Dashboards provide an at-a-glance overview of progress against goals, and have gained wide acceptance as a tool for managing organizational performance. With good reason — when they provide a valid, holistic view of progress they focus attention on critical operational strengths and weaknesses, allowing corrective action to be taken where it is needed, when it is needed.

Dashboards themselves can be technologically simple paper-and-pencil affairs capturing data regarding an individual salesperson’s ability to move prospects through the sales pipeline. They can also be hugely complex pieces of IT infrastructure pulling data from every part of a global organization and displaying it in real time for the benefit of top executives. But whether simple or complex, and whether intended to guide performance management discussions or strategic resource allocation, the concept is the same. The dashboard should summarize metrics that, taken as a whole, produce a valid and reliable picture of how well current activity is producing progress toward strategic goals.

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