Dashboard vs. Report: What’s the Difference?

[This article was written by Jinfonet.]

Businesses run on data, and the amount of data busy executives need to sift through, analyze and convert into actionable insights continues to grow by the day. Most business leaders rely on dashboards and reports to present analytics and business insights. But what’s the difference? Which format works best in specific situations for busy executives and department heads?

Dashboards and reports are both business analytics tools that can present your company’s current and previous performances. Ideally, both share key performance indicators (KPIs) and relevant historical data. But that’s where the similarities end.

The best way to explore the dashboard versus report question is to define each BI tool, spotlight their differences and then delve into which one employees and executives should use for specific purposes.

What Are Reports?

Reports are lengthy collections of relevant data, often spanning multiple pages and typically presented in table and text form.

Reports are usually delivered on a set timetable. They can often take hours or days to compile and include all the relevant data since the last report of that type was issued. Reports give the creator a certain level of control over how the data is presented and sorted, allowing them to spin the data in a specific way to tell a story to the recipient.

Information is not delivered in real-time, which can be an advantage in some situations. The creator can use the data to support assertions, share ideas about trends and make predictions about future performance.

Advantages of Reports

Reports help workers easily share a large amount of data that spans days, weeks or months. Executives and employees often issue monthly or quarterly reports to provide the big picture and in-depth statistics.

Automatically generated reports can save employees time and provide decision-makers with sorted data that’s ready for analysis. Reports can also assist executives who don’t have access to more robust BI tools, such as dashboards.

Reports Don’t Tell the Whole Story

As much raw data as reports provide, they fall short of telling the full story of a company’s health or productivity. Reports reveal the numbers but do not contain any statistical analysis of those numbers, easy-to-view comparisons or context related to the significance of those figures.

It is up to the person presenting the report to explain what the data means and why it’s important, to reveal the trends hidden within the tables of data and to draw conclusions that can lead to actionable insights for improving performance.

Reports are not suitable for turn-on-a-dime decisions or in situations where business agility is necessary to stay ahead of competitors.

What Are Dashboards?

When business reports fall short, dashboards fill a need for real-time data in an easy-to-digest format. Business dashboards present the most significant KPIs in easy-to-read text and graphics known as data visualizations. While reports might use a handful of images to convey points, data visualizations in the form of line graphs, bar graphs, pie charts and other images make up the bulk of an effective business dashboard.

Dashboards typically present all the information on one screen, rather than using pages of data to tell a story. Users might be able to access more profound insights on their dashboards with one click using data filters. The information goes from very specific to broad-based, providing a greater level of detail as the user moves down the screen. Through the strategic use of filters, dashboards can provide relevant KPIs to multiple people or departments, enabling them to drill down and make decisions based on the data without having to sort through facts and figures that might be irrelevant to their decision-making process.

Advantages of Business Dashboards

Dashboards can be generated in minutes using BI software to provide up-to-date information for decision-makers. Executives and team leaders use dashboards to make fast business decisions, issue course corrections to capitalize on marketplace trends and derive actionable insights from the data presented.

The visual format in which the data is presented makes it easy for users to find the information they need in seconds. Workers might use dashboards daily, or even hourly, to keep their projects moving forward.

Dashboards are very precise and often tailored to distinct departments. For instance, a digital advertising firm might need a dashboard showing how effective specific ad sets are performing at any given time.

Disadvantages of Business Dashboards

Dashboards can change by the minute, and they might not provide the historical, granular detail of multipage reports. Dashboards require specialized BI software, and design is crucial for driving a compelling user experience.

On the other hand, employees can generate reports using any spreadsheet software, with no special design skills required.

Choosing Dashboards vs. Reports

Smart business leaders rely on dashboards for an overview of key metrics and to drive business decisions. Workers can then provide reports to those users who need more details.

An advertising executive might want an overview of how successful the company’s ad campaigns were that month, while the digital marketing team wants to know how well a certain ad set performs on any given day, or even within a specific hour.

Most workers use reports to convey long-term historical data. Business dashboards aid the decision-making process by showcasing select KPIs, significant trends and the details behind the data in an easy-to-digest format.

Author Bio:

Jinfonet offers a suite of professional services to complement its solution. From customizable dashboards and report design to technical support and consulting, Jinfonet is committed to meeting the information delivery requirements of any enterprise.


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