The truth of 21st-century business is that you need to have access to data to make smarter, better decisions, and cut down on wasteful habits. It’s fair to say that no matter the industry you’re in, to get an overview of where you are (and where you want to be), you need to have accurate and correctly presented business data.
This is where dashboards and reports come in. In the field of Business Intelligence, these are the two main ways that your data will be presented. Some people may refer to them interchangeably, yet that’s unfair to both sides.
You may be wondering why is the question of dashboards or reports even a thing?
Well, it goes back to an older more traditional way of thinking about business intelligence. Early BI tools didn’t have dashboards, they just didn’t exist. Now you can point to scorecards and mashups and various displays of data that can loosely be called dashboards, but in the early days, everything was just a report.
And that report required a very technical person, who understood database SQL programming and most like Crystal Report syntax to create them. Thus it was a big deal, time-consuming, cost a lot, and reports were “special.”
Fast forward to today and now all tools include dashboards and many no longer have what we would consider being an ad-hoc or self-service report creation process. Wow, how times have changed.
We’ll go into this more later in this article, but for now, it’s helpful to know the key differences between dashboards and reports.
What Are Reports?
When it comes to thinking about a data report, it’s helpful to think back to your school days of book reports. These are documents that show a snapshot of your findings pertaining to a specific topic. They’ll contain data tables, and perhaps some basic visuals, but are essentially used to tell you about one specific set of data.
In the book report analogy, reports are helpful for you to build a narrative for the data and show stakeholders of varying kinds, not just the data, but to expand on what the data tells you. In a report, you’ll find that you’re typically using organized, sorted, and cleaned data to present an opinion. Reports tend to be static and focused.
Now clearly, there are no hard or fast rules, a report can include data on multiple topics, and a report can be created to be dynamic and not static. But from a classical understanding of a report, they tend to be focused and static oriented.
Building reports can be complicated and time-consuming for organizations with a lot of departments, or a wide range of data needs. While they help present information for people who don’t need up to the second information, they can sometimes take people too long to present the information.
We’ll cover an easy way to create database-driven reports below in this article.
What Are Dashboards?
On the other hand, a dashboard is a great way to customize and tailor the display of chosen data, such as specific metrics or KPIs. One of the biggest differences between a report or a dashboard is that while a report is typically focused on a specific topic, a dashboard will provide you the big picture, pulling together data from multiple topics (or sources). And while we mentioned a report tends to be static, a dashboard is ideally interactive and dynamic.
Dashboards are also quite easy to bespoke, so you can make the information as broad or as narrow as you need to help provide the right data for the right department. So while HR might want to focus on metrics to do with payroll, bonuses, and staff retention, your marketing department might tailor their dashboard to show traffic, lead scores, and advertising totals.
Think of dashboards as the high-level view of an organization, department, process, or function, and then a user can filter and drill down into the details to see the specific report level information.
Increasingly, dashboards are now accessible across all levels of management, thanks to the development of self-service analytics. This means that anybody with a need to access data can do so quickly and easily.
Which Do You Need: Dashboards or Reports?
Simple answer: Both.
The answer lies in what it is that you want to use the data for. If you’re providing a focused and specific set of data for your purpose a report is ideal. As mentioned above, the report can be static, or with the right solution, dynamic values such as data range or location can be applied to make the report even more effective. On the other hand, dashboards are perfect for the big picture, a high-level look at trends or key performance indicators that users can tailor and interact with.
Essentially, a report is a time shot that is particularly useful when presenting information and data to stakeholders such as CEOs or a governing board. It allows you to explain the information that you’re presenting, rather than offering data sets out of context.
A dashboard allows those who are currently working to see how targets are being met, or when important metrics change. They allow business employees to stay interacting with larger targets or aims, as well as providing the opportunity for an agile redirect if the data is showing that a specific operation isn’t working well.
How Can DashboardFox Help?
In the end, you need both dashboards and reports. But more importantly, you need a BI tool that makes it easy to create dashboards and reports without needing to spend an arm and a leg or have a team of technical experts to do it.
That’s where DashboardFox comes in.
First, we make it affordable to create database-driven (or spreadsheet-driven) dashboards and reports. Instead of paying a monthly or annual subscription, you pay a one-time fee and have access to our software for life.
Second, we designed DashboardFox with business users in mind, not technical ones. So it is truly self-service report creation. A lot of tools use that as marketing hype and in reality, you need a technical pedigree to do anything in them. With DashboardFox we have a codeless report builder where you simply point, click, and save.
Last but not least (or not all), DashboardFox is a complete BI platform. Real-time, interactive dashboards, codeless reporting, a team and guest library to hold reports and dashboards, email scheduling, mobile support, and more.
In the DashboardFox model, you create a report. Then you can add multiple reports on one or more dashboards. All reports and dashboards can be secured to ensure only the right people see them, and more importantly, the data can be secured, ensuring each person only sees the data they should.
Then users can apply filters to do data segmentation on their dashboard, they can click to drill down into a deeper level of data. And they can personalize the charts and graphs so they can export or print them exactly the way they want.
None of this requires a technical background.
Let’s Discuss Your Dashboard And Report Needs
The best way to learn more is to schedule a live call or demo with our team. Not a high-pressured sales call, but a meeting with a member of our tech team to understand your requirements and show you how DashboardFox can help (or recommend something else if DashboardFox is not a fit).