A dashboard is a type of graphical user interface which often provides at-a-glance views of key performance indicators (KPIs) relevant to a particular objective or business process. In other usage, "dashboard" is another name for "progress report" or "report" and considered a form of data visualization.
The “dashboard” is often accessible by a web browser and is usually linked to regularly updating data sources.
Digital dashboards allow managers to monitor the contribution of the various departments in their organization. In addition they enable “rolling up” of information to present a consolidated view across an organisation. To gauge exactly how well an organization is performing overall, digital dashboards allow you to capture and report specific data points from each department within the organization, thus providing a "snapshot" of performance.
Benefits of using digital dashboards include:
- Visual presentation of performance measures
- Ability to identify and correct negative trends
- Measure efficiencies/inefficiencies
- Ability to generate detailed reports showing new trends
- Ability to make more informed decisions based on collected business intelligence
- Align strategies and organizational goals
- Saves time compared to running multiple reports
- Gain total visibility of all systems instantly
- Quick identification of data outliers and correlations
- Consolidated reporting into one location
- Available on mobile devices to quickly access metrics
Dashboards can be broken down according to role and are either strategic, analytical, operational, or informational. Dashboards are the 3rd step on the information ladder, demonstrating the conversion of data to increasingly valuable insights.
Strategic dashboards support managers at any level in an organization, and provide the quick overview that decision makers need to monitor the health and opportunities of the business. Dashboards of this type focus on high level measures of performance, and forecasts. Strategic dashboards benefit from static snapshots of data (daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly) that are not constantly changing from one moment to the next.
Dashboards for analytical purposes often include more context, comparisons, and history, along with subtler performance evaluators. Analytical dashboards typically support interactions with the data, such as drilling down into the underlying details. Dashboards for monitoring operations are often designed differently from those that support strategic decision making or data analysis and often require monitoring of activities and events that are constantly changing and might require attention and response at a moment's notice.
Types of dashboards
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Digital dashboards may be laid out to track the flows inherent in the business processes that they monitor. Graphically, users may see the high-level processes and then drill down into low level data. This level of detail is often buried deep within the corporate enterprise and otherwise unavailable to the senior executives.
Three main types of digital dashboard dominate the market today: desktop software applications, web-browser based applications, and desktop applications also known as desktop widgets. The last are driven by a widget engine.
Both Desktop and Browser based providers enable the distribution of dashboards via a web browser.
Specialized dashboards may track all corporate functions. Examples include human resources, recruiting, sales, operations, security, information technology, project management, customer relationship management, digital marketing and many more departmental dashboards. For a smaller organization like a startup a compact startup scorecard dashboard tracks important activities across lot of domains ranging from social media to sales.
Digital dashboard projects involve business units as the driver and the information technology department as the enabler. The success of dashboard projects depends on the relevancy / importance of information provided within the dashboard. This includes the metrics chosen to monitor and the timeliness of the data forming those metrics; data has to be up to date and accurate.
Business dashboard examples
- Manufacturing: a dashboard may show numbers related to productivity such as number of parts manufactured, or number of failed quality inspections per hour.
- Human Resources: a dashboard may show numbers related to staff recruitment, retention and composition, for example number of open positions, or average days or cost per recruitment.
- Sales – a dashboard can show the sales made by individuals / teams / products and how they are comparing against sales targets and sales from a prior period for comparison purposes
- Customer relationship management – a dashboard can show the frequency of interactions with clients & prospects and highlight where contact may be overdue
- Digital marketing – a dashboard can show the performance of a website and also the effectiveness of email campaigns, combining with finance data to give a more accurate view of the ROI
Dashboards and scorecards
Balanced Scorecards and Dashboards have been linked together as if they were interchangeable. However, although both visually display critical information, the difference is in the format: Scorecards can open the quality of an operation while dashboards provide calculated direction. A balanced scorecard has what they called a "prescriptive" format. It should always contain these components:
- Perspectives – group
- Objectives – verb-noun phrases pulled from a strategy plan
- Measures – also called Metric or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
- Spotlight Indicators – red, yellow, or green symbols that provide an at-a-glance view of a measure's performance.
Each of these sections ensures that a Balanced Scorecard is essentially connected to the businesses critical strategic needs.
The design of a dashboard is more loosely defined. Dashboards are usually a series of graphics, charts, gauges and other visual indicators that can be monitored and interpreted. Even when there is a strategic link, on a dashboard, it may not be noticed as such since objectives are not normally present on dashboards. However, dashboards can be customized to link their graphs and charts to strategic objectives.
Digital dashboard technology is available "out-of-the-box" from many software providers. Some companies however continue to do in-house development and maintenance of dashboard applications. For example, GE Aviation has developed a proprietary software/portal called "Digital Cockpit" to monitor the trends in aircraft spare parts business.
Good dashboard design practices take into account and address the following:
- the medium it is designed for (desktop, laptop, mobile, tablet)
- use of visuals over tabular presentation of data
- bar charts: to visualize one or more series of data
- line charts: to track changes in a number of dependent data sets over a period of time
- sparklines: to show the trend in a single data set
- scorecards: to monitor KPIs and trends
- use of legends anytime more than one color or shape is present on a graph
- spatial arrangement: place your most important view on the top left (if the language is written left to right) then arrange the following views in a Z pattern with the most important information following the top-to-bottom, left-to-right pattern
- use colorblind friendly palettes with color used consistently and only where necessary
A good information design will clearly communicate key information to users and makes supporting information easily accessible.
Assessing the quality of dashboards
There are a few key elements to a good dashboard:.
- Simple, communicates easily
- Minimum distractions...it could cause confusion
- Supports organized business with meaning and useful data
- Applies human visual perception to visual presentation of information
- It can be accessed easily by its intended audience
The idea of digital dashboards followed the study of decision support systems in the 1970s. Early predecessors of the modern business dashboard were first developed in the 1980s in the form of Executive Information Systems (EISs). Due to problems primarily with data refreshing and handling, it was soon realized that the approach wasn't practical as information was often incomplete, unreliable, and spread across too many disparate sources. Thus, EISs hibernated until the 1990s when the information age quickened pace and data warehousing, and online analytical processing (OLAP) allowed dashboards to function adequately. Despite the availability of enabling technologies, the dashboard use didn't become popular until later in that decade, with the rise of key performance indicators (KPIs), and the introduction of Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton's Balanced Scorecard. In the late 1990s, Microsoft promoted a concept known as the Digital Nervous System and "digital dashboards" were described as being one leg of that concept. Today, the use of dashboards forms an important part of Business Performance Management (BPM).
Dashboard (web administration)
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A dashboard typically indicates items which require urgent actions at the top of the page, moving into less important statistics at the bottom. Dashboard is a design to show important data in more enhanced way.
- Business activity monitoring
- Complex event processing
- Corporate performance management
- Data presentation architecture
- Enterprise manufacturing intelligence
- Event stream processing
- Information graphics
- Information design
- Scientific visualization
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