Morson Group, an international recruitment company, is using dashboards to great success, not only internally, but also to allow clients quick and easy access to performance numbers related to their service-level agreements.
As a top UK-based international technical recruitment company, Morson Group PLC provides contract and permanent workers to the technical and engineering sectors. The company has a large number of workers in contract employment, including the IT space, and a growing presence in helping customers with their permanent recruitment needs. The firm is using business intelligence-based dashboards to drive performance within the organisation as well as to allow clients access to their service-level agreements, thus letting them see real-time numbers of how Morson is performing on a particular contract.
First and foremost behind Morson’s need for dashboards was its clients: “Our clients are becoming far, far hungrier for data and for the speedy return of data,” Andersen says. “This project was really driven by client demand.” As part of the sales team, he recalls watching in meetings as spreadsheets were brought out to illustrate a point—and client’s eyes promptly glazed over.
Typically large and cumbersome, spreadsheets were also difficult to track and maintain, and challenging to share via e-mail. That underscored the value of giving customers their data in the form of charts and graphs when possible. “For some reason, something visual gives people a lot more confidence than when they see spreadsheets,” Andersen says. “With spreadsheets, they seem to get lost in the data in no time.”
Andersen recognised the need to move beyond the spreadsheets toward another solution, but he also understood that software tools were not the firm’s core competency—and that any solution would be best left to a third-party firm rather than built internally. “At Morson, we concentrate on recruitment. Software is not at the forefront of anybody’s mind,” Andersen points out.
Data Cleansing Comes First
After reviewing several products, Andersen chose Intuitive Dashboards from Intuitive Business Intelligence. Although he reviewed several far larger, more complex products, Andersen says that in the end, he decided that Morson’s needs weren’t that complicated. Intuitive’s product seemed simple enough for users to understand quickly, yet sophisticated enough to meet presentation and design requirements—and Intuitive offered the best pricing structure of any product they considered.
Andersen and his team quickly realised that the most difficult part of a dashboard project can be organising the data. “The most challenging part for us was to get the data together for the data mart, actually understanding our own data and understanding where we wanted to go with it,” he says.
Morson has an existing MySQL data warehouse system that has been in use over the past three years or so— itself an amalgamation of a previous system. The combined data in the new data mart needed cleansing and other work before it could be used in dashboards, a process that called upon his staff’s knowledge of the firm’s data, Andersen says—work that was a crucial and a time consuming part of the dashboard process.
“To get from we-think-we-know everything about the data, and to build a data warehouse, that’s 80 percent of your time and a lot of headache with any dashboard project," Andersen says. In fact, without his staff’s in-depth understanding of Morson’s data, Andersen says, the spreadsheet project would have taken far longer.
Once the data was in order, the dashboard preparation process included thinking ahead about what clients would want and what the particular outcomes of different data combinations might be in order to decide what fields and actions to represent on each dashboard. Morson worked with an Intuitive connected subcontractor who proved enormously helpful during that part of the process, which Andersen describes as the most challenging part of the project.
The Final Five Percent
Having worked with the data so extensively in spreadsheets actually helped with the dashboard design process—in some ways, it made the project something of an exercise in converting spreadsheets into dashboards. Once an initial dashboard was built based on spreadsheet content and use, the dashboards tended to evolve organically. A first draft might be reviewed by users, then feedback was collected by Morson’s team, and the dashboard amended or a new one built.
Given the amount of cleansing and organising that the data required, the project proceeded quickly. Beginning with a three-month period when the first dashboards were rolled out, in less than a year, the company has over 250 dashboards built and in use. About half of Morson’s client spreadsheets have now been converted to dashboards, and the process is continuing; Andersen’s goal is to eventually convert every existing client spreadsheet into a dashboard.
Morson’s set of dashboards is organised into “masters;” a subset of the master dashboard is then made available to a client with specific filters in place. A client might be able to see a dashboard related to key performance indicators, one about the payroll, and a more general financial dashboard, for example. The entire master dashboard can be viewed and used internally.
The layered approach has worked well in building dashboards and subsets of dashboards. “One of the things that’s really smart about Intuitive Dashboards,” Andersen says, “is that when you represent something, you can drill down so it looks like a spreadsheet. The client, branch manager, or whoever the user is, can then download the data.” That means that data Morson would previously have sent out to a client as proof that it is meeting its key performance indicators is now built into the client dashboard and available directly to them at any time.
Unprecedented Transparency for Clients
Using a dashboard, a consultant can see at a glance where each job is in the process—such as whether a resume has been sent to the client, an interview arranged, or a contact recently made with the client. Those dashboards are directly linked to Morson’s recruitment system; a consultant who sees a job in the dashboard and wants to work on it can click on the job and jump into the recruitment system from there.
The dashboard data is very nearly real time, with a delay of just minutes if data comes through the data mart. Users are able to read data only through the dashboards, but by clicking on an element in a dashboard, they can enter the recruitment system and write changes directly to it. Those changes are reflected in the data mart eight minutes later.
Other users include account managers; they can view clients including multiple branches and multiple consultants and can monitor key performance indicators and payroll activity. A version of that dashboard is also available to clients, something that has proved to be very popular.
“They can see overall how their recruitment process is doing,” Andersen explains, including all outstanding jobs and how long each has been open, date of the last activity for each job, missing resumes, and more. Using the dashboards, clients can also view their payroll through Morson, including who is on the payroll and who hasn’t been paid recently (and thus should be signed out). In the future, Andersen would like to give clients even more data, including summary information about invoices.
Whereas previously, clients’ eyes might have glazed over when they were shown data relating to their service-level agreements—which also went quickly out of date—they can now quickly and easily access and track their own, up-to-date key performance indicators.
“We have nothing to hide from our clients,” Andersen says. “It’s all set agreements, and we need to be able to prove everything to them.” With client dashboards in place, Morson is doing just that.