Dashboard reporting has become popular since the early 1990s. The main goal of a dashboard is to give necessary information to decision makers in an easy-to-read manner. Typically, most information displayed on a dashboard is actionable and is likely to include forecast and budget information. Dashboards can be used in any industry and can be tailored to meet any variety of reporting needs.
Typical corporate dashboards include a high-level overview of the company and its performance. Dashboards are composed of easy-to-read charts, graphs and key performance indicators, or KPIs. The graphs and charts are usually set to a fixed time frame such as daily, month-to-date or year-to-date. Users of corporate dashboards are able to change the date of the report to view previous periods and historical information.
A dashboard's main function is to provide a high-level overview of what is going on with a company, department or division. The dashboard becomes a tool to drive decisions and direction for the user. A company focused on sales may have low quantities of inventory and the highest producing stores along with the typical KPIs of sales versus budget and other financial metrics. By seeing that their highest selling product is in low supply may prompt the decision to place another order. Dashboards typically contain information that could be found in another source; however, dashboards can save time by consolidating the important information in one location.
There are many types of dashboards. Dashboards are custom tailored to the needs of the user or the company. A financial firm will most likely have their largest accounts, highest volume trades and current assets. Inventory, open orders and forecasted shipments could be found on a dashboard in a warehouse. There are countless combinations of information that can be found on a dashboard. All companies will have different needs and different performance metrics and KPIs.
Dashboards are beneficial to higher management because they gain instant access to the heart-beat of the company. Dashboards offer an abundance of information in an easy to use, often visual format. Dashboards are also referred to as at-a-glance reporting. They are designed to offer the most important information quickly and easily. Numbers are often replaced with color codes for exceeding, meeting and below expectations. Dashboards often have the ability to drill-down for more information on a particular subject. If a manager sees that a department is below expectations they can "drill-down" into another report that will give specifics as to why that is happening.
Users of dashboards can be any member of the company. Some dashboards will be tailored to suit the needs of the heads ofthe company while others will be suited for managers. Any employee or user that has a goal or metric can benefit from the use of dashboards. Custom dashboards can be easily created as an internal website, daily email or even office products like Excel.
AJ Graham is a Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing specialist focusing on Microsoft SQL Server. He has written technical articles for sites such as DemandStudios.com and eHow.com. AJ graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Management Information Systems.