Business Intelligence Dashboard

what is a business intelligence dashboard illustration

What is a Business Intelligence Dashboard?

A business intelligence dashboard is an information management tool that is used to track KPIs, metrics, and other key data points relevant to a business, department, or specific process. Through the use of data visualizations, dashboards simplify complex data sets to provide users with at a glance awareness of current performance.

business intelligence and dashboards illustration

Business Intelligence and Dashboards

Business Intelligence dashboards are an essential part of running a data-driven business, but what is Business Intelligence?

Business Intelligence (BI) is a tech-driven process used to analyze and display data in meaningful and actionable ways. Business intelligence encompasses a multitude of applications, tools, theories, and technologies. The goal of BI dashboards is to help business individuals make more informed decisions by enabling companies to gather, analyze, build dashboards, and create reports on their most important and business-driving data.

Dashboards provide sleek, real-time visibility to your team. Combining business intelligence data with dashboards gives your team the at-a-glance view of their performance that they need to run smoothly. BI dashboards must be designed carefully though. If the data being fed into the visualizations is not reliable, no matter how easy the dashboard itself is to read and analyze, the dashboard will be useless. Connect data sources to your dashboard through integrations, or by uploading a CSV or Excel file. Learn more: Excel dashboard

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business intelligence definition from the experts illustration

Business Intelligence Definition From the Experts

Hans Peter Luhn, an IBM researcher, is credited with coining the term Business Intelligence in the 1985 article A Business Intelligence System. He defines BI as "the ability to apprehend the interrelationships of presented facts in such a way as to guide action towards a desired goal."

Even more expert definitions in our What is business intelligence? article.

reporting with business intelligence dashboards illustration

Reporting with Business Intelligence Dashboards

Business intelligence dashboards help businesses monitor their performance metrics in real-time by providing an at-a-glance view of pertinent data and analytics. Dashboards provide engaging data visualizations that help you present information in a way that inspires action. They can be tailored to answer any question, for any position, and for any department.

To create an effective BI dashboard report, you need to first identify the questions you are trying to answer. If you are reporting to a CMO, the question may be something similar to, “How is our marketing return on investment doing?” This base question will steer how you design your report. The answers to your business questions are hidden in your data, the key is identifying which account holds the data. These important questions are the basis of dashboard definition for your organization.

Once you identify and connect to your account, you are ready to tackle the next step: displaying your data. The visualizations in BI dashboard reports will vary for different departments. In the instance of developing an executive report, you will want to focus on visualizations that directly show results and do not require much time to analyze. You final step is to share the dashboard report with the necessary parties.

View some of our live dashboards for examples of actionable BI dashboard reports

Business Intelligence Dashboard | Customer Retention Dashboard Business Intelligence Dashboard | Executive Dashboard Business Intelligence Dashboard | Support Tickets Dashboard

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KPIs and Business Intelligence Dashboards

Reporting should to be actionable, meaningful, understandable, and accurate. Each business and department will have have different key performance indicators, so time has to be taken to develop unique KPIs representative of the business.

Marketing and Business Intelligence Dashboards

The marketing department will need a dashboard that displays their campaign performances, return on marketing investment, and web traffic performance. Learn more about the best digital marketing KPIs for your business.

Business Intelligence Dashboard | Marketing Dashboard

Sales and Business Intelligence Dashboards

The sales department will need to track the number of open opportunities, account growth rate, and monthly recurring revenue growth.

Business Intelligence Dashboard | Sales Dashboard

Executives and Business Intelligence Dashboards

The executive department will need to monitor top level data from all departments, tracking metrics such as support’s response time, finance’s net monthly burn, user experience’s account retention rate, sales’ monthly recurring revenue, and marketing’s lead to win rate.

Business Intelligence Dashboard | Executive Dashboard
best practices for picking the right kpis for your business intelligence dashboard illustration

Best Practices for Picking the Right KPIs for your Business Intelligence Dashboard

When building a business intelligence dashboard, it’s important you select the right KPIs for the audience viewing the dashboard. Executives will require a very different set of KPIs than managers or specialists. Displaying irrelevant or unnecessary KPIs can confuse your audience, and result in poor adoption of the dashboard itself.

