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What is a dashboard: examples and use cases

7 min read
15.06.2020

Dashboard is a software solution that allows you to create, receive, analyze data in real time. The "smart reports" issued by the dashboard help the owner and the managers to understand certain trends in a particular segment of activity and to control the current events.

Relevant: The benefit of using a dashboard report instead of a traditional report in your work, is that important indicators are presented in a clear and accessible way. The dashboard greatly simplifies the user's perception of complex and versatile information. Anyone who receives data through a dashboard can assess at a glance the current state of affairs at any point in time.

To make it easier for you to understand what a dashboard is, we will give several examples of using such a software solution. Do you remember giant monitors from feature films about global catastrophes or super-powerful tests? Summaries and important indicators of the numbers, the actual location and other information appear on the wall-display. Such monitors with operational information can be found not only in the motion films but also in real life. *There are many examples of using dashboards for the timely receipt and analysis of information in real life. Those are:

  • space flight control points;
  • military bases;
  • air traffic control centers;
  • brokerage offices, where the movement in the currency and securities market is monitored.

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In business, it is difficult to operate without such a software solution, which automatically processes incoming information and displays it in the form of clear diagrams, columns, graphs. It is obvious. But "games of the rich" are far from including the sole use of dashboards. They are extremely useful not only for intercontinental corporations, financial networks, trusts. A house manager, housekeeper, housewife, teacher, accountant in a small production, warehouse manager can also work with data through a dashboard. The program can visualize any variable data. The information is displayed on the monitor, and all you have to do is evaluate the indicators, make informed decisions, and take thoughtful steps.

Interesting facts: The simplest example of a dashboard that any modern person can understand is the car dashboard. It displays several sensors that demonstrate important information in an understandable form - speed, oil and gasoline levels, engine speed, temperature in the cabin and "overboard". Data is updated in real time.

It is noteworthy that any data can be "processed". Their volume, subject matter, frequency of receipt of information in the dashboard are secondary. The main thing is that there are "conditions" that can be compared, analyzed. The theme determines the content of tables and diagrams, nothing more. Yes, dashboards are often chosen as an effective tool by business representatives. But dashboards can be used in any industry.

Are you still not sure if dashboards are the data control and analysis tools you need? After reading this article, your opinion may change dramatically. We invite you to learn more about dashboards and the results that can be achieved with this tool.

What is a dashboard?

Dashboard, as mentioned above, is a software solution. This format collects, analyzes and visualizes processed data. In practice, it looks like this: indicators that change in real time are displayed in the form of diagrams on a panel with a simple interface. The program compares the received numbers and gives the user "live" graphs. For ease of use, the types and methods of visualization are configured in the dashboard, taking into account individual preferences.

Interesting facts: Each of us used a primal "relative" of the dashboard at least once. The simplest examples are a report in Excel, an invoice in a store or cafe, a notebook with a record of expenses, a report on the movement of a warehouse. The dashboard differs from all these examples with its dynamism, interactivity of the visualized data.

It is a mistake to think that such a service is suitable only for managers, top managers and chief accountants. It is enough for bosses to periodically receive a thorough report on key business indicators. Employees who work with information every day are another matter. They perceive the dashboard as an effective working tool with a user-friendly interface that is customizable for a specific user. So, to summarize:

Who uses dashboards

  • Marketers, who analyze the effectiveness of advertising campaigns.
  • Owners of online stores with a large flow of goods.
  • Warehouse workers of all sizes.
  • Sociologists and statisticians for the analysis of sociological indicators.
  • Sales managers who monitor the movement of goods and services.
  • Executives who make management decisions by regularly tracking business development through key reports.

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Visual abilities of the dashboard

Accessibility and readability of the analyzed data is achieved in dashboards with a variety of tools. These can be arrow indicators like in vehicles or more familiar tables. A convenient visualization is set for the customer's tasks while taking into account his personal preferences.

