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Download the sample Excel file used to create this dashboard and read more about SaaS KPIs in Christoph Janz’s post “A KPI dashboard for early-stage SaaS startups”.
SaaS (Software as a Service) companies benefit hugely from using dashboards to monitor their KPIs day-to-day. Understanding the dynamics of metrics like conversion rate and churn can make or break a SaaS business, and if these are not properly tracked and monitored then disaster can strike.
In 2013 one of Geckoboard’s investors - Christoph Janz - put together an excellent blog post that not only spells out the need for a dashboard, but also goes one step further and includes a free Excel template for SaaS companies to use to get a grip on their own KPI reporting. Read the post and download Christoph’s free SaaS KPI Excel template here.
Naturally we wanted to see how this SaaS KPI template would work as a dashboard. Using Christoph’s Excel template and Geckoboard’s Spreadsheets integration, it’s possible to create the example dashboard above in a matter of minutes, ready to display on the wall of your workspace and give your most important metrics the visibility they deserve.
Monitoring SaaS KPIs
This example dashboard is powered by a copy of Christoph’s SaaS KPI template which has been saved on some cloud storage as an Excel file. Storing the file in this way makes it possible for specific team members to access and update the file with fresh numbers, and because it’s hosted in the Cloud rather than your own PC, Geckoboard can authorize securely with your storage and pull data into your dashboard.
The SaaS dashboard example here borrows from Christoph’s own dashboard that’s embedded at the bottom of his Excel template, and uses data from an exact copy of his KPI template (which incidentally uses made up data).
Let’s look at the dashboard on Geckoboard.
To the top left of the dashboard we start with a multi-line widget that shows how visitors to the product’s website each month, along with how many signups have been generated from those visits. This lets the team monitor month-by-month progress, and identify any interesting peaks or troughs that could represent opportunities or threats to growth. Viewing this data on a month-by-month basis is acceptable for identifying longer term trends, however the company could consider building a dedicated dashboard for monitoring its website’s performance (using Geckoboard’s Google Analytics integration for example). This would allow it to quickly see any changes at the top of the funnel that might be affecting conversions.
Moving along the top row of the dashboard, the middle widget also shows new signups per month, but adds a line representing new customers. Like the first widget, this is useful for tracking overall month-on-month progress, and the team will be looking for any interesting movements that bring the new customers line closer to the signups line (which would represent a better signup to customer conversion rate).
Although it’s interesting to see absolute numbers for visitors, signups and customers, these metrics don’t tell the whole story. The widget to the right of the top row helps to give a better indication of whether visitors, signups, customers and monthly recurring revenue (MRR) have changed month on month. Each line represents the growth rate of a particular KPI - where one of the lines falls below zero, negative growth has happened. For example, the other two widgets on the top row show a small dip in signups in April. The m/m Growth rate widget shows that this represented around a minus 10% growth in signups - not insignificant! Additionally, it’s clear to see the effect this has had on other KPIs during the same month, with customers and MRR growth taking a downward turn.
SaaS Revenue KPIs
Revenue is the lifeblood of all businesses, but because SaaS businesses typically charge their customers using a subscription model, it’s even more critical to monitor revenue metrics. In a SaaS business, revenue generally recurs every month until a customer decides to cancel their subscription. A $1000/month license for a example becomes worth more and more the longer a customer stays subscribed. Over two years that $1000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR) adds up to $24,000, so making sure existing customers stay happy and continue to get value is essential.
As a rule, each month a SaaS business is particularly interested in revenue it will be bringing in from existing customers, revenue from new customers added that month, and also any revenue it has lost from customers who have cancelled in that month (MRR ‘churn’). The middle row of this dashboard drills down into several important metrics that represent the economics of a SaaS product.
To the left, the new MRR widget focuses on the net addition to total MRR at the end of each month once new and lost custom has been taken into account. The middle widget, MRR, zooms out and shows how much MRR the company is generating each month after net new MRR has been taken into account.
SaaS businesses can increase their MRR not just by increasing how many subscribed customers they have, but also by increasing the amount spent by each customer (eg. by encouraging uptake of higher value plans or add-ons). The ARPA (per month) widget to the right shows how ARPA (Average revenue per account) increases over time across the product’s user base.
The bottom of the dashboard is rounded off with CAC - standing for ‘Cost of acquiring a customer’ - indicating the amount spent on marketing and sales to acquire a single customer. Calculating this can be tricky if there are several touch points with a potential customer before they eventually decide to subscribe, so some businesses might choose to add extra detail depending on how their sales and marketing works. In this example, ‘Paid for’ customers have a higher CAC than those that have a blended cost assigned to them from across all sales and marketing channels.
In the middle is a column chart showing how much cash the company has is its bank account at the end of each month. For startups or more established SaaS companies that are heavily investing in their product and team, being transparent with company finances can help teams stay focused on the task at hand and create a constructive sense of urgency. This is amplified by the Runway widget to the right, showing how many months of cash the company has available if current MRR and total costs were to stay constant.
Finally, in the bottom right of the dashboard is a simple conversion rate widget, which although isn’t highlighted in Christoph’s original Excel dashboard, is a metric we’re always focused on here at Geckoboard HQ.