Business Intelligence

BI Dashboard Explainer: How to Get Clearer Business Intelligence

Kenneth Weesgaard
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More and more, data is driving business. Companies are increasingly able to access their own data, allowing them to make better-informed decisions. But how do you interpret this data quickly and effectively? Enter the BI dashboard.


The BI dashboard, or business intelligence dashboard, is a data visualization tool used to provide an overview of selected datasets, facilitating business decisions.


These handy platforms help analysts aggregate information onto a single screen. This is the true power of a BI dashboard: the clear and concise presentation of data.


And BI dashboards are becoming more commonplace - with investment bank Dresner determining that dashboards and reports were two of the most important strategic initiatives in business intelligence in 2020.


This highlights the importance of the BI dashboard - visualizing your data is no longer a luxury reserved for shareholder meetings, it’s a necessity in effectively running a business.


Never has it been easier to communicate data than it is today, yet there are still some who are unaware of the advantages business intelligence dashboards can provide.


Here, we’ll explain some of the benefits of BI dashboards, and why you need to start dashboard planning immediately. Let’s dive in...


What is a BI dashboard?

A BI dashboard is a platform used to display data. BI dashboards offer an optimized User-Experience (UX) that facilitates the interpretation of that data by clearly presenting relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).


Data, alongside other applicable metrics, can be visualized with a business intelligence dashboard in whatever way is most appropriate for delivering business analytics information. 


Thus, this visualization affords users of a BI dashboard a greater understanding of the figures, and can provide the context needed to make data-driven decisions.


In this sense, dashboard BI acts as a form of information management for businesses, allowing data to be available to the right stakeholders at the right time. 


As such, dashboards and reports make up a key component of the information infrastructure that collects, manages, analyzes, and delivers data.


Given the above, it’s little wonder that business intelligence coupled with data visualization can provide an ROI of $13.01 for every dollar spent.


For example, GoSimplo’s BI dashboard provides immediate insight into KPIs associated with the performance of a business. The dashboard displays an overview of financial metrics that can be used to more accurately estimate client revenue. Use GoSimplo for free today.




An example of GoSimplo BI dashboard
Example of the GoSimplo Dashboard


The use case for a BI dashboard is as individual as the business using it.


One business might want to monitor social media engagement with a dashboard that displays the reach of individual social media posts and the number of brand mentions over a given period.


Another business may well use a BI dashboard to present data on manufacturing run-time and yield percentage.


The applications for dashboard BI are therefore very broad, and the main limitation for their use is only the scope of the data a business is able to collect.


Given these facts, it’s no surprise that the demand for business intelligence is growing fast, with a MarketsAndMarkets report predicting the global market to be worth $33.3 billion by 2025.


What’s the difference: BI dashboard vs. BI report?

At this point, it’s necessary to address some confusion around the terms associated with business intelligence.


These terms are often used interchangeably, and while both are critical to the success of a business, there are important differences between BI dashboards and BI reporting for businesses. In truth, dashboards and reports are often used in tandem, hence the confusion.


To put it simply: reporting is the process of analyzing and, well, reporting data, with the goal of discovering actionable insights. A BI dashboard is the medium through which that data is (often, but not always) reported.



graphic representation of the differences between dashboards and reports. White text on black background.



BI dashboards are so frequently used in BI reporting because of the clarity they provide to their audience. As a result, they are summary-focused, with their primary purpose being data visualization.


Think of it this way: if a BI report can be a complex, 100-page document, the BI dashboard is the one-page executive summary.


Functionality of BI Dashboards

Beyond the aspects of data visualization that make business intelligence dashboards so popular, there are a host of additional features that are designed to optimize their UX.


Whilst the functionality of a dashboard isn’t always going to be the same, there are some commonalities that you should expect when dashboard planning.


graphic representation of the features of BI dashboards for businesses. White text on black background.


Let’s explore some of those functionalities in greater detail...



Real time dashboard


A BI dashboard often displays information in real-time, updating automatically as soon as information is collected from the data source. A real time dashboard therefore provides instant updates that allow decision makers to act fast whilst also being as informed as possible.


A real time dashboard also allows historical data to be displayed alongside real-time data, allowing users to compare and contrast. The real time dashboard can be used to monitor efficiency over a given period, or ensure consistency of operational processes for example.


For this reason, these BI dashboards are typically used to report time-sensitive data such as stock inventory, or customer behavior on a website. For any situation that can be influenced by short-term changes or requires constant supervision, a real time dashboard is critical.


Real time dashboards are the perfect solution for dynamic environments where external factors can cause internal bottlenecks, and allow stakeholders to act with confidence. Stakeholders are afforded granular detail about a variety of business operations at a glance.


This is augmented by the fact that a BI dashboard is able to aggregate data from multiple sources into a single, real time dashboard, making day-to-day management of operations significantly more fool-proof.