What data you can work with

Any information with variable data can become a source of use in a dashboard - the simplest tables in Excel, statistics of social networks, site traffic, specialized Data Warehouse databases, multidimensional OLAP and MDX cubes.

What actions with data are carried out in dashboards?

  1. Grouping. Similar information is grouped according to a common criterion - name, article, type of action (purchase, sale, etc.).
  2. Aggregation. The data displayed is processed from the original data, for example, amount, quantity, maximum. An even clearer example: the unique number of new website visitors for a specific period of time, in a restaurant - the amount of expenses for purchased products.
  3. Sorting. For example, information that was previously grouped by a specific query (sales) can be sorted by the salesperson's last name to identify the employee with the highest sales for the reporting period.
  4. Filtration. Information is excluded from the visual tool based on the desired attribute or formula.
  5. Calculated column. New information is visualized according to certain formulas. For example, the date of birth can be used to calculate the age of a visitor. And according to the date of production of products, the time until the expiration date is determined.
  6. Best options. The display shows the number of maximum or minimum data in the group. For example, the last names of 10 employees who have the longest work experience, or the five salespeople who demonstrate the highest sales.

This and other types of information are shown on the display in the form of tables, diagrams, maps.

Difference between dashboard and classic reports

Essentially, a dashboard is a report. Its key difference from the classic analogue is the dynamic format. The traditional report is compiled at a specific point in time. Within a few minutes, the data may be outdated and not relevant.

Dashboard is a software solution that provides constant collection and updating of information. That is, at any given time, the most important indicators will be fresh and relevant. Think of stock exchange programs that change data on dashboards in real time; that is a dashboard.

Another difference is that reports tend to be associated with tables in Excel. Yet dashboards are built in conjunction with analytics formats, for example, Power BI and Qlik. Dashboard, undoubtedly, can be configured to work in conjunction with Excel, but these are not all of its capabilities. It is much more efficient to integrate Google Spreadsheets into the online software.

An effective example of a dashboard: Every Internet user who has his/her own website has used Yandex.Metrica at least once. This is a pure dashboard. The service collects data and displays it through graphs and reports. Information is constantly updated.

Other examples: The dashboard is used not only in business, but also in other segments of life. For example, museums set up such systems to track the total attendance of exhibitions. In the medical field, the consumption of materials and medicines is controlled. Also, hospitals can monitor the "movement" of patients, the workload of particular doctors. In the educational segment, the dashboard analyzes the results of tests, exams and student performance in general. The administration can control the workload of lecturers and track the popularity of lectures among students. Students of the courses receive information about the results of their studies, their own rating compared to other students.

Dashboard goals

So, why do you need a dashboard for successful work, control and analysis? It allows you to:

  • organize and visualize data;
  • present it to the consumer in the form of simple and clear animation;
  • receive the latest reports, quickly observe the dynamics of data;
  • display data in the required hierarchy, make comparisons;
  • highlight key information to keep it under control;
  • optimize the study of large data sets, highlight the most important things according to the principle: "at first glance, the situation has become clearer."
  • compare blocks of information, quickly receive information in a customized form.

3 types of dashboards

These are the 3 distinguished types of dashboards:

  1. A software solution for managing business processes. The dashboard collects information from different departments of the company. A manager can track the dynamics of sales and profit figures; an accountant can monitor the movement of funds. The software optimizes processes, reduces losses, as you can quickly "identify" a weak point and take measures to organize work.
  2. Monitoring campaigns. We cite Yandex.Metrica and Google Analytics as examples again. These services allow you to track and measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. You may ask, why do we need to invent something new when these formats already exist? A dashboard designed specifically for your company will provide the information you need, taking into account the specifics of your activity and data.
  3. Tracking states. An analytical system that monitors the state of any processes becomes a real business assistant.

What reports can the dashboard provide

We have already discussed how the dashboard works, what goals this service helps to achieve. What reports can you get using this tool?

