When you are driving a car, the dashboard shows your key indicators. Am I driving too fast? Am I about to run out of gas? Is the car going to overheat? The information on the dashboard will help me to get where I need to go and warn me of impending problems.
These days, dashboards are a “hot topic” in the software industry as well. Many programs are now adding dashboards and there are many vendors that offer dashboards that pull data from QuickBooks. Programs like LivePlan, Insperity, BizTools, Fathom, Finagraph, EssentialCFO and others were all at Scaling New Heights showing how their software can help your clients.
QuickBooks Desktop has the Company Snapshot, found under the Company Menu. Out of the box, it shows you top customers, who owes money, income and expense trends, and much more. QuickBooks Online has the Client Home page where you have an overview of Income, Expenses and the firm Profit & Loss. These are all useful but add-on dashboards can show you a lot more.
Dashboards execute the concept of “a picture is worth a 1,000 words”. While each product is different, they all have one goal – help understand the meaning of the financial numbers. While accountants may understand what a current ratio is, how to calculate it and whether a particular number is good or bad, most users don’t understand this, or numerous other financial concepts. While the accountants can and should help the clients understand the numbers and what they mean, it is important for our clients to view the health of their business frequently. Dashboards can help guide the clients, remind them what the numbers mean and lead to more productive discussions.
The dashboard programs attempt to pull key information that is important to most businesses. They calculate ratios and show trends with indicators that will help focus attention on potential problems. Many will do comparisons to other firms in the industry.
If you have not looked at these products, you should probably start. You can look in the App center or start with the programs that had booths at Scaling New Heights. But, before you evaluate the applications, think about what is important for your clients. That will allow you to best evaluate software. For example, if you work with law firms, like I do, a dashboard that tries to show inventory is useless. Even Accounts Receivable may not be important to the firm if they are a contingency firm or get retainers. However, changes in costs are likely to be important.
Look at the functionality of the dashboard with your key clients in mind. Does it show information that will help them run their business? Is it easy to read? Are their clear indicators and explanations? What will be involved in getting the dashboard set up? You will need to be able to explain the value to your client, especially if they will be paying directly. Some firms incorporate the cost into their fees as it enables them to provide better service at a lower cost.
While I have focused on QuickBooks Dashboard products here, many legal specific packages are adding in dashboards as well. There are fewer add-ons available, but if you have clients using Billing Matters or PCLaw, and struggling to get the financial information out you should take a look at the dashboards in Business Pulse from 35*45 Consulting.
Finding the right product and introducing it to your client will make you a more valued partner to your client. That helps to foster long term relationships and, the ability to review the information more easily may help your client grow.
(Editor's Note: This article's author, Caren Schwartz is an associate of 35*45 Consulting.)