Mobile dashboards

As with any software where the core value is superior user experience, optimization across platforms is all but mandatory. And given that 91% of corporate employees use mobile apps at work, mobile dashboards are especially relevant.


As such, dashboard BI is usually designed to be just as functional on mobile or tablet devices as they are on desktop. Mobile dashboards are built with mobile users in mind, and the transition between types of device is seamless.


In many cases, “at-a-glance” and “on-the-go” are synonymous, and this makes mobile dashboards especially relevant. There are many different use cases and stakeholders for whom a BI dashboard might be useful, and mobile dashboards represent the solution to that.


Two men in business clothes point at a smartphone
Courtesy of Unsplash


Stakeholders such as field agents, regional managers, or retail executives often conduct business primarily via tablets and mobile devices. If a new software solution is required to be adopted by an entire organization, this makes mobile dashboards mandatory.


Field agents are often those reporting data, or those required to act immediately, making mobile dashboards even more important.


Interactive dashboard

A BI dashboard may have interactive elements that lets users manipulate the data presented in order to gain a deeper insight into their KPIs.


This interactivity often takes the form of filtering options that allow users to view operational data in greater detail or from a different perspective. Users of an interactive dashboard can choose the level of granularity that is necessary to gain insight.


Sometimes, a general overview of the data is all that’s required. But if there is an issue, this functionality allows users to explore the data in greater detail.


Another form of interactive dashboard allows users to choose how they want to display data. This provides flexibility in terms of data visualization. Would this data be better understood as a pie chart or a line graph? That is for the user to determine.


These actions are typically a seamless part of the UX, with users able to filter or modify the view instantly and with a single click in an interactive dashboard.


Let’s take a look at an example: a BI dashboard displays the revenue for your retail business in real time, but you want to find out which store location is the most profitable. By applying a simple filter to the interactive dashboard, you can display your revenue by region, location, or even individual salesperson.


An interactive dashboard is the perfect solution for businesses with large sets of data that can be segmented in many different ways, or businesses for whom many stakeholders need to access the same BI dashboard.


BI dashboard standardization

Most BI dashboards offer a standardized platform for users to operate from. This democratizes the data within an organization by providing information to a greater number of users.


Mobile dashboards also vastly improve the interconnectedness of larger organizations, by providing the same insights to people on the ground as those at head office.


Standardization also increases adoption, with a single, simple platform allowing users to familiarize themselves with the BI dashboard quickly. This greater adoption of data allows smarter, data-driven decisions to be made throughout the entire organization, thus improving overall operational efficiency.


Coworkers sit around a table for a team meeting, all using laptops or tablet devices.
Courtesy of Pexels


At the same time, many standardized BI dashboards include privacy settings that allow only certain stakeholders to view sensitive information.


This duality of dashboard BI can provide significant benefits to larger organizations where both openness and confidentiality are required.


Integrations

A BI dashboard by itself is of little use - it must be connected to a data source.


Technically, it would be possible to input data directly into a business intelligence dashboard manually. However, this would defeat much of its purpose in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness.


That’s why a BI dashboard should be able to integrate with various platforms that can act as data sources. This allows data to flow from wherever it is collected, directly to the BI dashboard, to be visualized instantly.


But what software should a business intelligence dashboard integrate with? That depends on the type of data you want to visualize.


GoSimplo is a platform that displays financial and performance data within the professional services industry. As such, we integrate with the most popular data platforms within that niche (Timelog, Fortnox, E-conomic, to name just a few).


GoSimplo’s plug-and-play BI dashboard is able to integrate with these platforms and begin displaying data within 5 minutes, making set-up simple. Use GoSimplo for free today.





An example of GoSimplo BI dashboard.
Example of the GoSimplo Dashboard



What Are The Key Benefits Of A BI Dashboard?

 A business intelligence dashboard can broadly benefit businesses in a myriad of ways. Take, for example, one of the most popular BI dashboards available: Google Analytics.


Consider all the data you can collect about visitors to your website - demography, location, behavior on your site - the list goes on. Now, consider how difficult it would be to gain insights from all that data without a dashboard to effortlessly sum it all up for you.


Example of the Google Analytics dashboard
Courtesy of Google Analytics


Beyond the blanket explanation that BI dashboards ‘optimize business operations’ by ‘providing greater insight into organizational performance’, we can drill down into the exact ways in which dashboard BI can facilitate these benefits.


For example, a Metric Insights report found that implementation of BI portals reduced the time BI analysts spent reporting data that was already available by 50%. This is a problem that can easily be fixed by dashboard planning.


In this section we’ll discuss the specifics of these individual benefits in more detail.


Clarification with BI dashboards

The benefits that data visualization provides cannot be overstated.


