June 15, 2017

How to Pick an Effective Business Dashboard

Are you in the market for a business dashboard? We’d love to help you make a smart choice for your business (even if it isn’t BlueIQ). As you may have already gathered, depending on your wants and needs, there are a ton of business intelligence (BI) dashboards to choose from with different prices and functionality. Which is enough to make you ask, "How do I know which one is best for my business??" Luckily, we've laid out everything you need to know in order to make an educated choice for the success of your unique organization!

What Exactly is a Business Dashboard?

By definition, a business dashboard is a business intelligence tool that specializes in data visualization. In other words, it displays the current status of your business metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) in a visual context that helps you understand the significance of the data and detect valuable patterns, trends, and correlations.

To break down the mumbo-jumbo, a business intelligence dashboard consolidates and simplifies complex data so it's easier to understand and act upon.

Do Industry-Specific Business Dashboards Exist?

Yes! An industry-specific business dashboard (like the dental dashboard or chiropractic business dashboard) is simply a business intelligence dashboard designed to connect to a particular industry's data sources.

A good industry-specific dashboard will provide pre-built metrics for users to select (which if you're new to the whole analytics thing, helps you know what to track). Of course, whatever dashboard you choose should have the ability to create custom metrics as well, to fit the specific needs of your unique business.

Which brings up a good point: not all business dashboards are created equal.

Business Dashboards on the Market

Here’s a short list of some of the more known business dashboards available on the market as of January 2018. Please note, the list is arranged in alphabetical order and is definitely not complete (there are well over 50 dashboards to pick from; hence, the need for this article). Please click the links below for more information.

  1. Backbonepro: $99/MO w/ optional $399 success coaching
  2. BlueIQ: $299/MO w/ training
  3. Cyfe Premium: $19/User/MO ($14/User/MO if paid annually)
  4. Domo: Contact Sales
  5. iDashboards: $29.95/User/MO (if billed annually)
  6. Geckoboard: Starts @ $25/MO (1 dashboard, 1 user)
  7. Grow: Request Quote
  8. Sisense: Request Quote

Check Before You Buy!

A business dashboard is an essential part of running a data-driven business. Knowing which one is best for your organization comes from knowing your needs and objectives. Only then will you experience a business dashboard that effectively drives your company vision forward!

Here are some important points to consider and check before you buy:

Visual Representation, Usability & Team Acceptance

business dashboard design and usability

First and foremost, business analytics are complex and difficult to interpret. Hence, the need for a BI dashboard to visualize your data and make it easier to understand. When your data is being presented in an uncluttered, clear and relevant way, it’s easy to assess where you need to act in order to improve operations and grow your business.

So, look for a dashboard with a strong visual representation to allow you to assess the various goals that matter to your business as a whole. At the end of the day, being able to make informed business decisions greatly depends on the effectiveness of your dashboard’s visual representation. In other words, if you can’t understand the information being presented, you can’t put it to use. End of story.

When choosing a dashboard, here are a few visual properties to consider:

Drag-and-Drop Interface

This is the ability to put key metrics into context so that you can better understand the correlating information, which can help explain a spike or dip in performance. It’s a straightforward and easy way to display the data where and how you want in the dashboard.

Color-Coded Performance Thresholds

This is the ability to designate a specific color to performance thresholds, allowing performance and progress towards goals to be assessed at a glance.

User-Friendliness

Make sure the data is being presented in an aesthetic, easy-to-understand way. But also, it's important that the overall software is easy to navigate and use. It should have a very low learning curve, even if you’re not tech savvy.

Presentation

The data should be dense, but not cluttered to the extent that it’s difficult to differentiate data points. Graphs and charts should be simple, yet informative.

The last thing you want is a dashboard that’s overwhelming and complicated. It’ll make for a bad experience and make it hard to unlock hidden insights into your business. (Which makes it ineffective.) Plus, do you really want to ask the IT department or call Technical Support every time you want to run a report?

Instead, choose a dashboard that helps you effectively connect the dots in real time so that you can take action more quickly. Go for one with a good look and feel. When you choose a dashboard that provides a fun experience and simplifies their work, not complicates it, team buy-in is natural.

In fact, when choosing the right business dashboard for your team, you may want to consider giving extra weight to color-coded performance thresholds. They add an element of gamification that has been proven to drive employee production, motivation, and satisfaction. Especially, when the dashboard has goal-setting & tracking abilities.

Cloud-Based Software, Automation & Real-Time Data

cloud-based business dashboard with real-time data

In today’s world, discs and hardware are practically obsolete. The direction most business intelligence tools are going is cloud-based. Obviously, the best part of cloud-based software is the immediacy; both the software and your data is immediately available for use. But also, cloud-based software has the added benefit of allowing you the ability to access your data from multiple devices, anywhere you have an internet connection.

