In their purest form business dashboards can be defined as tools for information management and data visualization. Business dashboards are used to allow companies to track their KPIs, and vital data so that it can be viewed in a centralized way.

They give users a simplified overview of complex and sprawling data arrays for instant information, and can be customized to a specific role or to display information pertinent to a certain department or team . Interfaces can often be tailored to fit a company’s particular requirements, and can display real-time data from several different sources.

We are all well aware of the different functions that dashboards can serve in an organization such as providing us with greater control over data and various performance metrics that affect our business operations. However, even more significant than this is to understand the specific reasons why your business needs a business dashboard?

With this purpose in mind, the core objective behind forming a business dashboard for evaluating business KPIs will become easier. There are three main questions that need to be addressed behind the need for business dashboard. These are:

  • Who is my audience?
  • How will dashboard add value to business?
  • What type of dashboard do I need to create?

Each of these questions will be dealt in the subsequent sections of our discussion. So, let’s get started.

Overview

In today’s world, Big Data is the new paradigm of information collection and decision making. However, the sheer volume and diversity of data makes it cumbersome to extract real value from it, often causing companies to face a data overload as they try to streamline data analysis and business intelligence – this is a challenge businesses must overcome for competent management.

A dashboard can be a powerful management tool. It simplifies complicated processes and data into smaller, more manageable and lucid nuggets of information so business users can extract meaning from them and use that information in day-to-day key business decisions.

Employees now have the option to choose from a range of different business dashboard templates – some can be used to monitor KPIs and other performance metrics, allowing them to view information and alerts instantly, and to identify any potential issues as they arise. Others may be targeted to assist in making decisions, like target setting, using insights gained from data collected and analyzed over time.

Key Advantages of Business Dashboards

Extracting data value

As one of the most valuable assets of a business, data must be mined for maximum value. This is often easier said than done, especially with the huge volumes of data that come through businesses every day. A dashboard lets you get the most out of your data, informing users across the company about relevant statistics and events, and letting the business have customized access to business metrics and KPIs.

Data consolidation
The basic purpose of dashboards is to gather information from various sources and display it on one interface. This allows access to an impossibly wide data set so the company can collect all relevant information, while also reducing the time and effort spent compiling and analyzing said information.

Departmental support

Business dashboard software can provide an empirical evaluation of performance, allowing different departments to mutually decide further steps that need to be taken in alignment with each other. A dashboard display can reveal metrics that each team can understand and relate to.

Big picture

Business dashboard designs allow for an overview as well as penetrating insights. They give the viewer an overall, real-time picture of all the relevant metrics needed for decision making.

best data visualization software

Save time

Having a business dashboard software that allows a user to see relevant information from multiple data sources at a single glance is much more time efficient than running various reports and data analysis in order to be able to glean the same information. The right dashboard can save you countless hours every month.

Target & plan Evaluation

Almost every company has a plan and milestones. Checking your progress against your plans is crucial to success. A business dashboard can help your company compare its goals to its actual, current performance, making it easy to see where adjustments should be made and letting your business stay on track.

Drive better decision-making

With clear, neat, graphic interfaces, business dashboards templates allow users to easily evaluate and understand information, so that their decisions can be rooted in hard facts and empirical evidence.

Identify problems

Dashboards can often offer a look into potential issues, so that proactive action can be taken, rather than waiting for a problem to arise before looking for a solution.

Types of Business Dashboards

There are three main types of dashboards: strategic, analytics and operations.

Strategic Dashboards

strategic dashboard

These dashboards give senior management and executives the information required to understand the condition of the company, and to recognize opportunities for improvement or expansion. The information in this type of dashboard is not exhaustive enough to facilitate complex decision-making.

Instead, it allows users to identify areas for more detailed analysis, which can then be used to take strategic business decisions. Strategic dashboards are generally simple, and data is updated periodically, for instance, on a monthly basis. You can have a better understanding of this with the help of strategic dashboard example presented below by SavvyData.

Analytics Dashboards

analytics dashboard

Analytics dashboards, as the name suggests, exhibit analysis and comparisons of trends and events across time and variables, giving viewers the data they need to understand them. These dashboards often contain detailed information, and are more complex than both strategic and operations dashboards.

Analytics dashboards also require data interactivity rather than simply being able to view data, but it’s essential that they retain the ability to conduct data comparisons, otherwise the purpose of the analytical dashboard – analysis and understanding of trends – is defeated.

By allowing users to understand the reasons behind trends and events, it also lets them decide what changes need to be made accordingly. Due to the complex nature of the data in analytics dashboards, they tend to be used by specialized business analysts, as opposed to being widely used by company employees. This is better illustrated with the help of analytics dashboard example above.

Operations Dashboard

operations dashboard

Operations dashboards are mainly used to monitor operations in real-time and alert users to any anomalies or deviations. This makes it necessary for operational dashboards to be updated frequently, ideally in real time. They typically contain less information than analytical or strategic dashboards and ensure that deviation alerts cannot be avoided or misunderstood when they arise.

Operations dashboards give users specific information so that they know what to do to normalize operations without delay. They commonly cater to departments where the pace is quick, and employees need to respond quickly to vital information.

