How to Create a Financial Dashoard That Cuts Through the Noise 

Chris Mossa

Chris Mossa, Chief Strategy Officer at Graphite

How long would it take to pull together every financial metric that matters onto a single page for either investors or internal decision-makers? 

If you’re like most startups, this is tricky. Data sits in multiple systems across the finance stack—each with its own reporting engine and always without the context to make sense of it all. 

So, what’s the solution? A highly capable financial dashboard that delivers information in a digestible format that also aligns with the story you want the reviewer to leave with. 

Why Is a Financial Dashboard Important?

To help you understand why a financial dashboard is important, I’ll tell you a story about one of our clients.

Their data was siloed across four different platforms plus spreadsheets. The CEO spent valuable time searching for, compiling, and structuring all of this information into a coherent deck to share with investors. 

  • She was confused. 
  • The leadership team was confused. 
  • And her investors were definitely confused, often asking why it was so difficult to get a true read on the business. 

We worked with her to prioritize 10-15 datasets that mattered most. We identified where that data lived and built a process to capture and extract it on a regular cadence. We pushed those data streams to one single source of truth. And then our designers went to work to craft a live, professional, visually appealing dashboard that brought it all together. 

The CEO was suddenly able to proactively publish financial updates alongside her commentary, pulling it all together in one narrative. This streamlined communication with stakeholders and helped everyone get a  pulse on the business.

There’s a tremendous amount of noise in financial data. While all of that noise serves a purpose, it may not be part of the story your organization wants to tell. Financial dashboards combine technology and thoughtful storytelling to help you find the signal in the noise while protecting your team’s valuable time. 

What Is a Financial Dashboard?

A financial dashboard is a digital tool that helps your organization track all of its relevant KPIs. It gives you the ability to view and compare crucial information at a glance.

Your dashboard is also a key communication vehicle for your startup, whether you’re presenting to internal or external stakeholders. Your stakeholders can quickly grasp how the business has performed and where it’s going. This is particularly important when working with investors or lenders, but it also empowers your team to make better, more strategic decisions. 

Every piece of information on your financial dashboard should serve a purpose. By carefully curating the metrics to present, you have an opportunity to signal what’s important. This is the science. The layout, structure, and visualization are the art!

What Departments Benefit From Financial Dashboards?

Your entire organization—not just your finance team and leadership—benefits from using a financial dashboard. 

To maximize the efficacy of your dashboard, your team needs to agree on the key metrics and trends you want to track. When you’re able to get perspectives from a variety of departments, the story that your financial data tells becomes that much stronger. 

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Setting up an Effective Financial Dashboard

When setting up your financial dashboard, we recommend starting with narrow metrics and then expanding to broader metrics, using comparison points to see how your metrics have changed over time.

Below, we lay out a four-tiered approach that’s concise and effective. But every dashboard is unique, so your organization might opt to tweak this format to better suit your financial storytelling. 

1. Data Scorecard

Always start with the headlines. The top of your dashboard should include the 10-12 key metrics that tell 75% of the story. If someone doesn’t scroll any further, you’ve still delivered tremendous value. 

Think large tiles with one number in each box and a red or green shaded arrow indicating a positive or negative comparison against another dataset—previous periods or budgets are great! 

When creating your data scorecard, start with the top ten finance metrics that your team already tracks. This will look different for each organization, but these metrics are typically the most relevant KPIs that your teams use to make decisions or that your investors frequently ask for. 

Key metrics you might include in your data scorecard are:

  • Revenue
  • Churn rate
  • Average contract value
  • Gross margins

2. Larger Data Sets

The next step in building your financial dashboard is to expand on the metrics in your data scorecard with larger data sets. 

You might take a look at how that metric has changed over time or how the metric changes as a result of various environmental factors. Visual elements like graphs or tables help to illustrate these data sets. 

For example, in the data scorecard, you might have last quarter’s revenue in a box. To expand on that with a larger data set, add a chart illustrating the monthly revenue for the last twelve months. 

If you want to get really fancy, add a Gross Margin trend line atop the revenue chart to show the interplay between the two datasets. Showing the correlation between these two metrics adds more depth to your financial story. 

3. Tabular Data

Up to this point, the financial dashboard has focused on communicating narrow datasets rather than showcasing large volumes of data. However, you will also need more detailed financial statements available for reference. 

Adding your full balance sheet or cash flow statement below your more focused data is key for context. These tables should be professionally organized and easy to reference for clarity when necessary. 

4. Communication Points

For your financial dashboard to truly make an impact, you need to go beyond just numbers and graphs. Think about what the numbers are communicating and what they say about your organization, and add that context to your chart to help make these points.

For example, your revenue growth might be directly linked to an investment in customer success, but that may be more difficult to communicate using charts. Adding these key insights ensures that the reader gets your organization’s full financial picture. 

Don’t underestimate the impact of good old-fashioned writing to communicate, especially when accompanied by high-impact visuals. 

Use a Financial Health Dashboard to Cut Through the Noise

A robust financial dashboard is an invaluable tool when it comes to telling your startup’s story. By having key financial metrics and visuals thoughtfully curated in one place, you take control of the narrative and improve communications with your investors. 

Graphite created a Financial Health Dashboard that serves as a launchpad to help founders tell their stories. With this customizable dashboard, our startup clients get access to a workspace to help them easily illustrate what matters to them and where their organization is going. 

We have financial dashboards built specifically for SaaS startups, highlighting key metrics for SaaS organizations such as annual recurring revenue, churn, gross margin, cash burn, and more.

We also build financial dashboards for consumer packaged goods startups that display your product sales, revenue, average order value, and cash flow at a glance.  

Reach out to learn more about how we can help you visualize your most important financial metrics and cut through the noise. 

Need CFO or Accounting Help?

Born out of a VC fund, Graphite fully understands the strategic and financial needs of high growth companies. If you need accounting support or simply have a question about accounting at your company, feel free to connect with us!

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