A dashboard, in terms of a computer, is either a control panel for a software application or a display of information that — just like an automobile or other vehicle dashboard — gives the user an overall sense of how operations are progressing. A business dashboard is a web-based management tool that is programmed to provide a sense of an organization’s status. While a personal dashboard can be a collection of widgets that a person enjoys or uses, like those in the Mac® Dashboard®, a business dashboard furthers the aims of the business is some way.
A business dashboard can be either an internal tool used for the display of privileged company information and kept on a secure part of a website or a means of collating information for users, often shown on a homepage. An example of the first is the corporate dashboard that reflects the company’s sales data. Step into an education setting and an example could be a computer network dashboard for a teacher, which both shows the desktop of and controls student computers. An example of the second would be a dashboard showing election results used by a news site.
There are a few criteria that can be used to judge a business dashboard. First, experts say that it should be designed in order to be read at a glance. This means that the visual elements are well-used to convey the information. Second, it should show key performance indicators of whatever is being demonstrated. If it’s the weather, it needs to show precipitation; if it’s the election, it needs to show how each state’s electoral votes racked up; and if it’s a business, it needs to show the appropriate metrics, which could include, sales, new users, lost customers, etc.
For business people choosing business dashboard software, experts suggest seeking a set-up that can be adapted to changing circumstances without a major intervention from the IT department. They also point out the need for the business dashboard to have the breadth to stream data from a variety of sources and display data in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to maps, bar graphs, tables, ratios, and various types of charts including sparkline charts. Finally, they explain that businesses shouldn’t necessarily just set their sites on one dashboard because businesses can often use a variety of dashboards for different functions, including marketing, sales, and internal communications.