Imagine you’re driving down the freeway, when you hear a loud pop from under the hood of your car.
You glance at your dashboard and see that the engine temperature is starting to rise. Realizing there’s something wrong, you quickly exit to reach a safe spot to stop your car before it overheats.
In this scenario, your car dashboard displays vital information about your car’s performance that helps you make safe driving decisions and prevent serious damage to your vehicle.
Similarly, data dashboards display your organization’s most important data to help you make better business decisions and avoid costly incidents.
In this article, we’ll explore a definition of data dashboards, the difference between dashboards and data visualizations, and the benefits of using dashboards. Let’s dive right in.
What is a data dashboard? A definition
A data dashboard is a collection of visual reports that display important metrics and KPIs, usually in real-time. Dashboards help you quickly visualize and drill down on trends and patterns in your data in order to answer business questions.
Today’s organizations have access to enormous volumes of data, but making sense of it all is no small task. On average, less than half of an organization’s structured data is actively used in making decisions.
Unfortunately, poring over spreadsheets and reports rarely leads to valuable insights. More often, it just leads to frustration.
Data dashboards help solve this problem by giving you a snapshot of your most important metrics in an easily digestible visual format.
What’s the difference between a data dashboard and a data visualization?
Data dashboards and data visualizations are closely related, but they’re not the same thing.
A data visualization is simply a visual representation of your data — such as a chart, diagram, or picture. Data visualizations can be static or dynamic. A data visualization typically shows data for a single metric, such as electricity usage.
A data dashboard, on the other hand, is a collection of data visualizations assembled into a single, unified view. For example, a single dashboard might display data visualizations for electricity usage, energy costs, CO2 emissions, and peak/off peak use.
Why are data dashboards useful?
Thoughtfully-designed data dashboards offer several advantages for organizations looking to make better use of their data:
Dashboards help answer business questions
Sometimes, your questions can be answered by looking at a single metric — such as, “What are our organization’s total electricity costs?”
But often, this leads to more complex questions that require information from several sources. For example, once you know your total electricity costs, you might ask, “What can we do to reduce our electricity costs?”
In that case, dashboards provide a collection of reports that together help answer your business questions.
Dashboards make your data easy to digest
As we said before, dashboards typically display information using data visualizations like line graphs, pie charts, and scatter plots. These visual representations take advantage of the human brain’s ability to process visual information.
The human brain processes visual data 60,000x faster than text. By displaying your data in a visual format, dashboards make it easier to understand large amounts of information.
Dashboards are interactive
Unlike static charts and graphs, dashboards allow users to interact with their data. You can drill down — or see more specific data — on a particular element or KPI until you find the level of detail you require.
Let’s say you want to see more detailed information about your CO2 emissions. By clicking on that particular report, you can access additional layers of data.
In that way, dashboards enable you to dive deeper into your data without cluttering the main data view.
Dashboards are flexible
Dashboards are a collection of visual reports — but which reports are displayed on your dashboards is entirely up to you.
Most dashboard reporting software comes with a standard set of report templates. From there, some systems like Perillon allow you to configure your dashboards to display the metrics that are most important to you. You can change the time frame, create dashboards for specific users and groups, and even control who has access to the dashboards.
Dashboards give you better visibility into key metrics
With spreadsheets, reporting on key metrics can take weeks or months. By the time you’re done compiling information, it’s already out of date. Dashboards, on the other hand, give you a window into your data in real-time. This allows you to make better decisions using the most current information.
Data dashboard examples
Now that you know what dashboards are and why they’re so useful, you might be wondering what dashboards for your organization would look like. To learn more and see some examples, check out this article on 5 EHS dashboards that will make your life easier.