Q15: What is a business dashboard and how is it used in a business?

Much like a driver uses a car’s dashboard to make lots of decisions before and during a trip, a business dashboard helps a business decision-maker to plan for his business.

Wikipedia’s definition of a business dashboard is quite long. A business dashboard is  “An easy to read, often single page, real-time user interface, showing a graphical presentation of the current status (snapshot) and historical trends of an organization’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to enable instantaneous and informed decisions to be made at a glance.”

That is a mouthful. But lets break it down to help us understand how a business can use dashboards to make better decisions.

  • Single Page – You need to be able to see everything you need to know at a glance. If you need to scroll or click to get data it really lessens that power of the dashboard.
  • Real Time – If the data isn’t current, then you really are limited to being able to take action. With technology today, not having a way to feed real time data in your dashboard is pretty old school. Plus this can help you set up some useful predictive models that feed into the dashboard.
  • Graphical Presentation – People pick up data much quicker from visual queues like charts and graphs then they do a table full of numbers. There are a lot of great visualization tools out there to add a lot of both style and substance to analyzing business data.
  • Current Status – Besides being furnished with real time data, you should be able to look at where things stand right now. Like how a speedometer keeps you within the speed limit, real time status can help you know where to focus your energy most.
  • Historical Trends – The priority is real time, current status all in one view. That said, having the ability to switch to historical trends is also something to look for in an awesome dashboard.
  • KPIs – One of the keys to getting the most bang for your buck with a dashboard is to make sure you are feeding the right KPIs into it. The audience will gravitate to what is most important to them and if its not available at first glance they wont use the dashboard. So knowing the business well enough to know the key KPIs for the power users is super important.
  • Make Decisions – The bottom line is that if a dashboard improves the speed and the accuracy in which decisions are made then its working. Companies with really good analytics cultures use dashboards at staff meetings and conference calls and have pretty much killed the use of power point for most discussions.

When you walk into a company and you see business dashboards on the wall monitor and/or on desktops you are in the kind of place we should all be. The technology is there, its more a matter of culture to make it useful.


Hope that helps shed some light on how business dashboards can help a business. They just give you much more relevant and useful data summarized and offered in easy to use and understand bites.

My team is very adept at setting up business dashboards using Tableau Public. Let me know if you’d like to know more.


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