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Dashboard Definition & Meaning

A dashboard is an application or graphical user interface (GUI) that provides users with quick access to information and common tasks. The term is derived from the automotive dashboard, which shows a vehicle’s controls and functions across a front instrument panel.

Types of Dashboards

Dashboards can be used in a wide swath of business and technology applications. In a business context, they are tools to help formulate business strategies and monitor key performance indicators (KPIs). These types of dashboards fall into four overarching categories: operational, tactical, strategic, and analytical.

Operational dashboards monitor, analyze and manage broad business operational processes with the goal of keeping company departments ahead of potential problems. Considered the most common business dashboard currently in use, operational dashboards use real-time data processing and reporting to provide a bird’s eye view of departmental KPIs and are helpful in goal setting as well as quickly planning for and immediately addressing departmental or company issues.

Tactical dashboards are used to monitor the processes that underpin a company’s strategic initiatives. Rich in detailed information, frequently through data visualization, tactical dashboards are often employed by middle managers to guide decision making and data exploration with the aim of outlining company strategies and goals.

Strategic dashboards are typically used by senior business executives as a reporting tool to monitor KPIs and to measure progress on company-wide goals. High-level in nature, strategic dashboards allow executives to drill down into data, including the ability to set time parameters, qualitatively evaluate trends, and assess market shares. These metrics play a critical role in charting factors for successfully hitting targeted goals.

Analytical dashboards are often created by analysts within business intelligence and business analytics tools to analyze a large volume of data. This data is used by business executives to gain insight into trends and targets that can help determine business strategies.

Designing the Right Dashboard

In a business environment, dashboards can be designed and built to address specific metrics that can be as broad as company interests and goals to macro-level examination of individual data that helps to define roles and responsibilities.

Dashboards are most effective when they are designed for the best use case, while their accuracy and efficacy are dependent on frequent monitoring and analysis of data as well as the level of information and interactivity each user requires. Understanding the role of each dashboard and how it functions is essential to utilizing and deploying its data to achieve successful strategic outcomes.

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