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What is a Data Dashboard?

A data dashboard is a tool used for information management and business intelligence, utilizing the interactive elements of data visualization to communicate metrics and help users visually understand complex relationships in their data. Much like the dashboard of a car, data dashboards organize, store, and display important information from multiple data sources into one, easy-to-access place. Data is extracted, transformed, and loaded through an intuitive data agnostic system built for seamless data connection. In a data dashboard, it’s easier to draw parallels between different but related metrics and key performance indicators, identify trends, and head off potential challenges hidden in an organization’s data. Decision-makers and data stewards can better monitor specific points in data that are critical to the efficiency and overall productivity of the business, department, employees and processes. With the help of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile technology, dashboards are also used to convey relevant information to audiences at any time and in any place, through real-time, up-to-date insights. The best dashboards are customized, secured, and shared with their intended end-users to empower everyone to act and lead with data.

What is a Business Dashboard?

Business Dashboard Example - iDashboards

Virtually any dashboard used by a business or various organization falls into this category. The term “business dashboard” specifically refers to reporting tools that fulfill these purposes:

  • Tracking important business metrics
  • Monitoring business intelligence initiatives
  • Reporting data to stakeholders
  • Visualizing operational data both at high level and broken down

An effective business dashboard should focus on top-level data related to the overall success of the business given the initiatives and processes that are systemic to how they operate. In most cases, every metric in the dashboard should support the business’ most important and essential metric: the bottom line. The goal of a business dashboard is to not only more transparently communicate data about the business’ success, though; it facilitates understanding and alignment between departments, holds each team accountable for their goals and progress, and helps users identify areas that need immediate action. It streamlines reporting to eliminate time and errors that come with duplicated data and data silos, provides greater visibility and a break-down into correlated metrics, and establishes validity for decision-making working to mitigate risk.

 

What is an Executive Dashboard?

Executive Dashboard Scorecard Example - iDashboards

An executive dashboard gathers and holds information that top-level stakeholders need to effectively and efficiently run a company, business, or organization. Executive dashboards function similar to that of business dashboards, except the information they carry should cater specifically to the needs and expectations of executives. The dashboards should serve as a tool they can leverage for quick, digestive, and actionable insights that guide their critical decision-making processes and high-level analyses. Executives only have so much bandwidth to gather and understand information, which means it is imperative they have access to accurate and reliable information they need, when they need it. Some key benefits include:

 

Performance Management

An overview of how departments are meeting their goals over time

Scorecards

Insight regarding specific employee performance and goals

Visibility 

Access to high-level goals and metrics related to the overall success of the organization 

Efficiency

Respond in the moment with real-time operational intelligence

Time Management

Cohesive reports and drilldowns in one place, accessible on any device

Transparency

Streamline communication on decisions impacting internal and external stakeholders 

Accountability

Run custom reports and monitor responsibilities with real-time alerts

Security

Share data insights securely with all who matter – clients, customers, or constituents

 

What is a KPI Dashboard?

KPI Dashboard Example - Production iDashboards

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are the heart and soul of your organization’s performance. They are the stepping stones that will guide your business to long-term success and navigate through challenges, so tracking and comparing them in one place is vital. KPIs should be measurable, tangible metrics that define top strategic focus areas specific to departments and objectives that let each employee, team, and the department as a whole understand how various factors play a role in the success of the organization. A successful KPI dashboard should:

  • Set attainable and actionable goals and targets for each department
  • Facilitate accountability within each department
  • Provide real-time updates on goals and progress
  • Uncover trends for date period comparisons and hidden insights
  • Drill down and use root-analysis for analytical results that can be altered or improved
  • Highlight correlating metrics to discover new or monitor current data set relationships
  • Compare departmental data to that of the whole organization to assess any misalignments

 

What is a Project Dashboard?

Project Management Dashboard Examples iDashboards

Much like KPI dashboards, project dashboards track tangible goals; however, the “goal” of a project dashboard isn’t just about hitting a sales quota or increasing marketing revenue by a certain margin. Instead, project dashboards track specific metrics related to the progress and completion of a project, for continuous up-to-date tracking. This means, generally speaking, project dashboards involve more scheduling metrics than most dashboards and allow management and other leaders to reflect on what is attainable and worth putting more effort and priority towards:

  • When does the project need to be completed?
  • Does each team member have the bandwidth to complete his or her portion of the project?
  • What is the project budget? Is the project on pace to accommodate it?
  • For recurring projects, where did the team find themselves positioned in terms of progress at this time last year/month/etc?

These are the questions most – if not all – project managers ask themselves on a daily basis. By having these metrics in one place, project managers can avoid unnecessary time logging into multiple data sources and comparing information to get a simple progress report that subsequently becomes outdated and requires a repetition of efforts next time. With the help of a project management dashboard, they can simply open the dashboard and see exactly where the project stands, make accommodations or changes as necessary, and provide an accurate assessment of when the project will be complete. This not only streamlines other departments or individuals that may be reliant on the timeline of the project at hand, but also gives those currently working on it a sense of motivation and awareness for where they stand in meeting their action items.

Interested to find the solution that aligns with the goals of your industry or department? Check out all of our dashboard examples here that are built unique to your organization’s objectives.

If you’re curious to learn more about implementing data dashboards successfully, get our Ultimate Guide to Dashboard Best Practices here.

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Caroline Bracey Content Writer & Marketing Coordinator

Caroline Bracey focuses on all things content for iDashboards. Beyond her passion for marketing and writing, you can find her watching sports with her family, discovering new music and places to travel, or getting outdoors and hiking.

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