Dashboards are incredibly important because they condense and organize massive amounts of data so executives and managers can get the most relevant information in the least amount of time. A management, or executive, dashboard is used to display all measures and KPIs in one place to help managers make efficient decisions regarding the company's strategic plan. When done right, dashboards provide valuable insight into the health of an organization and strongly influence executive decision making. If you’re not sure what “done right” looks like, don’t worry—we’re going to show you several executive dashboard examples you can learn from.
There’s no one-size-fits-all dashboard. You’ll gather information from various sources to create different types of dashboards for different audiences. Each of these has its own purpose and communicates specific types of data:
This dashboard is a high-level snapshot of a company’s financial health. It will help you make decisions about the resources you have and how to allocate them. A finance dashboard might cover a variety of aspects—profit and loss, cash management, client revenue, etc. But what’s most important is the dashboard should summarize and interpret the numbers, not just report them. Having that financial data easily accessible is critical to keeping a company profitable.
How successful are your company’s marketing efforts at generating new sales or customers? That’s the story a marketing dashboard will tell. Its high-level metrics will likely include website visits, converted contacts, marketing qualified leads, and more. A good marketing dashboard should also expose whether people are getting “stuck” at any stages of your sales pipeline.
An operations and safety dashboard is an internal audit tool that helps organizations proactively manage and prevent risk. A good safety dashboard will offer resolutions rather than just findings, and shift the focus from charts and numbers to the larger goal of promoting safety best practices. The dashboard may include hazard identification, incident management, training and awareness, etc., and would ideally be updated more frequently than a strategic dashboard because it will be critical to catch any safety issues immediately.
HR dashboards can manifest in many different ways. They range from reporting on internal, qualitative metrics such as employee satisfaction to quantitative, external metrics like recruiting success rates. Having an HR dashboard is particularly useful for larger companies to track employee turnover and retention. Those numbers typically give management insight into whether teams have the right capabilities for their roles and highlight potential problem areas.
Specialized dashboards have a more focused purpose than the other business dashboard examples we’ve described. They can be tailored to your company’s particular growth stage, industry, and metrics. They are also frequently used for specific, narrow projects.
Strategy dashboards give executives insight into an organization’s performance as it relates to the strategic plan. These dashboards reflect progress toward goals and spotlight specific initiatives that are in play to reach those goals. Strategy dashboards are not operational, but instead capture how the company as a whole is progressing toward its long-term goals.
ClearPoint’s dashboards start at a very high, visual level and then allow users to drill down several layers for more information. Strategy dashboards will likely be presented to audiences with different levels of understanding of the strategic plan and planning process in general, so the ability to quickly view an overarching summary or zoom in on details about metrics and projects is incredibly valuable.
Strategy dashboards can be useful for any type of organization pursuing a set of goals. City governments, for example, are increasingly using these dashboards as a platform—some would even say an advertisement—to demonstrate an awareness of and transparency around their progress, strengths, and weaknesses. A city is responsible for making improvements to the community and publicizing its efforts around those improvements. Dashboards help citizens see what the city is tracking and measuring, as well as how much progress it is making, which provides helpful context and reasoning behind different initiatives. Many cities also use community dashboards to position themselves as leaders, showcasing forward-thinking approaches and innovation.
Some examples of government strategy dashboards include:
Healthcare organizations can also benefit from strategy dashboards. Tons of information flows into health systems across different timelines and in different formats, ranging from medical records and departmental data to operational and financial reporting. The volume of information they collect can be overwhelming, and facilities end up leveraging only a fraction of it. Dashboards give healthcare executives a way to distill and digest all this data so they can use it to develop and execute strategic plans. You can read more about healthcare strategy dashboards—and see some examples—here.
ClearPoint’s management reporting platform also provides strategy dashboards to help leadership teams track and manage the progress of their goals, KPIs, and projects. It combines data from multiple sources and displays it for internal audiences (leadership teams), making it easy to lead meetings, build reports, and more.
Key pieces of the strategy can be published (like in the government examples above), but ClearPoint’s real value comes from its ability to easily create the reports and dashboards your management team needs, allowing them to focus on executing strategy. Whether it’s heat maps, chart dashboards, or qualitative analysis with RAG statuses, you can get it all in one place with ClearPoint.
You'll want to give your executive team a way to keep a pulse on the organization's projects. They don't need to know every detail, but the 10,000 foot view will help them prioritize future projects and resources. There are many different types of project dashboards you can create. For a high-level overview, consider a Project Status Dashboard or a Project Budget Dashboard for a financial overview. If you're looking for inspiration for every day dashboards, check out this Ultimate Guide to Dashboards.
The first ten dashboards we listed above are great tools for dealing with big data sets—they allow you to quickly visualize, slice and dice, and drill down. But these dashboards are just one tool in your management toolkit. They present a snapshot of data from one point in time. As managers, we need to interpret that information, analyze it, plan our response, and then follow up. In other words, we need to manage.
