Dashboards and Data Viz

I recently had an interesting conversation with someone at a trade show. The main question revolved around the difference between “reporting” and “dashboards”. Having been in the business intelligence space for awhile, it’s not the first time I’ve been asked this. However, the analogy that came to mind was fresh and I believe it really sums up the difference.

If you’re driving a car and need to check your speed, would you rather reach into the glove box and search through a report with numbers that need to be calculated or quickly look down at a visual indicator that shows the exact number?

dashboard speedometer

The answer is obvious – and that’s why we use the speedometer. This analogy actually shows how dashboards and reports differ. Reports focus on a lot of different information around a particular metric or set of metrics. They often include raw data as well. Dashboards, however, give a quick snapshot of the metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) that you’re interested in looking at in that exact moment. The raw data is all there but it’s hidden under a visual interface that simplifies it into an at-a-glance view. If more information is necessary, most dashboard solutions allow you to click (or drill down) on a chart to reveal more detailed data.

Read next: What Makes a Good Dashboard Reporting Tool Great?

With dashboards, in most cases, less is better. If you want to learn more about dashboards and reports, check out our free guide, Everything You Need to Know about Dashboards.

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Alicia Beaubien Senior Content Manager @iDashboards

As a part of the iDashboards team since 2011, Alicia focuses on all things content and social media. Outside of the marketing realm, Alicia considers herself an athlete at heart – despite her height and typical clumsiness.


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