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How to Create a Strategic Planning Dashboard

The article first appeared in VSAE's Association Press and can be found at https://www.vsae.org/assets/Newsletters/2023Newsletters/202311_NovemberNLF4W.pdf


The strategic plan is the guiding document for your organization. The strategic plan lays the map for where your organization wants to go and explains how to get there. Spending the time to create a well-thought-out plan is important for leadership. However, what do you do after the plan is created? How do you make sure the plan is carried out and how do you track its progress? Whether you are tracking a 1, 5, or 10-year strategic plan, a dashboard is a great way to track progress and recognize issues before it is time to review the plan again.

 

Step 1) Layout the critical success factors.

Your strategic plan has important, big picture goals that it aims to reach. I refer to these as critical success factors. Some strategic plans create success factors and then in the plan explain how they will meet those success factors. For example, maybe your organization wants to increase membership by 3% over the course of one year. This big picture number is great to track on a dashboard as year-long goal. That way you can see how you are progressing toward your goal throughout the year.

 

Step 2) Break down the big success factors into smaller, important measurable items.

Often strategic plans will lay out the specific ways they will attempt to achieve the overarching goals. Using the example of a large goal such as a 3% increase in membership, you’d look at what pieces of your plan are helping you achieve that.  Maybe there are plans to do membership drives each quarter, maybe you want to add a new member benefit to attract more members, perhaps there is a new program scheduled to launch. All of these are measurable pieces of the larger picture. Furthermore, It isn’t enough to get new members, you have to retain your regular members. What plans for retention are outlined in your plan? All of these are good data points to track in your dashboard that can give you more information about your big-picture data.

 

Step 3) Pick a digital platform to track data.

In today’s digital world there is no want for a tool to help you track/visualize data. A great one to start with is Microsoft Excel because most of us already have experience using it, many of us already have this tool installed, and you can use the formulas to calculate the data. There are many other applications that run the gambit of cost and efficiency, you can find these by searching google for ‘strategic planning dashboard applications.’ Other applications that you might be familiar with already are SmartSheet, PowerBI and GoogleSheets. I find it easiest to start with the basics and then scale up when I feel like I need to. The easiest platform for me to navigate and manipulate is excel, you might have another preference.

 

Step 4) Plug in data.

Once you’ve chosen a platform you can begin setting up your dashboard. I prefer a simple model where I can see the numbers. If I need to make it fancy for a presentation or report, I will export the data to a different application. When I set up my view, I like to add a column at the beginning that has our starting numbers. I use this as our benchmark. Next to the benchmark, I add what I expect the goal to be. Using the example above, if we have 3000 members and we want to grow by 3%, my goal would be 3090. Likewise, if the goal is to increase member benefits, I would add up all the benefits we currently have (my benchmark) and plus one would be our goal. Some platforms, such as PowerBI, allow you to import large amounts of data and then create dashboards from it. Another way you can track dashboard items is to pull the specific data and import just that information (this is helpful when taking numbers from your balance sheet and importing it). When your platform is set, it is time to add data. Make measurable data points, for example if updating your standards or code of ethics is important, use 0 for no progress, 0.5 for halfway done and 1 for done or utilize percentages with the goal being 100%.

 

Step 5) Track the data.

Finally, track the data. If you are serious about using the strategic planning dashboard as a tracking tool, it is necessary to build in the administrative time to input the data. Without the data, the dashboard is just a pretty spreadsheet. Most factors can be tracked monthly. Sometimes there isn’t any activity within that one success factor, but that is ok. I like to celebrate small wins so when I have met a goal, I mark it on the sheet.

 

If you are interested in creating a dashboard for your organization and would like to discuss it with me, I would love to get together! Send me an email, I would love to make your data come alive.


Example of Strategic Planning Dashboard Data

Success Factor

Goal

July 2023 (Benchmark)

August 2023

September 2023

Increase Membership by 3%

3090

3000

3008

3015

Revise Code of Ethics (G0AL MET)

1

0

0.5

1

 

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