This article has been updated in March 2023 to reflect new information, statistics, and trends.
A business intelligence dashboard is an information management tool that uses data visualisation technology to analyse and display information visually in a practical and useful way. It can be used across a multitude of functional areas within an organisation.
Here, we uncover the best practices, definition, and benefits of BI dashboards for your business.
What is a business intelligence dashboard?
A business intelligence (BI) dashboard is a summary of business information and analytics displayed on a single screen. It uses data visualisation tools to highlight KPIs, notable business analytic metrics and pertinent team or department data.
This technology allows businesses to have a direct insight into their performance and equips them with the tools to plan, execute and enhance their practice with data to back up decisions.
Purpose of a business intelligence dashboard
A business intelligence dashboard manages information by tracking data points that are important to your business.
The dashboard gives you a consolidated view of all data from across the organisation on custom dashboards that deliver valuable insights into the whole business. You can see and analyse data, display the businesses key performance indicators (KPIs), to assess performance measures and generate actionable insights.
A good BI dashboard enables you to monitor and measure business performance and metrics.
BI dashboard tools provide real-time centralised access to users allowing them to interact with and evaluate information, helping them to make smarter, data-driven decisions.
7 benefits of a BI dashboard
A BI dashboard is an easy-to-understand, visualised summary of data analysis that provides an at-a-glance overview of multiple areas of the business. There are many significant benefits of implementing BI dashboards into your operations including:
1. Enhanced visibility
BI dashboards provide greater visibility with information available whenever it is required to ensure businesses are better placed to respond to changing market conditions.
2. Timesaving efficiency
With BI dashboards, you are no longer wasting valuable time generating reports from multiple systems. Instead, data is drawn from a centralised source and displayed as an easy to interpret visual overview.
3. Better forecasting
With greater insight into the buying cycle of each customer, future demand can be more accurately predicted using historic information. Businesses can more effectively plan for demand fluctuations for the next business cycle, setting measurable goals and deliverables for greater success.
4. Key performance indicators
BI dashboards source data from multiple areas displaying the information as easy to understand visuals in real-time. This provides managers with an overview of current KPIs to assess different areas of performance while creating actionable insights.
5. Inventory control
With analytics and a real-time vision of inventory stock details, sales staff know what items are in stock and where they are located. BI dashboards improve inventory control using detailed historic data to optimise supply quantities and inventory allocation across stores and minimising the risk of stockouts.
6. Real-time customer analytics
With real-time, accurate insight on current customers purchasing behaviours, you have a better chance of achieving higher retention rates and increased revenue. Real-time insight allows sales teams to concentrate on the right customers at the right time, ensuring marketing efforts and activities are focussed toward the right clients.
7. Better decision-making
Visualised interactivity serves to deliver overwhelming amounts of data in a way that is easy to understand. With the ability to easily identify what the data really means; better decisions can be made relevant to the business.
Limitations of a BI dashboard
Any innovation will have its limitations and often this will stem from the expense or challenges for companies of implementing new business tools. Most BI dashboards trend towards self-service, requiring IT professionals to implement the technology. Other challenges include:
- Flashy or cluttered design, with users attempting to incorporate too much information without understanding constraints or considering their specific needs from the range of different measurables detailed data analyses provides.
- Difficulty in attaching supporting data to a dashboard and the failure of data to refresh automatically means that both these tasks must be done manually.
- The technology used in the development of BI dashboards differs from other software solutions already employed in organisations and can be initially difficult to understand.
- The business has no predetermined rules and hierarchies for how dashboard metrics are used. This means each employee can use the metrics in different ways, resulting in a diverse set of data being reported.
The benefits of implementing BI dashboards into your organisation outweigh its limitations and by providing users with effective training you can get the best out of your investment in any new technology.
Features to look for in a business intelligence dashboard
We understand the advantages a BI dashboard can bring a company if properly implemented, but how do you know if your BI dashboard is working for you? Here are five signs you should look out for.
Simple to use
Although highly sophisticated and dynamic, the dashboard should be simple to use. They should require little or no IT skills, as great BI dashboards will provide tutorials or expert customer service care.
Simple to understand
A good dashboard design presents business insights derived from data in a way that’s easy to understand. Their visual nature helps in spotting trends and patterns that could otherwise remain unseen.
Therefore, better dashboard components should provide different overall views of the data and allow users to drill down to see underlying data as well.
The dashboard should be able to let anyone work remotely as better BI systems usually operate on any device connected to the internet. Due to this connectivity, they can foster collaboration due to their report sharing features.
It can integrate
Allowing for integrations of different systems used by your business, such as back-end accounting and inventory is a must.
This should be customisable, allowing your business to bring all the data you need from your most used tools in the form of a live dashboard, without the need for manual spreadsheet handling.
This ensures BI dashboard data is continuously kept current.
BI dashboard best practices
Best practice refers to the methods and techniques created and recommended by business intelligence experts and data scientists for achieving maximum value from your BI dashboards and reports.
Pinpoint the dashboard design tool that is right for you
Understand each type to ensure you are making an informed decision.
Do you require a strategic dashboard to aggregate KPIs and indicators of business health to help managers identify expansion and growth opportunities?
Perhaps an analytical dashboard engineered to consider a range of different measurables and provide detailed data analyses for the purpose of aligning goals and performance is better suited to your needs.
Alternatively, you may require an operational dashboard that focuses on monitoring real-time operations and the functionality of various KPIs.
Identify your reporting requirements
What is the purpose of the report and who is its audience? Are they internal stakeholders working on a specific marketing campaign, existing partners or potential investors?
Once the why and who has been defined, you will have a better idea of what specific aspects of data is relevant to them, their needs and what best meets their expectations and technical skills.
Use your KPIs effectively
Use your KPIs to tell a compelling narrative that will capture the audience’s attention and break down information in an inspiring and digestible way.
This approach will result in greater stakeholder engagement and increased success across the board.
Develop a concise and effective design
You need to communicate information effectively. Look at elements such as contrast, connection, white space, proximity and similarity.
Proximity dictates how elements tend to be grouped based on their location while similarity dictates how likely comparable elements are grouped together from the visual perspective of the audience, similar colours, shapes or fonts. Well-ordered dashboards are engineered for visual success.
Provide context and currency
If your dashboard is monitoring marketing effectiveness of a product and fails to include a measured timeframe then the total sales data point is unclear and useless. Selected data metrics must also be up to date to reflect current trends and challenges.
Consumer values are continually evolving in today’s digital world and data has never been more readily accessible. Business intelligence dashboards inform decision-making, lead to greater opportunities and technological improvements relating to your business, markets, customers and competitors.