In today’s data-driven environment, business dashboards generate a lot of buzz. You’re probably reading this blog post because you find yourself asking one (or all) of the following questions:
- What are dashboards?
- What is the purpose of a dashboard?
- What is the importance of a dashboard?
- What are the benefits of dashboard reporting?
- Does it make sense for my organization to use a dashboard?
We’re here to answer those questions and help you understand that whether you’re a large corporation or a startup company, there are many ways you can incorporate digital dashboards in a business environment.
Visualizing All Data, At A Glance
Businesses actually adopted the term “dashboard” from automobiles. In many ways, it is used the same. There are hundreds of moving parts in your business that impact your overall performance. A business dashboard summarizes these events with easy-to-understand, real-time data visuals. For cars, you can immediately see how fast you are traveling, how much fuel you have in your tank and more. It even provides a “Check Engine” symbol as a warning when there’s something wrong with the engine.
In much the same way, the function of a dashboard is to provide real-time results by aggregating and extracting value from all the data you collect, otherwise known as your key performance indicators (KPIs). It simplifies your data into more manageable chunks of visual information that allows you to see what you are doing right and where you need to improve. When utilized properly, benefits of dashboards include making informed decisions that dramatically impact business performance – which in turn effects your bottom line.
The Three Basic Types of Dashboards
While there are infinite ways to customize a dashboard and make it your own, all dashboards fall into one of three categories:
- Operational Dashboards – This is the most common dashboard type, with metrics updating in real-time showing data related to daily operations. The main purpose of an operational dashboard is to provide a comprehensive snapshot of performance, which means that you should incorporate a large amount of detail without using too many drilldowns.
- Analytical Dashboards – Use data from the past to identify trends that can influence future decision-making. Users should be able to interact with the data on an analytical dashboard, so many of them incorporate pivot tables and drilldowns. The ideal audience for viewing analytical dashboards are database analysts, as they typically require a level of understanding that a typical business user may not possess.
- Strategic Dashboards – Track performance in relation to your key performance indicators, to better align actions with strategy. If you are looking for a dashboard to share with your whole organization, consider creating a strategic dashboard. Transparency of data can lead to an increase in motivation and other unexpected benefits.
Benefits & Uses of A Dashboard
A dashboard has many functions, so there are a number of benefits of dashboard reporting. Here are the top six features and benefits of a dashboard:
- Data transparency – Data is any company’s most important asset. However, it doesn’t do much good if no one can understand or access it. A well-designed dashboard provides on-demand access of all of your most important metrics.
- Access to data – As the name implies, a dashboard gathers multiple data sources, including Excel, into a single interface. That means you can immediately see a detailed overview of your business in one quick glance. Better yet, it reduces the amount of time it takes to compile reports, saving you time.
- Better decision making – Dashboards provide an unbiased view not only of the company’s performance overall, but each department as well. If each department is able to access the dashboard, it can offer a foundation for further dialogue and great decision making. For example, the sales and marketing department can align their data and experiences to increase customer acquisitions and improve demand generation. Business dashboards provide a good starting point for these decisions, which is one of the biggest advantages of dashboards.
- Accountability – While it’s always nice to see what you’re doing right; you also need to see and understand what you’re doing wrong in order to increase your performance. Business dashboards can show you exactly where your trouble areas are and arm you with the information you need to improve. Also, by making the dashboards visible throughout the company, they can hold different departments accountable for both the ups and downs.
- Interactivity – Some of the best dashboards provide a dynamic experience. Rather than providing static information, you and your users can filter data, interact with charts to see changes over time, and even allow for an ad-hoc component for on-the-fly. That means you can get as much or as little detail on specific metrics as you want.
- Gamification – Your metrics, whether traffic to your website or products sold, are the key numbers you want to continuously improve upon. The top businesses have managed to gamify certain business metrics to increase the likelihood of customer retention. If you’re considering gamification, business dashboards can track the success of your efforts.
Read next: What Makes An Effective Executive Dashboard?
Do I Need a Dashboard?
Almost every business can benefit from having a dashboard that aligns with their objectives. Large organizations, like University North Dakota, should even consider multiple dashboards for different departments to keep track of internal and external KPIs. You might be wondering if you really need a dashboard for your business. Here are five ways to help you determine the importance and benefits of a dashboard for your company. If you are experiencing one or all of these signs, it may be time to at least try one out:
- You feel like your company can improve, but you have no idea how to or where to start.
- You’re monitoring and tracking data, but you don’t know what to do with the information or how to make sense of it.
- Your current solutions aren’t giving you the ROI you need.
- You are lagging behind your competitors.
- You’re struggling to see all of your data from multiple sources in one location.