Dashboard Reporting. Choosing the right type of dashboard for your business

What is a dashboard report?

A dashboard report is a software application that is used to track and monitor the health of an organization or department by reporting on KPIs, business metrics, and analytics. Reporting dashboards have long been used in business intelligence to summarize information into instantly digestible analytics that provide at-a-glance visibility into business performance.

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What is the value of a reporting dashboard?

The value of a reporting dashboard is in its ability to change behaviour and drive incremental, continuous improvements. There are different types of dashboards, which will help you address your business challenges and overall goals in different ways. When starting to evaluate dashboards, it can be a challenge to discern each type of dashboard and the business value of that type of dashboard.

Before identifying how you intend to use a dashboard, let’s take a step back and identify the value of implementing a dashboard. Like their vehicular counterparts, dashboards are front-end interfaces that distill data sets into simple insights using data visualizations. Metrics like speed, service indicators, and fuel levels are all critical to monitor if you want to get from point A to point B. If something critical happens to your vehicle (or your business) you need to know so you can adjust accordingly.

Reporting dashboards are an analysis tool that allow business owners to stay in control of their business performance. That’s the value of a dashboard. Now, there are different types of dashboards that offer different types of analysis for business owners. Let’s review those and how they can benefit you.

Types of reporting dashboards

There are 3 types of dashboards:

  • Operational dashboards tell you what is happening now
  • Strategic dashboards track key performance indicators
  • Analytical dashboards process data to identify trends

As you may have guessed, each type of dashboard will be used by different teams and job functions throughout an organization. Operational reporting dashboards are agile and match the urgency of fast-paced teams like sales and customer service. Strategic dashboards are ideal for executives looking to monitor KPIs and metrics across the organization. Analytical or tactical dashboards are often used by business analysts to establish and communicate business targets across the organization.

Let’s take a closer look at each type of dashboard.

What is an operational dashboard?

An operational dashboard is a reporting tool that is used to monitor business processes that frequently change and to track current performance of key metrics and KPIs. Compared to other types of dashboards, the data updates very frequently, sometimes even on a minute-by-minute basis. Operational dashboards are designed to be viewed multiple times throughout the day. They are often used to monitor progress towards a target.

An example of an operational dashboard is a Daily Web Overview Dashboard. It tracks hourly web performance against predetermined objectives for a digital marketing team.

Reporting Dashboards - What is an operational dashboard?

What is a strategic dashboard?

A strategic dashboard is a reporting tool used to monitor the status of key performance indicators (KPIs), and are typically used by executives. The data behind a strategic dashboard updates on a recurring basis, but at less frequent intervals than an operational dashboard. Strategic dashboards may be viewed once a day, and assist executives in staying on top of KPIs throughout the business.

An example of a strategic dashboard is the SaaS CEO dashboard. It monitor KPIs across the organization using simple data visualizations.

Reporting Dashboards - What is a strategic dashboard?

What is an analytical dashboard

An analytical dashboard is a reporting tool that is used to analyze large volumes of data to allow users to investigate trends, predict outcomes, and discover insights. Analytical dashboards are more common within business intelligence tools because they are typically developed and designed by data analysts. The data behind an analytical dashboard needs to be accurate and up-to-date, and may only be updated infrequently. Analytical dashboards often include advanced BI features like drill-down and ad-hoc querying.

An example of an analytical dashboard is the MRR/Accounts dashboard. It is, however, important to note this is a very lightweight version of analytical dashboard.

Reporting Dashboards - What is an analytics dashboard?

What is the purpose of a dashboard?

A dashboard report helps organizations monitor and track performance to stay in control of their business at all times. In the words of Peter Drucker, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Organizations use dashboards to display the KPIs and metrics that are core to their business to enable broad consumption of data and insights. This encourages a culture of incremental improvements. Even a modest 2% improvement month over month adds up over the long haul.

In the spirit of analytics-driven improvements, many organizations are displaying dashboard reports on televisions and wallboards. Nurturing daily data monitoring habits has big results. Dashboards are meant to be viewed.

View reporting dashboards on a TV

What are the benefits of a reporting dashboard?

Reporting dashboards have the following benefits:

  • Foster a culture of continuous improvements
  • Data transparency throughout the organization
  • Being in control of business decisions by having the right data
  • Save time and money on reporting
  • Improved alignment throughout the organization

Analytical dashboards vs operational dashboards

Analytical dashboards are meant to help an organization establish targets based on insights into historical data. Operational dashboards manage intra-daily business processes – frequently changing and current performance metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs).

