Over the last few years, automated “dashboards” have become a highly seductive want-to-have for CEOs of midsized companies. Who could resist up-to-date, easy-to-digest information on business performance, and how the team is performing?

Not many CEOs…

Yet, if they knew how long and how much money it will take to install such I.T. intense systems… months and sometimes years… they might think twice.

Even worse, whether or not companies implement them (and there are good reasons to implement them at the right time), these automated dashboards don’t replace good old-fashioned management techniques.

Consider the case of a certain home furnishings wholesaler. The CEO knew the sales team wasn’t making enough sales calls. They would come in late, leave early, not turning in their weekly sales reports, and were resting on their laurels. In January 2016, the company decided to install CRM software and integrate it with their sales order system. When it was ready six months later, they asked their sales team to start recording sales calls and other notes each day. Many of them balked, most didn’t use it, and the sales manager didn’t do much about it either.

Then, the CEO decided that he needed to create an automated dashboard to prove how few sales calls everyone was making. The dashboards sliced and diced things up by product group and territory and were online by early November. But by this time, most of the year was gone and there was still no noticeable improvement in the sales team’s performance.

Finally, the CEO became upset and directed every salesperson to arrive by 8:30 AM and not leave before 5:00 PM unless they were going out on a sales call. He also met with the sales team and the sales manager weekly to review their activity.

Lo and behold, the sales team started going on sales calls.

Demand jumped.

While having the CRM and dashboards in place will most certainly be helpful, what really created the real change was some good old-fashioned hands-on management by the CEO.

This same story is repeated with dashboards for manufacturing, customer service teams, financials, automated warehouses, and virtually every other type of business. Dashboards and data don’t manage.

Managers must manage.

So, What’s Wrong with Automated Dashboards?

Setting up data and reporting systems can often act as an organizational excuse… allowing users to postpone the act of managing. Such systems also tend to overly weigh financial data, but often don’t supply progress against critical objectives, create well-defined strategies for achieving those objectives, or meaningful action plans for getting things done. Worse still, automated, real-time data in the wrong hands can make users numb to the results by being simply overwhelming. And because of that, people just stop looking at them.

Don’t think for a minute that I’m a technology Luddite, or don’t value information to support decision making. Some of our highest performing clients use simple, cloud-based One Page Business Plans (no I.T. required) with built-in monthly or quarterly scorecards and progress reports that facilitate the type of “hands-on” management that an automated dashboard just doesn’t deliver, even if perfectly configured.

Strong leaders can see results more quickly with diligent, disciplined management tools. Meeting as a team monthly to discuss and reviewing the actions being taken will improve performance. If each leader or manager has clearly defined objectives and responsibilities… having to show up to a meeting with their peers and share results will definitely encourage better performance!

Once that’s in place, only then it would be time to consider gathering more data in a dashboard to improve business decisions and better drive your company’s growth and profitability.