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Just like the dashboard of your car helps you navigate safely to your destination, your business dashboard puts your most valuable information at your fingertips.

Data-driven businesses use dashboards to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), metrics, and other key data points related to a business, department, or specific process. The idea is to give users a simple way to help your organization improve performance and streamline processes.

How can companies use business dashboards?

A well-designed dashboard can help to align organizational efforts, make fast, informed decisions, and improve business performance. Common objectives are to:

Align departments. For example, you may want to give the manufacturing department better visibility into the sales forecast for better demand planning.

Consolidate information from multiple software applications. Combining information from an accounting system like QuickBooks with a customer relationship management (CRM) system used by your sales teams can help you use your data to make better business decisions.

Track performance and spot trends over time. By comparing current data with historical data, like month over month or year over year, you can discover patterns, track KPIs, and drill down to find the root cause of any changes.

Detect anomalies. Companies can add automation that get triggered when various thresholds are reached or anomalies are detected.

Monitor business health. Key metrics can be used to measure performance.

Reporting vs. dashboards: Understanding the difference

Many companies still run using month-end and year-end reports. Someone usually has to spend hours manipulating Excel spreadsheets and mastering the art of the pivot table and PowerPoint to turn raw data into usable information. But even then, most reports only show what’s already happened.

By contrast, business dashboards provide near real-time data, and often allow the user to drill down to see the detail. Operational dashboards can be built for any set of users. They give organizations agility by providing users with the information they need to make informed decisions in the moment, like:

  • Adjusting the marketing budget based on campaign effectiveness or current lead flow
  • Re-routing service personnel based on weather or traffic
  • Shifting the production schedule based on inventory availability

While executive dashboards will provide the big picture with charts and metrics providing insight into the overall health of the company, comparing actuals to goals, most users will primarily use a departmental dashboard for their business area.

A financial dashboard might show:

  • Current bank account balances
  • Outstanding receivables and payables
  • Sales forecast for the next 30-60-90 days
  • Departmental budgets
  • Profit margins by category

Sales dashboards would contain completely different information, and might include:

  • Number of new sales inquiries
  • Customer acquisition charts
  • Rolodex of customer contact information
  • Sales pipeline broken down by rep, team, line, or sales stage
  • List of current discounts, promotions and marketing campaigns

Building better business dashboards

How do you actually create a business dashboard that’s meaningful and immediately accessible to anyone who views it? It’s easy to overcomplicate your design and wind up with a cluttered, noisy mess that’s not actually helpful for anyone. The company databox.com put together a great list of 21 practical tips for building better business dashboards. Their top ideas for getting started are to:

  • Know your Key Business Objectives (KBOs)
  • Understand your target audience
  • Keep the dashboard simple and relevant to the user
  • Create multiple dashboards
  • Make the dashboard visually appealing with plenty of white space and color-coding

Have questions? Looking for ideas?

The types of dashboards you need depends on your type of business. We can help you build analytical dashboards that give you insight into your customers and keep your entire team informed about current business operations.

Book a time with us to learn about your options. Based on your needs and strategic goals, we can recommend the right dashboard and reporting tools to help you achieve your strategic goals. From building a single dashboard to developing customized business metrics, our team has the experience to manage your analytics project.

IT quiz

What is in a good business dashboard?

A good business dashboard should track KPI’s, data performance, and key metrics.

Why do I need a dashboard?

A business dashboard is a major tool you should be utilizing. It tracks and analyzes your key data and metrics to monitor your business health and performance. You will get your answers quickly from a big glance at all operations.

How do I make an effective dashboard?

Eclipse Consulting is here to help you create a totally customizable dashboard for your company. We can create whatever you may want or need on your dashboard to track analytics.

Whether buying a new server, new cloud storage, a new computer, or a new software program, you’ll want to think carefully about what information will move over to the new system.

The default is to just “keep everything,” but that’s usually a mistake. Just like when you move to a new office or house, moving systems creates a natural opportunity to purge items that are no longer useful to your business. To avoid cluttering up a new system with outdated information, we help clients develop a data migration strategy.

What is Data Migration?

Data migration is the process of moving data from one system to another. That could mean a data storage location, a database or an application. You will undergo a data migration anytime you:

  • Replace an existing application
  • Buy new computer hardware
  • Move to the cloud
  • Bring data into a new database or data warehouse
  • Build a new business process

The ETL Process

Data migration is a one-time process that moves data from one system to another. It doesn’t matter where the data is housed – on premises or in the cloud. The transfer of data can be as simple as export-import – or significantly more complex. If the records in system A and system B have different fields or a different schema, the data must be manipulated before it can be brought into the new system.

