Benefits and Challenges of Dashboards

Business intelligence dashboards serve a crucial role in data organization and interpretation. For starters, they connect users with critical, at-a-glance information that’s relevant to their business operations. From sales and marketing data to inventory reports and finance, you can navigate the information that matters most from a single hub—whether that’s a desktop PC or mobile device.

Dashboards also pose their own unique set of challenges and difficulties, ranging from the technical (coding expertise and integration limitations) to the financial (individual licenses and training programs).

Do the pros of BI software outweigh the cons? Almost certainly. But by preparing yourself for the numerous challenges that can arise from dashboard reporting software, you’ll be in a better position to reap the benefits.

Dashboard Reporting Benefits

With the right tools and experience in place, dashboard reporting tools provide a number of valuable benefits.

1. Provides at-a-glance visibility

Good BI software makes even the most intricate data easy to read and interpret, and provides on-demand visibility and insight. Rather than waiting for data analysts to deliver monthly reports, a dashboard displays up-to-date information so you can instantly track the progress and changing conditions of a department or business operation.

2. Saves time and resources

Without BI software, businesses spend countless hours logging into systems to run and format individual reports, or they rely on IT personnel to run and format these reports for them. Dashboard reporting saves valuable time and resources by displaying updated results for each report.

3. Improves decision making

Immediate access to at-a-glance information means businesses can swiftly make decisions and take action. There’s no need to request data from developers, wait for the data, receive the report and then attempt to take action. Instead, dashboard reports are instantaneous and can be easily shared between users, enabling the free flow of information between key players.

4. Easy performance checks and balances

You don’t have to wait months to detect performance issues among your team or staff. When employees are aware that their performance can be monitored in an up-to-date fashion, they’ll inherently improve their performance—even if it’s just to “stay off the radar.” BI software enables you—and your team—to track progress, meet specific goals or improve individual performance rates.

5. Up-to-date progress evaluation

When you enact a new policy or process, how long does it usually rake to measure the results of that change? With a good business dashboard in place, you can see the effects in near real-time, measuring goals against progress as you work to improve your operations.

Dashboard Challenges

BI providers promote the benefits of dashboard reporting software, but they often overlook some of the challenges and difficulties that come with integrating these powerful tools into your business.

Some challenges are obvious from the outset, while others you may only encounter much later down the line, when your dashboard and reporting technology is firmly in place.

1. Dashboard reporting needs meaningful metrics

First and foremost, a dashboard must measure something meaningful. This requires an understanding of the right metrics to select. Broad metrics such as “net income” won’t provide much insight, but drilled-down, specific metrics that influence those broader metrics will.

2. Dashboard reporting should be setup with a specific user in mind

Dashboards are often setup without a user in mind. This can be problematic from the very beginning, as certain BI software is designed for experienced developers, making them extremely complicated to setup by anyone outside of an IT department. On the other hand, there are reporting tools that come with pre-loaded dashboards that any user can navigate. The problem is that these off-shelf dashboards can’t measure specific metrics that are relevant to every business.

3. Compatibility and interfacing issues

Data is not universal. Connectivity and compatibility is a common challenge among business dashboards. If a dashboard can’t connect with a critical business system, then the information it provides will be incorrect, outdated, or limited in its usefulness. To bridge the gap, users have to manually input data, a process that essentially defeats the purpose of the dashboard.

4. Scalability and cost

Dashboards can be costly depending on the provider’s requirements and the size of the business. Some BI providers require a license for each individual that will be accessing the dashboard, while others charge monthly or yearly subscription fees that scale according to the size of the business itself. While not an inherent challenge, researching the price of each business dashboard and determining its ROI is an important step in finding the right piece of software.

Every Dashboard Has its Pros and Cons

As we stated at the beginning, the benefits of a well-designed dashboard almost certainly outweigh any cons that might come with it. The ideal business dashboard will securely and automatically connect users to the information they need, either in real-time or as close to real-time as possible. Dashboard tools allow users to not only access critical information whenever they need it, but to act quickly on that information as well.

The right dashboard exists for every business, but it will still come with it’s own unique set of challenges that need to be addressed. Whether it’s additional developer knowledge or a compatibility issue with different data sources, these challenges can be overcome.

Knowing the various benefits and challenges that come with BI software will help you in your search for the right piece of technology for your business.

Next up: Key Features and Elements of a Dashboard

What exactly makes a dashboard a powerful and resourceful tool?

In this article, we examine the key features prevalent in today’s business dashboard software. From KPIs, data tables and maps, to specific filters, embedded objects and metrics, we walk you through every component of a typical business dashboard while explaining the potential benefits of each one.

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