Do you ever wonder why the big data industry continues to grow? The technology nowadays has made data of all natures available, easily stored, and accessible. Business trends dictate that data is collected but does every business understand the value of it? We could argue that by now most businesses who care to keep up with the age we are in, know that data is important, but do they equally well know how to read it and make the most of it?

One of the stats from the 2020 Global State of Enterprise Analytics Report says that only 3% of the employees who took part in the survey feel that they are able to quickly access data required for important business decisions. When taken into account the amount of data collected this piece of information sounds very discouraging.

However, this fact is at the very core of the reasoning behind the use of BI Dashboards in a Business.

What Are BI Dashboards?

BI stands for business intelligence. It is not enough to merely collect data. It is important to know what data to collect. As a part of planning a project or implementing a process, you should always consider ways of measuring the efficiency of your business moves. What that means is that you are to define the metrics that need tracking and set up a way to track them. The set up should include a way you can collect the required pieces of information, a way of recording them, and a place to store them (within a database).

Now, provided that you have the correct and complete data at hand, you need to analyze it. There is a vast market of BI tools available out there so again, with the right people handling the task, the analysis should be completed with ease. How do you extract the power from the data you just analyzed and give it to your people? That’s where dashboards come to place.

A Dashboard is a collection of report outtakes represented through a variety of visuals such as charts, diagrams, tables, etc. showing key performance indicators (KPIs) as determined by each individual business. Some KPIs are industry-specific (applicable to a number of different businesses within the same industry) while others are business-specific (unique to a business).

Your dashboards could be tracking your sales per product, per location, per customer category, etc. They could be giving you insights into lead generation and how well various marketing channels are performing, your online shop vs your physical stores etc. In addition, you also have an option of tracking your operations e.g. individual performances of all departments, teams, and individuals.

The Benefits of BI Dashboards

Straight to the point

With so much data collected, businesses tend to monitor a great number of trends. The many different reports produced going into the micro-steps of every process can take the focus away from the metrics that matter. Think of what you need to know in order to be able to tell where your business is at a single glance. That’s what a dashboard is. A collection of the key outtakes of all your reports on a certain topic, giving you an instant clear picture of where your business stands. The fact that it is straight to the point with the data it shows (the KPIs) is further enhanced by the way it is visually represented. It is literally painting a picture of your business.

Real-time data

Dashboards can tell you how your business is performing at any point in time, and they are usually set up to include recent past such as the current year, quarter, rolling quarter, etc.

They are interactive

Owing to the brilliant minds behind many different reporting tools available, we have interactive dashboards. Even unspecialized tools that have been around for a while such as Excel and Google sheets, can with the right setup, let you play around with your data a bit.

You can set up simple filters to allow you to drill down into your dashboard, such as giving you information on a specific product, a specific market, etc. rather than the entire business. However, what’s more important, they can let you change the timeline, observe past trends, and run a comparison with the current ones.

Predict/Run different scenarios

Depending on the BI tool at your disposal, dashboards can be very intuitive and can be used to forecast future performance. If the tool used does not offer this functionality, with some extra work in the background, your BI team can achieve this to an extent.

These future predictions can be based on the projections of your current running trends.

Alternatively, you could be looking at a tool able to forecast based on different scenarios where it allows you to change certain criteria and show you how the changes reflect on the KPIs and your overall performance. You could be adding/deducting marketing spend, staff, products, etc., and watching how it reflects on your future.

Always available and easily accessible

Dashboards are meant to be available everywhere at any point in time. Again, thanks to the advancement in the BI industry, your dashboards can be a click away on your computers or mobile devices, on your browsers, or through apps, embedded into your productivity apps, sent to you via email, etc.

Very importantly a dashboard is meant to give a clear picture without any meddling, so it is convenient to be used by an average user without them being particularly tech-savvy. This hands the power of data to each of your employees at a level that concerns them and their work.

Downfalls of BI Dashboards

A BI Dashboard as a concept does not have true disadvantages. The downfalls are in the area of their use/misuse and their setup.

In order for a business to enjoy the benefits of BI dashboards, the dashboards need to be meaningful and concise by showing the right KPIs in a visually clear way (as confirmed by its users). Furthermore, they need to be based on the correct data. Without the right input, you could be looking at trends that are incorrect. This is as simple as cooking with the right ingredients.

Finally, seeing that dashboards are created to be at a service 24/7, there should be a check-in place to make sure that they are running smoothly and getting updated as per a schedule.

When it comes to user-based issues they could be that a dashboard is being ignored and not used enough. On the other hand, there might be users who are “overusing” dashboards. Dashboards are a tool, not a goal, so the focus should still be on using them to improve performance rather than spending hours on end drilling through trends and data without making business decisions and implementing them.

We could also be looking at a user who is unable to read the trends correctly in which case they probably need additional training to understand the visuals, as well as how trends reflect on one another.

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BI Dashboards exist to make everyone’s work easier, improve overall performance, and speed up the decision-making process. Any data analyst will be happy to know that there will be less ad-hoc reporting and that all most popular insights are readily available to everyone within their organization. A BI dashboard once built requires simple maintenance and slight adjustments occasionally as a business changes its reporting needs.

Dashboards can be used by anyone and should be used by everyone. A dashboard can assist your sales by showing each individual worker the state of their pipeline and performance metrics, or it can help the management make important decisions based on the highest-level KPIs. Dashboards are an easy way to use the power of data to make informed decisions and plan your actions, regardless of how small or big the decision may be.

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