Fans of the classic TV show Friends might recall Chandler’s obsession with the WENUS. The what? If you recall, Chandler was a corporate type. Part of his job was to track his company’s Weekly Estimated Net Usage Systems. WENUS. We each have our respective WENUS, most likely. If you’re involved in customizing an ERP dashboard, you’ll certainly be able to relate.

What is an ERP dashboard?

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions today now come with built-in data analysis and visualization capabilities. These might be used for reporting on business data, such as financial outcomes and so forth. Another popular use for ERP data visualization tools is the development of a business dashboard or ERP dashboard.

The ERP dashboard is a display, typically shown in a browser, that contains multiple, separate graphical representations of business data. Each graphical component is known as a widget. Widgets might show bar graphs, pie charts, line graphs—representing various business data streams. Examples include sales deals vs. pipeline, budget vs. actual spend and so forth.

The Principle of Alignment

What is the best way to customize an ERP dashboard? A number of best practices have emerged over the years. In our work with ERP clients, we have discovered several proven techniques for getting the most out of this data visualization technology.

The most important principle to grasp, though, before you get into any specifics of customization, is alignment. To work, a customized ERP dashboard must show data that aligns with the user’s role and objectives. These, in turn need to align with the business’s overall strategy and goals.

A well-run business usually features what is sometimes called “cascading commitments.” There are many names for this, but it’s always the same thing: At the highest level of the company, senior managers define their goals for the entire business for a coming period, e.g. a year or quarter. Their goals, things like increasing sales by 10% or cutting costs by 18%, are the C-levels’ personal commitment to the business as its leadership team.

These commitments then cascade down to lower levels of the organization. To increase sales by 10% overall, for example, each divisional sales manager should probably commit to increasing sales by 20%. That way, even if they fall short of the goal, they may still enable the higher-level objective of a 10% increase.

Everyone in the organization who has committed to achieving a specific business objective needs an ERP dashboard that addresses their specific commitments—their own personal WENUS, so to speak. The dashboard has to align with the commitments and key success metrics. Without alignment, the dashboard will not be helpful. Indeed, in our experience, overly generic dashboards get ignored.

Realizing ERP Dashboard Alignment

Aligning an ERP dashboard with the user’s role and his or her respective objectives can be a challenging task. The process of customization should involve more than just identifying the key success metrics and presenting them in a graphical data visualization widget. A better approach is to assemble custom widgets that show multiple data points that support achievement of a key success metric.

For example, with sales, the best practice might be to highlight sales pipeline, with data for number of deals and deal size, compared to the objective as well as to historical performance. With this kind of dynamic data display, the sales manager can get a good idea of how the team is doing versus the previous period. For financial managers, the custom ERP dashboard could show departmentally specific data points like days cash compared to same time last year, inventory turns and so forth.

Each user role will have its own unique ERP dashboard customization needs. We have worked with many companies on ERP dashboard customization. We can help you in this process. If you want to learn how to best customize an ERP dashboard for your business, let’s talk. And remember, it’s always about the WENUS.

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