Imagine the alternative to a BI dashboard - endless Excel spreadsheets. The constant scrolling that would be involved in making any meaningful interpretation would make it almost impossible to derive any business insights at all.


Humans simply process visual information much more efficiently than any other media. In fact, we are able to interpret visually presented data 60,000 times faster than text.


Beyond data visualization however, BI dashboards can provide further clarity by aggregating data. Bringing together data from multiple data sources allows BI dashboard users to view all the relevant data on a single screen.


In this sense, the overview provided through a BI dashboard allows users to draw more accurate conclusions faster, making them more capable of making smarter, data-driven decisions.


Increased accuracy with BI dashboards

A BI dashboard allows decision makers more accurate insights into the past, present, and potential future of their business.


Dashboard planning typically brings together information from multiple data sources, displaying 2-5 KPIs at the same time. This filters out much of the ‘background noise’ in the data by eliminating data that is not necessary for the intended audience.


By removing superfluous data, decision makers are able to focus on the KPIs that matter most. So much so in fact, that a study by the Wharton School of Business found that visualization of data shortened business meetings an average of 24%.


An interactive dashboard allows users to drill down into those relevant KPIs, leading to greater accuracy in both insight and decision making by expanding the detail and scope of the information a user is able to extract.


Yellow dart stuck in a black and white dart board
Courtesy of Pexels


A real time dashboard can also increase the accuracy of insights and predictions by providing the most accurate data possible at a given moment, allowing users to evaluate operational or strategic business performance on a granular level.


Furthermore, visualizing data allows users to identify errors in datasets more easily. If individual data points or entire datasets do not align, these can be flagged as potentially erroneous, examined, and removed if necessary.


These features of a BI dashboard increase data quality, and therefore afford decision makers the highest degree of accuracy possible, eliminating guesswork from the management process.


Trend identification with BI dashboards

Visualization of dashboards and reports highlights trends in your data which have positive or negative connotations for your business.


Whether these trends are internal (employee productivity is increasing), or external (client spending is decreasing), the large amounts of data that businesses are now able to collect can be easily interpreted with BI dashboards.


After all, with 7.5 septillion gigabytes of data (look it up!) generated daily, there’s lots of analysis and insight to be gained.


Stakeholders are easily able to recognize relationships in data that is presented in this way, which can lead to further analysis and allow meaning to be subscribed to the data.


An interactive dashboard allows users to focus on specific areas of data and gain more insight into individual trends, potentially ascertaining the why behind a trend when compared with other KPIs on a single BI dashboard.


Through trend analysis, decision makers are able to predict problems before they occur, and take corrective actions that can positively impact the operations of the business.


Data democratization with BI dashboards

A business intelligence dashboard represents a form of self-service BI.


Self-service BI is business intelligence that supports the end user - relatively little technical skill is required to operate a BI dashboard. This means that data can be analyzed with minimal involvement from IT departments.


The optimized UX design makes BI dashboards straightforward, and adoption across entire organizations is therefore made easier. This eliminates the bottlenecks that can occur when a single department is responsible for data analysis.


Access to actionable insights across an entire organization is invaluable, providing businesses with a level of dynamism, responsiveness, and agility that otherwise would simply not be possible.


Data democratization can also have additional ‘soft’ benefits that are not immediately obvious.These include employee empowerment and satisfaction, up-skilling, and a more cohesive company culture.


Increased competitive advantage with BI dashboards

Whilst dashboard planning might be more popular than ever, that doesn’t mean that incorporating a BI dashboard into your operations cannot lead to a competitive advantage.


All the aforementioned benefits can produce a serious advantage for any business. The implementation of data reporting and the subsequent adoption of BI dashboards by a greater number of employees leads to a more data-driven business.


Courtesy of Pexels


This means that all business decisions are increasingly reasoned, and reduces the instances of employee intuition guiding strategy. This, in turn, leads to fewer occurrences of human error, and thus a more efficient business.


And a more efficient business is ultimately more competitive. Knowledge is power, and this extends from C-level executives to junior employees.



How to choose your BI dashboard

Whether you are choosing an out-of-the-box BI dashboard to integrate with your data, or simply designing your own, there are certain best practices that should be adhered to.


Whilst every business intelligence dashboard is unique, the thought process that goes into their digital design is often similar.


Remember, best practices are intended as guidelines, but how you interpret them will depend on the individual use case that applies to your business.


graphic representation of the best practices of BI dashboards for businesses. White text on black background.
Infographic - best practices of BI dashboarding


We’ve included some of our top tips when it comes to BI dashboard design. It’s worth putting some thoughtful consideration in here - after all, this is the tool you’re going to be using to interpret your data.


Ready for some serious insight? Here we go...


Determine the purpose of the BI dashboard

What will be the function or role of the BI dashboard within your organization?


