Performance Management

by Peter Parkes

Reporting

Once we have populated our database of performance against measures, what do we do with it? Believe it or not, often it sits there until it is refreshed next period. The other extreme is a favourite with finance departments, which sometimes send out huge files of all the information they use. As managers, we do not want to see this data; we want to know what it means. In other words, what we require is a handful of indicators to tell us if the business is on track. If it is, OK. If it isn’t, then we follow up by digging into detail.

Management dashboards

We can be easily overcome by the amount of data available across an organisation. We have to bear in mind

  • The requirements of the recipients
  • The preferred learning styles of different recipients
  • The need to concentrate on trends rather than specific data points that may throw us off the scent of what is really going on over time.

One popular way of improving the reception of management information is through graphs or pictorial indicators. You can even configure these to look like a car dashboard (which indicates key information about our driving process, such as road speed, engine speed, and the status of key safety and performance systems).

The introduction of computer databases means that this type of dashboard can now be configured, drawn together and viewed in simple Microsoft products, such as Excel (don’t worry, it doesn’t look like Excel when the ‘techies’ have had a day with it). Thus, nowadays, these dashboards are often used to display current data, or at least can be updated using a refresh key. This feature is incorporated into most commercial Management Information and Business Intelligence Systems.

Example dashboard from a live system.

Management Information Systems (MIS)

A Management Information System is the database and reporting function for performance management. It is often IT based, but like all such systems and processes, need not be. This term is being overtaken now by the term Business Intelligence (BI), as software houses introduce more functionality.

Business Intelligence (BI)

Business Intelligence is an umbrella term which is being applied, particularly to software support products, to describe a set of concepts and methods to improve business decision-making by using fact-based support systems.

The engine of these BI tools is the ‘virtual warehouse’ of all the information captured by a company’s systems and processes. A sub-set of this information from some of these processes may be used to monitor key performance indicators.

Many BI software products have Management Information Systems (MIS) built into them; in other words, they have the ability to display selected performance data, often in ‘dashboard’ format – graphical displays rather than data tables.