How to choose a dashboard for your business?

Choosing the right dashboard for your business depends on the overall goals of your analytics, business intelligence, and data monitoring practices. A best-case scenario for dashboards is to deploy all 3 types of dashboards across the organization, but this scenario isn’t always realistic. Building and designing valuable dashboards takes time, careful consideration of the data, and selecting an appropriate software vendor.

Choosing dashboards based on business reporting requirements

Business Questions


Operational Dashboards

Strategic Dashboards

Analytical Dashboards

What business problem(s) we are trying to solve? Identify what is driving the need for a dashboard solution and to define the scope of the project. Data awareness and time sensitive data Top-line organizational KPIs Trends or deeper insights
Who will be using the dashboards? Design, features and required training will change based on the role of the dashboard user. Line of business managers; business users Executives; Directors Business analysts; data analysts; executives
What gaps exist in our performance? The identification of gaps can be used to develop a set of metrics that will be used as the basis for the development of the dashboard. Intra-daily performance. Monthly, quarterly performance Performance issues, weekly performance
4. What are our goals? Before developing metrics it becomes important to identify what you hope to achieve by using dashboards as well as align those goals to the department’s or company’s overall strategy. Employee awareness and tracking against goals Strategic goals, such as achieving KPI targets Analytics goals, such as visibility into key process

Choosing dashboards based on technical reporting requirements

Technical Questions


Operational Dashboards

Strategic Dashboards

Analytical Dashboards

What is the state of our data infrastructure? Organizations with strong and broad data warehousing and BI infrastructures may choose to leverage existing data, by better exposing both operational and analytical intelligence. Web APIs, databases, spreadsheet data Web APIs, databases, spreadsheet data, Data Warehouse Data warehouse, database
What are the data latency requirements? The currency of the required information helps define the dashboard. Organizations requiring frequent updates will most likely look at operational dashboards. Low latency, time sensitive, and real time Incremental updates, need for accurate, right time information High latency, accurate data
Where does the data reside? How many data sources are you looking at using? Not all dashboards are created equal. Some dashboards only support one data source per visualization, while others allow users to combine various data sources to enable broader and deeper understanding. Improve visibility into multiple systems and applications. Multiple data sources within a single dashboard or set of visualizations Multiple data sources within a single dashboard or set of visualizations

What makes a good dashboard report?

It sounds simple, but the difference between a good dashboard report and a bad one is whether it gets viewed or not. As a software tool, dashboards are designed to elevate data and improve organizational visibility into performance. If dashboards don’t accomplish this, they’re likely to fail.

An effective dashboard is a well-designed dashboard. At first glance, you may think of dashboard design as the outcome -- a beautiful, enticing dashboard that encourages frequent use.

The truth is that dashboard design starts well before selecting the visualizations that will adorn your dashboard. Dashboard design starts with audience profiling, and understanding what type of dashboard you are building. From there, you can start to make intelligent decisions around what data to display, where that data resides, and how to best represent the data.

For example, creating an operational dashboard for your sales team requires an understanding of how they will use it. A sales dashboard for executives may look something like this:

Reporting dashboard for sales executives

A dashboard for sales reps will look very different. The purpose of this reporting dashboard isn’t passive monitoring; it is active tracking to increase visibility around important, even urgent sales targets. The output is quite different:

Reporting dashboard for sales reps

Reporting dashboards and the power of continuous improvements

A well-designed, frequently viewed reporting dashboard can be an effective business tool. By monitoring your current performance, you can make small, incremental changes to the way you run your business. These changes add up over time to deliver tangible and intangible results for your business.

A compelling use-case for dashboards is that of a digital advertising team. In traditional marketing teams, advertising reports would come in at the end of the month. The team would sit down, evaluate the results, and decide how to optimize the program.

But what if you spent the entire month spending money on a poorly performing campaign? Reflective management of this process means wasting a lot of money, time, and resources on something that isn’t performing. A reporting dashboard will enable you to monitor the performance of your ad campaigns throughout the day. This means incremental adjustments and improvements throughout the month.

Reporting dashboards offer business’s tangible benefits and advantages over traditional reporting mechanisms. It’s critical, however, that a culture of monitoring, data transparency, and optimization accompanies the deployment of any dashboard solution.

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