When you invest in a cloud-based, automated dashboard, you’re investing in simplicity. Automation helps save time and improve efficiency without complicating current systems. In fact, an automated business dashboard does the data entry work for you; in real time, it automatically pulls in the data you need from your specific data sources.

And when it comes to business management, nothing beats real-time performance checks and balances and up-to-date progress evaluations. More reason to forget spreadsheets and static reports, which epically fail to meet this important criteria.

A quality business dashboard, on the other hand, provides accurate, real-time data in order to help you make effective, high-level decisions that positively impact your company’s welfare.

Scalability

dashboard scalability

Do you have, or plan to have, more than one business location? If so, you need a dashboard with the ability to pull in data from more than one location. Allowing you to aggregate data from all locations in order to have a clear picture of the overall health of your organization. Of course, you also need the ability to drill-down into each individual location and its department data.

If you plan to scale, then you need a business intelligence dashboard that can grow with you.

Integrations & Data All in One Place

business dashboard integrations

If the dashboard doesn’t integrate with your business and accounting software, then it’s not the one for you. It’s critically important that you’re able to pull in all the data you need in order to effectively make informed business decisions that drive your company vision forward.

In fact, if you’re already using other business tools (e.g. Excel, Basecamp, SalesForce, Google Analytics, Facebook Adverts, or others), then you may want to consider a dashboard that integrates with those specific business tools as well. Allowing you to access everything you need in one location and compare that data.

This includes social media accounts. Hopefully, in this day and age, your company has social media accounts to market and connect with potential and current customers. If so, it’s important that your dashboard integrates with those accounts in order to track and compare that data as well.

When it comes to increasing efficiency, having your data all in one place significantly helps. Ensure your dashboard can integrate with the tools and platforms you use for the success of your business.

Remember, business intelligence technology is all about being able to communicate the right information at the right time. An integral part of that communication process is being able to compare information easily. If your dashboard can’t provide the data you need all in one place, then you’ve done your business an injustice. Whether you’re analyzing how your company generates new leads, or which marketing channel provides the highest lifetime value perconversion, having all the critical data at your fingertips is essential.

Customization

business dashboard customization

No two businesses are alike. From building metrics to arranging them, customization is important. Having the ability to customize your dashboard, means you have the ability to adapt it to fit your specific needs. Otherwise, you’re stuck with their default metrics and layouts, or have to pay extra for a personalized system.

So, when it comes to choosing an effective business dashboard, make sure to choose a dashboard that can adapt to your unique business.

This is the best way to gain the insights you need to further understand and meet your company objectives. Trust us, you don’t want to invest in some off-the-shelf software.

Accessibility & Amount of Users

business dashboard accessibility and sharing

Do you need to share your business data with anyone . . . team members . . . a business partner . . . a coach or consultant?

Then you need a business intelligence dashboard with the ability to provide access to others and control what they can do and see within the software. Not only is it important that your data is safe and secure, but also, securely and safely shareable.

An important thing to consider with accessibility is limitations. There could be a limit to how many users can access the software. Additionally, there could be limitations on how many people can view a dashboard simultaneously. For these reasons, it’s important to inquire about limitations and potential costs to add more users (important info to know when evaluating deployment and maintenance costs).

Mobile Options

business dashboard on mobile devices

Most dashboards let you view your data on tablets or smartphones. Either by mobile app or web-based (cloud-based) software. If this is important to you in order to effectively run your business, make sure to inquire about whether or not your data will be available in a mobile format.

Is Free Dashboard Software Worthwhile?

Nothing in this world is free. Even if you’re not spending your hard earned cash on it, you’re still spending your time and energy. So, if you’re wondering whether or not a free dashboard is worth it, here are a few points to consider:

  • Less & limited integrations (probably won't pull in all the data you need)
  • Less & limited features (e.g. minimal report types, storage limits, metric & user limits)
  • Limited support ("figure it out your damn self")

However, there are some benefits to free dashboard software. Especially, when the dashboard company offers a free version as well as a more robust version for a fee. In that case, you can start with the free version to see if it will be useful to your business before making a big investment. Also, it’s easier to upgrade in the long run if your business grows and the free version no longer fits your needs.

Achieve Maximum Growth With Minimal Investment

It’s of great importance that you take an in-depth look at what design capabilities you require in a dashboard so it’s easy for you and your team to use and has a significant impact on growing your bottom line. In other words, you need a dashboard that effectively turns your business data into valuable information you can act upon.

With the right business dashboard, you can increase profitability and growth without investing an arm and a leg, or all your time and energy.

One Simple Dashboard to Empower Your Business to Grow LEARN MORE

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