What to Include in Your Business Dashboards

Clear KPIs

Dashboards need to indicate performance – this is a major indicator of a company’s health and a critical data point for decisional and operational purposes. Defining clear KPIs that need to be included in the dashboard allows for a user to glean relevant information at one glance.

Objectives

A dashboard should have a focused objective, and the data, the users, and the analysis should all be based around that objective. The purpose of the dashboard must be clear, and at the forefront of its design.

Actionable information

Dashboards exist to allow users to monitor and measure data and then take relevant actions. Dashboards need to be developed in the context of the user being able to take action on the data they receive. It is a good idea to talk to the users before designing, in order to find out what they want and how the dashboard should help them with analysis and decision making.

Customization and interaction

Users may need to view different data, or may want to see data in different formats. A good dashboard allows viewers to customize the data and its layout, as well as allowing for interaction with the information. Creating multiple dashboards for multiple users is inefficient. The better approach is a single customizsable dashboard that can be shared amongst the team.

Noise minimization

The objective of a dashboard is not to view the maximum possible information, but to view the most essential information efficiently. Although all the data may be important, overloading a single dashboard with it can be distracting to users and makes the dashboard less valuable.

Detail

Dashboards give users a bird’s-eye view of the data, but they also need to allow users to delve into further details where necessary. They should be able to drill in to where certain trends occur, the reasons for these trends, and other such similar information.

Colors

While colors do enhance the look of a dashboard, they can also serve a functional purpose. Using them for conditional formatting or to highlight areas that users find important make a dashboard much more efficient and easy-to-use.

Open architecture

One of the most important components of a dashboard is its architecture. More than the visual aspect of it, the architecture is a determination of the dashboard’s usefulness, enabling integration with other software and adaptability to changing technology.

Real-time data

Dashboards need to show real-time data in order to stay useful and relevant. If the information is not current enough to fix live issues, it’s useless. Historical data is displayed in reports -dashboards must show data that’s up-to-date.

Areas of interest

Grouping together related content is a good idea to allow efficient access and viewing. Organization is an important element of any dashboard, and can mean the difference between helpful and frustrating. You may consider making data interactive while also keeping organization in mind, for example, using collapsible or drag-and-drop elements and clear, relevant headings.

Visual data

Using the right visuals to represent the right data is an important part of using the dashboard as a useful tool for an overview. Visuals should be used to highlight important information, and to offer pertinent comparisons and trends, but only where relevant and constructive.

Feedback

A great dashboard gives feedback to the user, responding when they performs certain actions, as well as helping the user operate the dashboard. It’s also a good idea to collect user feedback so the dashboard can be continuously improved.

How to Select the Right Type of Dashboard for your Business

In the tabular comparison below we provide you with a comparative analysis of different business dashboard templates that need to be used for data visualization based on individual business needs.

 

 

Business QuestionsImplicationsAnalytics or Operations  Dashboard
1. What business problem(s) are you trying to solve?
Identify the need for a dashboard and its purpose. What is the scope of the project? What is the dashboard for?
For trends or deeper insights –analytics dashboard.
For KPI awareness or time-sensitive information – operations dashboard
2. Who will use the dashboards?Depending on the dashboard user and his/her requirements, the features, design and dashboard complexity will vary.Executives or analysts – analytics dashboard.Line managers, general workforce –  operations dashboard
3. What are our performance gaps?Gap identification is a good strategy to develop metrics that will form the foundation of the business dashboard development.Performance issues – both dashboards.
Problems in day-to-day operations – operations  dashboard.
4. What goals do we have that this dashboard will help us achieve?
It’s important to decide what you would want to achieve by using dashboards and align those goals to the company or departmental strategy.
Strategic and analytical goals –analytics dashboard.Employee awareness and tracking goal progress – operations dashboard.

 

Technical QuestionsImplicationsAnalytics or Operations  Dashboards
5. What is the state of our data infrastructure?Organizations that have robust and broad data warehousing and BI infrastructures may choose to leverage existing data, by better exposing both operational and analytical intelligence.Broad and clean infrastructure – both dashboards.Discreet operational or transaction-based solutions – operations  dashboard.
6. What are the data latency requirements?Does the information need to be real-time and frequently updated? Companies that need frequent updates are better off looking at operations dashboards.Low latency, time sensitive, and real-time – operations dashboard.
7. Where does the data reside? How many data sources will be used?
Some dashboards only support one data source per visualization. Others combine several data sources so that users can gain a deeper and better understanding.
Multiple data sources within a single dashboard or set of visualizations – generally analytics  dashboard.Improve visibility of individual systems and applications (one data source) –operations dashboard.

 

Gain a competitive edge with a Business Dashboard

As you can see, business dashboards can be powerful tools that can boost your business progress and performance. However, it is important that these dashboards are created with the right design, functionality and integrations that can help them in skyrocketing business productivity and overall revenues.Also, it is important for businesses to have an understanding of the business dashboards that will be most suitable to meet their business objectives in order to streamline their performance metrics as well by managing all data in a hassle free manner.