What is a dashboard?
The panel facing the driver of a vehicle or the pilot of an aircraft, containing instruments and controls.
The definition above is what generally comes to mind when thinking about dashboards, because the word was originally used to describe the fascia of vehicles. Looking closely at this definition, a dashboard generally is like an information hub for the Driver of a vehicle, giving key stats of what is happening with the vehicle in real time, and the controls allows him to make fine adjustments and probe further to understand what’s happening to the vehicle.
In the context of Business Intelligence, I would define a Dashboard as:
A panel that displays the current status of metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) for an enterprise, with the ability to pull real-time data from multiple sources
A Dashboard is crucial in Business intelligence, basically it’s a lot more visually pleasing than tables bearing lots of numbers, but specifically it gives you better insight to all your Data. Data is only useful when you apply it efficiently and BI can help you aggregate your data into something meaningful but a Dashboard grants you the insight you need to understand what exactly is happening, and this can help you decide to either review your business strategy or fall back to plan B.
Let’s go back to our Vehicle analogy earlier to better understand how a Dashboard is crucial to Business Intelligence. Let’s assume the car to be a company, now take a look at the images below.
Which would you prefer to have to look at while driving your Car? Image A or Image B. I assume your answer is image B.
I replicated the information from the Car dashboard into an Excel Sheet, it’s quite clear form the Car dashboard I can see a precise snapshot of information that is important and the less important ones are totally out of my view. The ABS column from the sheet tells everything is Okay, while on the Car Dashboard the ABS light isn’t turned on which means everything is Okay too. There are lots of other lights turned off, which means they are all okay, but from the sheet its clear there is information overload, with irrelevant information shouting for attention. This will surely be difficult to get much insight from while trying to navigate multiple roads and junctions, as compared to a dashboard.
Data is the means to an end, the end is insight. Insight gives you leverage over your competitors. Business Intelligence tools will help you pull data from any disparate data source; from Excel sheets to an SQL Server Database and present it to you in formats that are intuitive to understand and manipulate in the form of Dashboards.