Several years ago I started practicing what I preach, at least when it comes to making better use of data in my business. What did I do that was so radical? I started using control charts to track my key business metrics. Imagine that!
We set up a simple data entry process that my controller uses. It takes him a few seconds once a month to key in a few numbers at month end, and again every other week after cutting payroll and payables. And there is another set of numbers that we automatically extract from our call center system.
My key metrics are around revenue from a couple of sources, expenses in a couple of key, controllable categories, cash, profitability, and the number of open support calls. It isn’t perfect, but it gives me a view into the business that I would not want to live without.
I really like the control chart format. It is such a knowledge-rich way to look at data. I know there are people who claim they can look a column of numbers and understand them. When I do that, my brain goes numb. But I find the graphic representation of data on a run chart very easy to follow. In a glance I can see the history and any statistically significant shifts in the process. I can also group data by time period so it is easy to compare quarter to quarter, or year to year.
I implemented this long before we introduced a dashboard module for the GainSeeker Suite. I’ll get in trouble for admitting that in spite of all those cool dashboards, I still prefer the control charts.