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Envisionable ‘Business Operating System’ Review

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What is Envisionable?

The Envisionable site describes their tool as a 'Small Business Operating System'. I'd not come across this term before, but as you start to explore the tool it starts to become clear why they use this description.

Envisionable is what I call a 'one stop shop'. It's easy to talk in the same breath about Tableau, Qlikview and Spotfire, but those tools are focused on analysis, rather than storing your data or aligning your business objectives. Whilst Envisionable has a fraction of the analytical capability of the three tools mentioned (not a bad thing if your needs are straight-forward and you like simplicity), it doesn't just present your data, it also stores your data in the cloud. That's a distinction that is becoming a little blurred with the latest generation of BI tools, however there a more significant unique feature of Envisionable, its focus on KPIs and reporting to support business vision, goals and initiatives. It helps you align individual and company goals and initiatives through careful linking of your measures with various types of business objectives and outcomes that you set up in the tool.

Envisionable is a 'software as a service', so there's no client software to download on your local machine, with the major advantages to a time-pressed small-medium sized business of zero maintenance or backup management. Of course, this does mean you must be comfortable with storing your data in the cloud and always expect to have access to decent internet connection.

Simple, in a good way

Reviewing some reporting tools can be an intimidating business. Many of the mainstream 'BI' (business intelligence) tools often have layer-after-layer of complexity, sometimes with a 'newbie' front-end and a few walk-throughs slapped on the front page. If I'm honest, I dread reviewing that kind of tool, as there's so much to get your head round, and in practice most of their users will only use a small subset of the available features anyway. With Envisionable I didn't have that anxiety. It is simple, and business focused, by design. In fact it's also a bit unfair to lump Envisionable in the same category as 'mainstream BI tools', as it is more focussed on goals and objectives than analysis capability.

Walkthrough

The first thing you see when you log into the tool is the dashboard. I have to be honest; I'm not a big fan of pressure gauges as they don't give context through trending. On the positive side, the dashboard is pleasingly minimalist and scales for all screen sizes well...

Envisionable - Company Dashboard

Values, mission, big hairy audacious goals and strategic anchors are given prominence by being the first set-up tab you are presented with. Much of the power of this tool comes from careful consideration of what you put in these fields...

Envisionable - Vision - Strategic Anchors

Then we come to Company Goals, Individual Goals and Todo. This where you start to link your ambition (goals) to what is really happening (KPIs)...

Envisionable - Goals - Individual Goals Page

The 'Fires' tab is an action/problem tracker. A simple but fantastically useful tool for actually getting stuff done in an organisation and managing the sharing/updating of those actions.

Envisionable - Fires

Then we come to the KPI dashboard. For me this much more valuable than the 'exec' dashboard presented when you first open the tool. This dashboard makes great use of 'Sparklines' - very simplified charts to give you a grasp of trend data without overwhelming your senses with too much information...

Envisionable - KPI Dashboard

Finally, there's the 'engine room' set of tabs, where you manage your users and reports. All very clean and business-like...

Envisionable - Company Department Page

What works well...

The designers have mostly resisted the urge to 'fill the page' of the empty tool just 'for the sake of it' - and that's a really good thing. Everything you need for a basic dashboard is there, so you can create your dashboard, without squandering valuable visual-encoding tools needlessly. There's an overall minimalist feeling to the interface, and that's a good thing in a world where software vendors seem to be packing more and more on a page.

The aspect of Envisionable design that I love is the link between KPIs and business activity. The unique selling point of Envisionable is the way it blends data capture and reporting with very flexible and comprehensive management of objectives, mission, 'big hairy ambitious goal', 'fires', individual initiatives and to-dos. This a KPI tool to help you achieve stuff, not just create pretty dashboards to view on your iPad.

What could be improved...

The dashboard tool uses 'pressure gauge' type dials, like this....

Envisionable - Company Dashboard

These seem very popular with the makers of reporting software, probably because they are very simple to understand and play nicely with the red-amber-green school of design. My issue with this type of widget is the lack of trending, hence context. The reader also needs to understand exactly what they are looking at - is there smoothing in there to prevent spurious false alerts or are we looking at 'raw' data? On the plus side, this type of widget plays nicely with small screens, helped by the responsive design of Envisionable.

Another pitfall, if you are the 'jump in and start using it' kind of person I am, is the order in which you do things. There seems to be an order in which the software expects you to do things, and if you add things in the 'wrong' order you may not get the things displaying on the dashboard as you might expect. Once I figured this out and recreated my test KPIs - after sorting out my vision, goals and initiatives, everything seemed to work as expected.

There are also a few usability bumps in the interface. For example in the company>reports menu, it's easy to miss that you have to click on the 'Initiatives' and 'KPIs' headings to expand them. This issue could be easily fixed by the developer adding a small downward arrow to the menu bar or displaying the page with the sections already expanded. It's a really small issue, which isn't an issue once you know how they work, but it did provide a puzzle for the user for a few minutes.

A final thing to consider is the future. There's not clear migration path up, or out, of Envisionable. If your company grows beyond the capability of the tool, you may end up having to start again with something more sophisticated (and expensive), but then again that kind of growth will likely be a ringing endorsement of Envisionable and the growth that comes from properly focusing on your goals and vision.

Verdict

If you...

  • Run a small to medium-sized business
  • Want an 'all in one' reporting tool
  • Prize simplicity over 'feature bloat'
  • Don't need to do complex calculations to arrive at your KPIs (or are prepared to do them before you key in the data)
  • Have an action / goal-focused approach to running a business

... then Envisionable might be the perfect tool for your needs. There's a bit of a learning curve, partly generated by some minor interface foibles, but you could probably figure out everything you need in an hour or two of blindly messing-about and experimenting, as I did.  Here's the good news, it turns out I was doing it the hard way,  Envisionable offer three one-hour personal set-up sessions as part of their $495 setup, which also includes migrating your existing data to the tool. Anyone who has had to do data migration in the past may well be reaching for their wallet already, as this is a tremendous service to get you up-and-running as painlessly as possible.

Pricing

Here's the pricing for Envisionable, as of April 2018

$499 set up for loading current data and three one-hour on-boarding calls. After that, it is $249 a month for up to 10 users. Each extra user over 10 costs an additional $10 a month.

Right for your business?

Envisionable isn't an 'all solutions to all people' product. It has a very clear focus and 'sweet spot'. If that 'sweet spot' matches your needs, then it is likely to be top of a 'list of one'. To find out if it is right for you, follow the free trial link below...

Envisionable 30 day free trial

Try out Envisionable to see if it is right for you

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