How should you select KPIs for your BI dashboard? Here are six tips to help you select the right KPIs for your dashboard: that separate effective, value creating KPIs from detrimental, value diminishing KPIs:

1. Pick KPIs that are aligned with your strategic business objectives

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A business’s performance is ultimately relative to its mission and goals. Your KPIs should be based with these in mind. This can be complicated though, as many companies have short and long term goals, and the goals may differ from the executive level to the “ground-floor” level. Here are a few tips to help you navigate this complexity:

  • Select different KPIs for different levels of your company. Select KPIs focused on more long-term and medium goals for your executive levels, and more medium to short-term goals for your management levels. Rather than trying to find a few metrics that apply to all levels of the company, select KPIs for each user based on their objectives and the business decisions they’re responsible for.
  • Avoid cookie cutter KPIs. Your company and its goals are unique, and so should be your KPIs.

2. Make sure the KPIs you pick are attainable

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There’s no point selecting a KPI for your business if the data behind the KPI can’t be obtained, either because the application is too costly or you don’t have the resources to implement it. Before selecting a KPI, ask yourself the following:

  • What data points do I need to measure this KPI?
  • What technologies and processes do I need to implement to access this data on a regular basis?
  • How much will all this cost and what are the potential returns?

3. Be acute in your choice of KPIs

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KPIs should keep everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction, and they should be specific enough to inform specific actions. If a KPI is too high level or too vague, it can be interpreted in many different ways, and actioned in many different ways. Customer Acquisition Cost to Lifetime Value (CAC/LTV) is an acute KPI, and it is useful to service businesses to the extent decision makers know and understand the data flowing into the KPI, and have some control over it. Operating Costs is not an acute KPI, and not likely to be as useful in an operational decision making sense.

In addition to being specific in your choice of KPIs, it is wise to limit the number of KPIs you choose to focus on. Here’s why:

  • Limiting your selection of KPIs forces you to think long and hard about the KPIs that are truly “key” to your business; the metrics that are truly critical to your success.
  • The fewer KPIs you have to focus on the more you will be focused on them.
  • Continuously optimizing KPIs can take a lot of time and effort, and it can be costly. The more KPIs you have the more time and money it will cost you to monitor and optimize them.

4. Pick accurate KPIs

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Make sure the KPI is specific enough for you. Is the KPI reliable in predicting business performance?

  • Does the KPI include all relevant information?
  • Does some of the data feeding into the KPI cloud the overall results?
  • How accurate is the KPI in reflecting and predicting business performance? If you’re on track in every conceivable way but you’re KPI is off track, ask yourself again if it is truly a “key” performance metric.

5. Select KPIs that are actionable

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Is there something you can actually do to change the projection of this metric? If not, then it’s most likely not the best metric to have. The KPIs on your business intelligence dashboard should be be actionable.

  • Can at least some of the events the KPIs base be controlled by the business?
  • Can the KPI be structured in a way that inspires action?

6. Pick KPIs that are alive

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It’s easy to get comfortable with a group of KPIs that you’ve depended upon for an extended period of time, but your business isn’t static and your KPIs shouldn’t be either. Take the time to ask yourself a few questions surrounding the reasons why you selected these KPIs and whether or not they are being effective:

  • Do these reasons still hold true?
  • Has your business or the context within which it operates changed?
  • Can your KPIs be refined to suit these changes?
  • Are decision makers watching and working to improve them?
  • Do they have the right tools to do so?
  • Is your KPI ecosystem supporting data driven decision making and improving business outcomes?

7. Display KPIs that you care about

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It’s not enough to just have pretty metrics on your dashboard, you need to have a purpose for them. Your metrics need to drive you action and need to give you meaningful results. When adding metrics to your business intelligence dashboard, ask yourself, “why do we care about this?” If there is no main business question that the visualization is answering, don’t clutter your dashboard with it.

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Designing a Business Intelligence Dashboard

Business intelligence dashboards help you stay in control of your businesses, but some dashboards do this better than others. Here are a few dashboard design best practices:

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Dashboard design best practices

1. Build one dashboard for each role (don’t try to create a one-size-fits-all dashboard)

Business Intelligence Dashboard | CMO BI Dashboard
Business Intelligence Dashboard | Social Media Manager BI Dashboard
Business Intelligence Dashboard | SaaS Executive BI Dashboard

2. Feature comparison values

Business Intelligence Dashboard | Comparison Values Metric

3. Group together related data

Business Intelligence Dashboard | Related Data Metrics

4. Make your visualizations scannable and precise

Business Intelligence Dashboard | Scannable Precise Visualizations

5. Use colours appropriately (don’t throw in multiple random colours)

Business Intelligence Dashboard | Using Appriopriate Colours Metric

6. Make the results clear and easily digestible

Business Intelligence Dashboard | Clear Data Results Metric

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