/ How to build an executive dashboard

How to build an executive dashboard

Businesses that invest in a business intelligence tool often find that dashboards are the most useful feature of the entire piece of software. They’re the primary tool that data-driven businesses use to make better decisions, streamline operations and improve productivity.

Dashboards take in information from various sources, both internal and external, and display it in a way that is easy to understand at a glance. This makes them ideal for companies looking to make quick decisions based on real-time data without spending time analyzing reports or looking through rows and rows of numbers in spreadsheets.

A well-designed dashboard lets you see exactly what your business needs at any given moment without having to go through pages after pages of data points. It helps you identify trends faster so you can take corrective actions accordingly before things get out of hand.

Dashboards are useful at every level of a business, from the lowest-level workers to the top of the executive suite. In fact, executives may need efficient, intuitive dashboards more than anyone else in an organization.

The chief decision makers of an organization have needs and priorities that are very different from the needs of an average employee. They need data analytics that helps them to attain broad strategic goals and track company-wide health. Designing dashboards for the executive suite is a special challenge that requires special expertise.


What are executive dashboards?

An executive dashboard is a visual representation of the most critical information in your business, designed for the corporate office level. It’s used to help your executives make better decisions and keep track of how those decisions are performing. They can be used for many different purposes, such as managing sales, customer service, marketing, finance, and more.

The key function of an executive dashboard is to take complex business-wide data and present it in an easy-to-understand format using charts and graphs to help business leaders immediately understand if things are running smoothly or not.


Why bother with executive dashboards?

Cost savings

Business finances are probably the area that executives care about the most. Not just CFOs want financial analytics; every executive wants to make sure their departments are running as efficiently as possible.

Executives can use their dashboards when making decisions about hiring new staff or adjusting budgets. These dashboards can save companies money by helping business leaders identify inefficient processes and formulate new, more efficient strategies.

Operational flexibility

Dashboards are a great way to visualize your key performance indicators and other essential business data. That’s no different with an executive dashboard, but the KPIs and other metrics that executives want to know are a bit different than the average employee’s.

Instead of tracking specific metrics that correspond to specific business operations, an executive dashboard is going to track much broader, company-wide measures of success. Just like with regular dashboards, though, executive dashboards will alert their viewers when these metrics change, so they can spring into action quickly.

With executive dashboards, high-level decision makers can identify threats to business health and respond to them quickly, sometimes even before the relevant department knows what’s going on. This can help change the role of the executive from a reactive one to a proactive one.


Real-time strategy

In many BI tools and with many data connections, the data executives see on their dashboard is updated in real-time. This means that as soon as a change in the data happens, the new information appears.

Now, executives don’t have to play catch-up with their business operations. They can know exactly how everything is performing at any given time, which allows them to build proactive, data-driven strategies for business success.

Goal attainment

Executive dashboards should be goal-oriented. Executives don’t just want to know their data; they want to understand their data in context. Generally, that means they want to know how well their KPIs and other business data compare to their broad strategic goals.

Data access

The ability to drill down into the data is one of the most critical aspects of an executive dashboard. Often, business leaders want to know more about their data. They want to see how it breaks down by category, by time, and so on.

For example, if executives are analyzing sales data by region and want to know which regions have higher sales than average, then they need a way to specify, compare, and contrast those regions through a visual dashboard.


How should you build an executive dashboard?

When building an executive dashboard, you should consider the following factors:

What kind of data do you need to track?

Each executive is going to have different priorities for their dashboards. Often, businesses design custom dashboards for each executive role, so that no one has to share.

For example, the chief marketing officer is going to want to focus on marketing success, while the chief operating officer is going to want more data on business operations.

Those goals are going to decide what sort of metrics should be shown on each dashboard. This way, each executive gets a focused dashboard that’s specific to their priorities.


What type of data do you have access to?

The next step is to consider how you get your data. If you are an ecommerce company, do you have a lot of customer data? Do you need to manage product catalogs and prices? Are there multiple sources that send in data at different frequencies and with different formats?

What about storing the information? Is it possible for users outside of IT to access and utilize this information, or does one need permission from a third party before accessing it?

Executives rarely build their own dashboards. Sometimes, they might need access to sensitive information, things the average dashboard builder shouldn’t have access to. At that level, accessing the data necessary for insight is a constant negotiation.

How should the data be presented?

When deciding on the visualizations for an executive dashboard, remember that executives are very busy. They don’t want to spend the time messing with a complex visualization to get their information.

Decision makers should be able to get insight through a quick glance using modern visualization techniques. An executive doesn’t have a lot of time to spend diving deep into numbers. They need accurate and reliable data in real-time to make decisions.

Is it mobile ready?

Executives are rarely tied to one desktop workstation. Often, they’re in transit or somewhere where they can’t access a desktop-only site easily. Luckily, most BI tools have mobile apps you can use to present dashboards.

If you think that your executives will be viewing their dashboards on their phones most of the time, it makes a lot of sense to design them using mobile-first design practices. This way, executives can get the most possible benefit from them.


Build proactive executive dashboards with BI

One of the primary responsibilities of a dashboard is to help you be more proactive in your business management. This means that instead of reacting to problems after they have occurred, you will be able to notice them and prevent them from happening in the first place.

An executive dashboard has this same goal, but it’s your bosses who need to act quickly. With an executive dashboard, high-level decision makers can solve broad business problems quickly and navigate the market for success.

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