ETL stands for extracting, transforming and loading. In the ETL process, the data is first extracted from the old system, then it is transformed (either manually or with a software program) so that it fits the format of the new application or database. Then the final step is to load it into the new system.

data migration for small business

 

 

Types of Data Migrations and Their Challenges

Data migration processes happen on three levels – storage, database and application.

Storage migration

When you do a technology refresh, this is the time to identify obsolete data to reduce storage space and make it easier to quickly find what you’re looking for. We use a variety of storage migration tools to make this process fast and simple. However, what we can’t do is tell you what’s important to keep and what can be discarded. You have to decide that. We’ll ask you questions like:   

  • How many documents do you have with names like brochure-final4.docx? Do you need to keep the prior versions for any reason?  
  • Why you have the same content in more than one location? Is it for cloud backup? Or are you working around security settings in your systems to make the content available to different audiences?   
  • What is this obsolete content costing you? For example, video files take up a significant amount of space. While storage is relatively cheap, employee time is not. When you add up time spent dealing with system performance issues, organizing clutter, and looking for the right content, the overhead costs can become significant.  

Database migration

A database migration occurs whenever you change database vendors, upgrade the database software, or move a database to the cloud. In a database migration, IT professionals look for compatibility issues. Is there enough storage? Will performance be impacted? How do we protect records that require privacy or security? Are there integration points that can fail? Often, a database migration or upgrade is done in a testing environment before being moved to production.  

Application migration

An application migration is the most complex type of migration. The challenge is that each application has its own data model, so the data may have to be significantly manipulated before being brought into the new application.  

You want to think about the ramifications of keeping – or discarding – old records and historical data. For example, in an accounting system, you can start with an account opening balance or you can import every transaction. In a CRM system, you may want to purge anyone you haven’t talked to in a year. We help clients figure out the best application migration strategy for their situation.  

  • Will you have to keep the old system running in parallel – just in case? Could you transfer the data to a spreadsheet instead? Do you have compliance requirements you must adhere to? 
  • What is the value of that data? A company that sells SAT preparation tests to high schoolers has a finite time period to sell their solution. There’s no point in keeping a record of who was in high school 5 years ago. But a repair company may have a 5-10 year lifecycle between visits, and want to keep those records.  
  • How much does it cost to keep this data? Some applications, like email marketing software, charge by the record. Crossing from 4999 contacts to 5000 may cause the price to spike. If 2000 of those people haven’t opened your emails in 3 years, you’re better off deleting them in the move to a new application. 
  • Will system speed be impacted? How many users need to access that historical data or that legacy software feature? Can the old solution be retired? 

Data Migration Tools

The advantage of using IT professionals for your data migration is that we have access to a variety of tools to make the process faster and easier. If we can’t find a tool out of the box, we can sometimes build a script to make the ETL work easier. It depends on the scope and scale of the migration project, but in all cases, we look for ways to simplify and automate the process wherever possible.  

In many cases, the software vendor has tools we can leverage. Here’s one example of what Microsoft makes available for clients wanting to transfer hosting to the Azure platform: https://datamigration.microsoft.com/ 

Our Approach to the Migration Process

With the implementation of any new software, or development of any new database or application, we’ll discuss how to manage your legacy data and find an approach that best fits your business. In our planning, we’ll work with you to determine whether the data migration is a one-time data transfer process or requires ongoing data integration and management.  

We’ll look for ways to simplify your IT environment, seeing if we can consolidate databases, and make sure employees can access your systems from any device, especially when they’re not working on premises. In today’s environment, mobility and remote access is a requirement for any new system. That’s why many companies are moving to the cloud. 

Let us help you determine your application requirements and build streamlined business processes, so you have a solution that works for you now – and in the future.  Book a free exploratory session today!  

Why is data migration important?

Data migration is necessary when upgrading or consolidating your hardware storage or server. Data migration ensures that you don’t lose your data during the transition.

How long does data migration take?

Down time during data migration depends on the amount of data that is being transferred. Some migrations can take hours. Your IT professional can provide an estimate based on the scope of the project.

What is the ETL process?

ETL stands for Extract, Transform and Load. ETL plays a key role in the data migration process. It allows you to gather data from multiple sources and consolidate it into one location.

Is it hard to migrate data?

Data migration can use up a lot of labor if you don’t know what you’re doing. Hiring a professional will ensure a smooth migration.

Computers. Whether you love them or hate them, every business depends on them. When your computer or a software program isn’t working correctly, it can be incredibly frustrating. So when should you call an expert for IT support? How can you get the best outcome?

When to Call IT Support

You want to have the right balance between having your IT team on speed-dial and staying up all night to troubleshoot a problem. Our recommendation is to:

1. Check all the obvious solutions.

  • Is the computer plugged in?
  • Are the cables connected tightly?
  • Is the monitor on?
  • Is the internet working?
  • Have you rebooted the computer?

