As business data becomes an increasingly valuable asset for many companies, IT managers are considering BI dashboards as vital tools that allow workers to leverage the data in new and insightful ways. Dashboards are becoming the conduit into the organization’s performance, by providing metrics and insights to identify issues, meet and surpass business goals.

Depending on the delivery and visualization of data required by a company, there are two main types of BI dashboards: Operational and Analytical.

Choosing the right BI dashboard depends on the business needs and goals of the organization. It is important to consider the ultimate purpose of the dashboard before choosing a style, and to understand the requirements and expectations of the actual users. Here are some key differences between the two main dashboard types:

Operational (or KPI) Dashboards

As their name suggests, operational dashboards showcase daily business processes as measured by key performance indicators or current metrics. They are designed to provide real-time metrics and insights, up-to-date information, quick alerts and to identify immediate issues to determine if businesses are hitting their daily targets. These types of dashboards are typically less complex to manage for individual users. They require less training time and remove the necessity of report distribution.

Use case examples:

  • Tracking inside sales quotas by the number of calls made, appointments booked and confirmed
  • Monitoring marketing activity by number of responses from various marketing channels such as social media and blog posts during a marketing campaign or event

The advantage is that the issues that are immediately brought to light through data can be quickly fixed by the respective departments. For example, directing an inside sales person who is not using the right approach, or tweaking a marketing message to get the right response.

Analytical Dashboards

These dashboards allow users to look at historical data to analyze it carefully to identify future action plans and targets. It is the right tool to answer the “why” and “what if” questions that come up during the course of business. These dashboards are based on sophisticated models that are designed to provide deep insights into data to align the company’s strategic goals with performance management.

Use case examples:

  • Comparing sales trends over time to spot under and over-performing products and/or sales staff, as well as regional performance
  • Reviewing of marketing campaign data to find correlations between advertisement placement, audience receiving weekly promo emails and sales of certain products in specific demographics

The advantage is that organizations can blend and review several data sources to spot interesting insights that can be utilized to establish long-term objectives for business success. For example, reviewing long-term sales or marketing trends to fine-tune strategies and goals.

Picking the Right Dashboard

Here are some common business questions to find the ideal dashboard for every scenario:

  • Who is utilizing the dashboard? Executives and marketing managers want the trends from analytical dashboards while the general workforce is more concerned with operational tasks.
  • What are the business goals? If they are related to long-term strategic direction, analytical dashboards are suitable. If they are short-term process-related goals perhaps operational dashboards would work.
  • What is the business need? Organizations that need real-time low-latency data for KPI insight should look at operational dashboards. Situations that require the review of higher-latency historical data for determining trends and in-depth insights should utilize analytical dashboards.
  • How many data sources are being used? As the number of data channels increases, it makes more sense to offer an analytical dashboard that can find unexpected trends out of all the Big Data. Operational dashboards are better suited to one or two information streams that clearly display progress.

Developing a robust BI platform requires knowledge of the different types of dashboards and how each type (or a combination of both) can help businesses to meet their goals and targets.