to critical data impacting your financials.
A dashboard that consolidates cross-functional, organization-wide financials helps financial advisors keep department leaders accountable. Monitoring budget owners from a single screen helps mitigate budgetary or financial red flags before they become a larger issue. As a single point of information, a financial dashboard empowers all teams to gather their own information whenever they need it, and get involved in the company’s ongoing financial goals.
Building an effective financial dashboard
Financial dashboards are highly customizable and the setup process will largely depend on your business’s KPIs and the tool you’re using. Causal, for example, brings data automation, built-in scenarios, builds charts in a single click, and eliminates manual formulas.
You can easily build common reports, such as profit and loss (P&L), cash management, CFO scorecard, accounts payables and receivables, and financial performance dashboards.
The right metrics
Start by working across departments and management levels to understand what information will be helpful for the company and which goals you should be tracking in real-time. For a starting point when building your financial dashboard, consider the questions you are asked most frequently and what would be most valuable to your business.
If the Accounts Payable department is constantly having to request updates on accounts payable and receivable turnover ratios, giving them access to a dashboard with that information could save a lot of time and effort. An effective financial dashboard should make the financial advisor’s job easier and act as the nerve center of financials around the business.
It’s also important to ensure you’re building a visually appealing dashboard. Make sure the chart or graph you select makes sense with the information you want to convey and focus on making it easy to interpret quickly. Consider your audience – from managers with less knowledge of financial services to CFOs. Avoid clutter so you can assess your data at a glance and consider creating multiple dashboards if it gets crowded.
Tailored to roles
You may have different interfaces for different departments, such as a sales and marketing dashboard showcasing sales goals or an executive dashboard that gives a high-level overview of the company’s biggest financial goals.
Don’t forget that you’ll likely be responsible in some capacity for maintaining the dashboard. While it’s great to customize the dashboard and give everyone the information they want, you’ll also have to make sure everything stays updated and correct. You may want to limit capabilities for those outside your department to avoid accidents that could corrupt the data. It’s helpful to set a regular cadence for updates, be it daily, weekly, or monthly.
Financial dashboards help you get data right
Financial dashboards are an effective way to showcase the hard work financial advisors do each day while also reducing the burden of manual reporting. Above all, financial dashboards need to make complex numbers look and feel simple.