  • Regular analytics on the set indicators. Such reports will allow you to track trends, get a summary analysis of the situation and, based on these graphs, adjust the company's tactics.
  • Operational reports are up-to-date information provided to the consumer constantly. The chart will help you not to miss the important data changes.
  • Long-term management decisions are difficult to make without strategic reports at hand. The dashboard will help in solving this problem.

How to work with a dashboard

We have learned a lot about this software solution. Well, how do you exactly work with the dashboard? The most effective dashboards are designed and customized for the needs and requests of a particular user. To make it convenient for the customer to work, an interactive data visualization system should have the following characteristics:

  • Simplicity. When setting up visual reports, it is important that each metric is read unambiguously. For example, "X" should mean the number of unique visitors per day, the shipment of goods in the last hour, the amount of receipts in a specific currency.
  • Comparison. The data to be compared should be located in the form of similar graphs on the panel next to each other.
  • The main information is displayed in the first line. All important information must be available.
  • Flexibility of settings. A good program makes it easy to rearrange panel elements. This is important because in the course of work, different data may be required at different stages of the business. For example, first the production data, then the warehouse movement, and later the sales report.
  • Visualization options for the same data. For example, the same information can be presented on a monitor in a graph and a diagram. This makes it possible to study the information from a different angle, to analyze it in a new way.
  • Only the most important information is displayed. Discard unnecessary elements that will distract and overload the attention and monitor with redundant information.

Difference between dashboard and infographic

At first glance, dashboards and infographics are very similar. However, these are different tools. Information graphics only visually show the data, while the dashboard preliminarily analyzes, summarizes, groups, compares and highlights it. Infographics are a picture with ready-made data, while the dashboards are interactive widgets. Basically, an infographic can be a dashboard element. But the interactive panel is much more than that.

Interesting information: Analytical information is demonstrated by various visual tools - tables, graphs, charts, indicators with arrows. Even video is available in some software products.

Errors when creating dashboards

Those users who choose a software solution for the first time often make common mistakes. We would like to highlight the main points among those:

  • There are too many items. When a novice user wants to track too much data at the same time, the dashboard becomes a kaleidoscope. It is very important to understand what information is really important at the initial stage, and which does not necessarily require your attention.
  • If the metrics or graph axes are named incorrectly or incomprehensibly, only a programmer can understand such a dashboard. But users will find it difficult to read the diagram and understand what it demonstrates.
  • Incorrect visualization. It is very important to choose the type of widget that will best display the data. For example, a pie chart would not work to show changes in data over time.

If you are interested in the dashboard and want to use it as an assistant, we invite you to learn more from Stephen Few's blog. American expert Stephen Few specializes in data visualization. He is the author of the book "Information Dashboard Design" about the work of dashboards.

How to create a dashboard?

Developing a personal dashboard can be very expensive. It is much more profitable to buy a ready-made software solution that can be easily configured for a new user. The Waytobi service is what you need. The system is suitable for working with data from companies of any size. It allows you to efficiently work with information flows. The information panel is simple, convenient and affordable. It can be easily configured to handle any information:

  • collects data from linked databases;
  • processes and sorts information streams;
  • visualizes summary reports through the user interface.

It is crucial for the user to understand what data you want to receive. Ask yourself a few questions, and the answers will help you customize the Waytobi.com service to your needs:

  • who will use the software solution - manager, sales department, analyst, warehouse;
  • what information will be processed and compared;
  • data acquisition path and update frequency;
  • frequency of information analysis;
  • which indicators are the most important and should definitely be on the central panel.

A dashboard is a "live" analytical panel. Take the opportunity to test the Waytobi.com software solution on real data, choose the best visualization option. You are guaranteed to appreciate all the benefits of the service and to wish to "introduce" it into the business on an ongoing basis.

And as a summary, we would like to note that the dashboard only sounds complicated. In practice, this solution is very convenient both for business and for other activities that are absolutely not related to sales, marketing, and goods turnover. Freedom of settings, an intuitive interface, dynamics and control - dashboards become indispensable assistants after a few test usage practices. They completely displace boring office tables not only from life, but also from habits and thinking. Try it yourself.

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