We’re not trying to insult your intelligence. These things happen all the time. We once got a call because someone unplugged the server to plug in a coffee machine. Oops. Doing the basic perimeter checks saves time, money and frustration for everyone involved.

2. Spend 10-15 minutes diagnosing the problem.

  • What changed recently?
  • Is there anything new plugged in?
  • Was anything new installed?
  • What happened right before the problem started?

If you can’t figure it out in this short amount of time, document what happened.

3. STOP THERE. Call an IT support professional.

One of the biggest mistakes we see office professionals make is getting in over their head with do-it-yourself technical troubleshooting. They spend hours reconfiguring, reformatting, and reinstalling their system. By the time we get involved, the clues to “what happened” have been erased and overwritten, making the problem much more difficult to diagnose and solve.

Getting Better IT Support

We all know the quality of technical support can vary widely. At some point, every one of us has been on a call with a support technician who is completely clueless. Also, IT support may not be instantly available. You may have to wait. But here are some tips for getting the best IT support available for your business if you don’t have dedicated internal IT support.

1. Have a relationship with an IT service provider.

Some businesses prefer using a managed services provider that continually maintains their systems for a set recurring fee. Other businesses prefer to pay by the hour for a break-fix technical support. There are pros and cons of both approaches. But either way – pick an IT consultant and stick with them. They’ll get to know your business and you’ll get to know them.

2. Be kind. Be patient. Be calm.

Support technicians like to help people. You may be frustrated, but “you’ll catch more flies with honey” and have a better support experience if you keep your cool. If the support task will take a while, go grab a cup of coffee or work from a backup device if you can.

3. Document what happened.

Capture a screenshot or video when possible. Preserve the scene so your IT team can find clues to the origin of the problem.

4. Keep your systems up to date.

When systems go out of support (like Windows 7 for example) you will find fewer and fewer IT professionals who are willing or able to provide technical support. Any critical software program should be kept current.

5. Know your passwords, administrators and configurations.

For every one of our clients, we maintain a “red binder” that holds all essential information about the IT environment. When you have to reset passwords and track down who has admin permissions, it slows down the technical support process significantly.

And…ALWAYS have a reliable backup that you could restore if the problem cannot be fixed. Some problems are unrecoverable. Major malware attacks. Catastrophic hard drive failures. In these cases, the best option is to go back to the setup before the problem occurred.

If you’re looking for business IT support in Michigan or in the cloud, reach out to us. Our IT team is right-sized to give you personal attention and pragmatic advice. Reach out at support@eclipse-online.com or by calling 586.263.1775.

Hire IT Staff or Use Outsourced IT Services?

Today, every business depends on technology. That means every business much find a way to manage technology to:

  • Reduce the risk of data loss and data security breaches
  • Reduce downtime 
  • Minimize frustration
  • Increase productivity and efficiency 

Small business owners frequently start out by managing their IT systems themselves or by relying on consumer-oriented technical support providers like GeekSquad. But as companies add employees and customers, DIY computer management is not enough. You need dedicated, reliable, expert IT support. 

Even if you have an internal IT professional, we believe it’s in almost every company’s best interest to have an Outsourced IT Services provider. Here’s why: 

1. Strategic IT Decisions

When a small business owner or manager tells an employee to do something, they usually just do it. Part of the job of an external IT support team is to push back when the management team is moving the wrong direction. Setting an IT strategy will keep your software, hardware, processes and employees in alignment.

2. Wider Array of IT Skills

An outsourced IT services provider can bring in different consultants for your project. Software development. Microsoft. QuickBooks. Along the way, your needs may change. An external technical team can change along with you.

3. Better IT Support

Because an external IT support team works with multiple businesses and immerses themselves in the technology solutions they offer, they can often correctly diagnose and correct IT support issues much more quickly. Plus, they’ll often available after hours when needed.

4. No Payroll Hassles

Hiring and firing employees is both stressful and risky. With an IT services provider, you can grow and shrink your IT expenses more easily. 

5. Less Frustration

While there may be many hidden costs of working inefficiently, one of the biggest tolls is the emotional stress and frustration of having technology problems. “Why isn’t my email working?” “But we JUST bought that server…” “I thought we were backed up.” “How did we get hacked?”

Metro Detroit Outsourced IT Services Provider

Is it time to outsource IT? Are you looking for a new Metro Detroit IT services provider? Do you need someone to work with your website designer to connect the website to your backend systems? Here at Eclipse Consulting, we’re affordable, fair and professional. We’re a Southeast Michigan IT Services Provider that serves small-to-mid-sized businesses. Set up a meeting to see if we’re a fit for your needs.

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