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5 Dashboards for the Data Every Business Needs to Track People and money are the two constants regardless of what a company sells. Keeping tabs on the comings and goings of both is indispensable.

By Rohan Ayyar Edited by Dan Bova

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The Scottish novelist and folklorist, Andrew Lang, died a century ago and couldn't have known a thing about today's vast array of analytics tools and metrics. Nonetheless, he presciently described how most businesses use that data when he wrote, "I shall try not to use statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts, for support rather than for illumination."

Decision-making based on data becomes more important with each passing day but gathering data and analyzing is altogether difference from knowing what to do with it. That's why dashboards are so valuable for businesses. Here are five that every business should be consulting.

Related: The 3 Dashboards You Must Have for Your Business Now

1. Marketing dashboards. It is safe to claim that business is all about marketing. Nowhere is number visualization more important than in marketing and sales, so your marketing dashboard needs to show you all of these:

Leads: Is your marketing working? This simple question is answered by the number of leads you're getting. OK, I'll give it to you – it's not that simple. Rebecca Corliss lists 15 critical lead generation metrics that you need on your dashboard.

Conversions: You make an offer (campaign). People see it (traffic). They register their interest (lead). Not all leads will convert. While you'll measure all of the above, the important equation here is the lead-close rate (or conversion rate).

Channel output: There's a great advantage in using digital marketing dashboards that you which channels are working for your business and pinpoint ones that aren't. Tie each channel's contribution to your goals. Jettison non-responsive channels and plug the budget leak.

Branding and engagement: When it comes to branding, things aren't as straightforward as running a campaign, generating leads and persuading customers to buy. Since there are multiple touch points, you'd have to track changing customer profiles, their behavioral patterns, the route they take to get to the sale and the conversations they're having. Brand equity is governed by these, so you need to watch closely.

Online or offline, you just have to have a feel of your marketing pulse 24x7. An all-in-one marketing dashboard like Cyfe can give you an integrated view of your sales, customer data, web analytics, email and social media analytics.

2. Finance and cash flow dashboards. Finance is the artery linking straight to the heart of every business. So is positive cash flow. Benjamin Shepherd argued that while financial accounts can be manipulated, the one true measure of the health of a business is its cash flow. If you don't have your eyes on the money, you aren't looking where you should.

Web-based accounting solutions such as Xero and Freshbooks, and even larger enterprise-level solutions such as Intacct give you dashboards with analytics pulled in from finance, accounting, taxation and other monetary aspects of your business. Stay on top of those numbers.

3. Project management dashboards. If it's business, work must get done. Businesses of all sizes have projects of varying degrees, from one-off simple tasks to major operational endeavors. Project management is an undeniably important element of your business. Because it's people you'll be working with, every person comes with their own style of working. With multiple team members, it'd be a nightmare just to manage people and complete projects. That's why you'd need a method that is systematized, accountable and easy.

You can manage projects, tasks and deadlines using a variety of project management tools. Trello is one of the easiest ones to get started with. Most project collaboration tool dashboards now come with instant notifications, time tracking and other features.

Related: Just Keeping Track of Key Measures Can Double Your Profits

4. Human resources dashboards. People are critical to business growth and time is money, so you need a way to account for both. You can't take all the time in the world to hire but, after they are hired, every team member is expected to be a star performer. How do you get to the bottom of this?

How much time do you spend to source and attract talent? What methodologies are working for you? You won't know a thing if you don't pull out these insights from your hiring process. Big data has already made inroads into human resources, and "people analytics" is a "moneyball," as Steven Pearlstein quipped in the Washington Post.

OrgVue is a dashboard that brings in everything you need to know about your HR processes with powerful visualization, people data modeling, and custom-built databases.

5. Customer support dashboards. Customer support is the last thing standing that helps you differentiate your business from competition. While it's always about people, you still have to know how well you manage turn-around times, escalations requests, etc.

Modern customer support solutions such as ZenDesk and Help Scout help you with analytics, dashboards and the necessary insights to streamline your customer service processes to make the leap to from customer service to customer delight.

Related: New Google+ Dashboard Lets Businesses Manage Multiple Tasks in One Place

Rohan Ayyar

Regional Marketing Manager

Rohan Ayyar is the  Regional Marketing Manager India, SEMrush. He is an avid blogger, with posts featured on MarketingProfs, Social Media Today and Business Insider, among other places.

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