The answer to this question begins by looking at the area of business you will be analyzing. Perhaps you need an interactive dashboard to facilitate project management. Maybe there are anomalies in your finance department that you need to get to the bottom of.


Defining this will narrow your options regarding which KPIs are required for the dashboard to be fit for purpose.


Next, consider the stakeholders that make up your target audience. Who are they? What information do they want to see/will understand? The information you present to a C-level executive will be markedly different from that which a highly specialized data scientist might be able to interpret.


Here, you further narrow the scope of the data analysis, and thus, the BI dashboard itself. Remember, a single dashboard only has so much space to display metrics.


Finally, consider the data story you wish to tell. Which KPIs best suit your narrative, and best elaborate the meaning of the data.


This process should result in the determination of a narrowly-defined list of metrics you could display, and should narrow your selection of BI dashboard accordingly.


Simplicity is key to interpretation with BI dashboards

This cannot be overstated. Particularly if you are designing the dashboard yourself, do not clutter your BI dashboard!


This is the number one mistake that dashboard designers make - thinking that more data means greater comprehension.


Too much data, or too many visuals on a single screen can be overwhelming. The purpose of a BI dashboard is to act as a summary, or an at-a-glance overview. For users to accurately interpret the data, they have to be given the space to do so.


It is for this reason data visualization conventions typically stipulate a maximum of 5 KPIs should be present on a single screen. If you’re designing a dashboard, don’t be afraid of white space - not everything has to be something.


an airplane dashboard with many dials and buttons
Courtesy of Unsplash


You can create multiple dashboards for different use cases, departments or stakeholders, there’s no need to cram all the data you have into a single BI dashboard.


Ultimately, if you truly require many different KPIs, it might be worth revisiting the problem you are trying to solve by dashboard planning and examining whether it can be broken into smaller issues.


The same mantra applies to interactivity.


Yes, an interactive dashboard is highly useful. Being able to drill down into the data can provide greater insight. But offering too many options will leave users unsure of how to proceed.


Again, a BI dashboard should be designed to provide an overview. For deep and exhaustive analyses, other BI tools are recommended. There is a level of detail which goes beyond the intended purpose of BI dashboards. 



 Define data sources for the BI dashboard

Consider what data you have available to you.


Even companies within the same sector, industry, and location can have wildly different volumes and varieties of accessible data. These discrepancies can be caused by factors such as size and scope of the business, or degree of automation in organizational processes, for example.


At this point you need to ask yourself: what data do I have access to and where is this data coming from?


The data you are able to collect will determine the validity, veracity, and value of any conclusions you draw from data visualization.


Furthermore, individual sources of data are not always enough. Data is often contextual. Let’s say, for example, that one of the metrics you have selected is revenue generated product line. Without supporting metrics such as costs or timeframe, this data lacks the context to draw accurate conclusions.


If you’re choosing a plug-and-play BI dashboard, it’s at this point that you have to consider the relevant integrations. What software do you currently use to record the data you want to visualize?


Which business intelligence dashboards integrate with the software you’re already using?


Whilst integration is not an absolute necessity, aligning your platforms will make installation of your BI dashboard much smoother, and for business critical BI dashboards, this is a factor to consider.


Does a similar BI dashboard already exist?

It might sound self-evident, but there are a lot of plug-and-play options out there if you’re looking for a dashboard BI.


Whilst it’s possible to create your own using the different design-your-own-dashboard software options out there, this is often likely to lead to errors in visualization, especially for inexperienced digital designers.


Luckily for you, there are a wide variety of out-of-the-box BI dashboard solutions available for (almost) every business scenario. In many cases, these are cheaper and more effective than building a BI dashboard from scratch.


GoSimplo’s dashboard solution aggregates and visualizes the financial and performance data that lets you evaluate employee productivity and uncover insight into client revenue. Use GoSimplo for free forever.


Example of the GoSimplo Dashboard
Example of the GoSimplo Dashboard


Conclusion

Ease of use is the focus of any business intelligence dashboard. Expect a UX design that allows stakeholders immediate insight.


Interpreting data and sharing information are two key advantages you’ll be afforded if you choose to use these data visualization tools.


Any form of business intelligence can create a competitive advantage, but failing to engage with these tools can lead to a lot of lost opportunities in terms of business efficiency and effectiveness.


Everyone knows that the world is only going in one direction: towards increasingly data-driven business models, and BI dashboards personify this.


Democratizing data and increasing the adoption of data-driven mindsets across your company can only be of benefit in terms of preparing for tomorrow’s business environment.


BI dashboards can be extremely cost-effective and provide significant actionable insights that can take your business to the next level. So, don’t hesitate, try one of the many options available today.


If you’re looking to explore BI dashboards without any serious commitments, GoSimplo’s dashboard platform is free forever, and can integrate with data sources you already use in 5 minutes.


Try GoSimplo today.


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