That's where the strategic dashboard comes in. If you fit into any of the 7 categories below, a basic reporting dashboard isn’t going to be sufficient, you're going to want a strategy dashboard:
While dashboards are excellent tools for showing data analytics in visually appealing ways, they can’t tell you the backstory. That’s where management insight comes in. Insight is what separates good managers from great ones. Great managers understand the broader context of the data reported by dashboards, and can translate that data into knowledge that drives effective decision-making.
Not only can management insight help you stay on path, you can augment the quantitative information (a missed goal) with the qualitative information that surrounds it (a goal was missed; here are all of the working parts to that goal; and we’re taking these steps to course-correct). With the ability to manage projects and notes in the same place as your charts, you’ll be able to work with all your evidence so you can reevaluate, plan, and meet future goals.
Your management team needs a heads-up when bad news is inevitable. Unfortunately, unless you understand the cause and effect relationship between your objectives, measures, and initiatives, you’re going to be stuck in a reactive mode as you careen toward chaos.
Dashboards show you what’s happening right now. But sometimes, you need to understand what will happen in the future. That’s where leading indicators come into play. By balancing leading indicators (measures that help you predict issues) with lagging indicators (measures that show you what’s gone wrong or right), you’ll be able to see when conditions are going to get difficult and have a bit of time to plan for and anticipate them.
To make an early warning system work, you’ll need managerial accountability for your indicators. Leading and lagging indicators aren’t enough—you need to be able to look at both types of indicators and understand what is causing them to move in any direction, whether it is overall economic conditions or something specific to your organization.
“Were we red on this indicator last month?”
“Why are we in the same place this month?”
“What’s different about this month?”
“What are we doing about it?”
“Are our changes helping?”
These questions are imperative to ask, but you won’t be able to find the answers in your dashboard report. Real-time data is useful, but strategy is driven by aggregate data plus analysis. You need a map—a tool or several tools that can show you where you were last month, what you were planning on doing about it then, and the result. By having a contextual guide, you’ll be able to spot previous points of contention, roadblocks, and opportunities, and maneuver them with more prowess.
You might be able to delegate the analysis of some of your measures to an analyst, but these measures should link to objectives or goals for your organization. You can’t delegate the analysis needed to understand your progress toward achieving your goals—this requires broad thinking and leadership experience.
While driving, if you only focus on what’s directly in front of you, you run the risk of missing the truck that’s about to sideswipe you. The same is true for businesses: you need information that’s compiled from across your company, not just from data sources that are immediately available (in your office, department, or on your floor) so you can see the whole picture of what’s going on in your organization. The same information that’s difficult to gather across the organization can be even more difficult to organize strategically if and when it’s compiled.
Dashboards are useful tools for presenting big data—you can slice and dice small pieces of data numerous ways and still find new things to talk about. However, management reviews hinge on wide data—data that lives in source systems across the company, plus emails, management insights, and other factors. It’s important to recognize that a dashboard may not have a wide-enough scope; wide data needs to be able to be linked contextually, not just presented independently.
Some organizations try to have multiple dashboards: one for financials, one for customers or stakeholders, one for operations, and one for HR. These disconnected dashboards will result in a disconnected organization because you will be making decisions independent of each function and not optimizing decisions for the entire organization.
Have you convened a meeting to talk about progress only to realize you don’t remember what changes you committed to during the last meeting? Questions like “What did we commit to last time?” and “Have we met our commitments?” can’t be answered solely with a dashboard. Why? Action items aren’t captured there. They typically live in a project management system or are simply captured on paper— neither way fits into the capabilities of a dashboard. This means that after your management review meeting, the action items are either forgotten or not reviewed.
It’s important not to underestimate these unfinished tasks and reminders. They are like spark plugs: action items incite new projects, change behaviors, and get your business operating on all cylinders. Your team can’t afford to forget about them. Obviously, most work happens outside of meetings—that’s why you need to make sure you accomplish the work you agree to in the strategic discussion meetings.
Strategy should be at the core of every major business decision. But strategy is a long-term game—it shouldn’t change based on the last hour’s, day’s, or even month’s operational results. Dashboards are optimized to show these real-time operational metrics. While these measures are critical to track, strategic measures offer a long-term view. For example, while a measure might be “green” based on the dashboard’s formula, it might be “yellow” for a long-term strategy. Only with a linkage to the strategy does this make sense. Strategic linkage gives you the details about how all the pieces fit together, what can go wrong, and how to increase performance—ultimately helping you answer the question “Are we doing the right things?” not just “Are we doing things right?”
Another way to put this: Make sure your goals are linked throughout the entire organization, among departments, divisions, and the whole enterprise. You should not have some departments working to expand services while you have an organization goal of focusing your activities.
Even if you have a nice dashboard with pretty measures, you need to link your projects and budget to it to make sure you’re putting your effort and spending where your strategy is. Dashboards typically fall short when they’re focused on the measures and not seeing the entire picture of your organization. For example, a dashboard alone can’t help you answer the following questions:
For high-level goal setting (and reaching), you need to take into consideration more qualitative and quantitative data than a dashboard can offer. You need to look at your projects and your budget and make sure that your measurement system tells the full story of the strategy of your organization.
The previous executive dashboard examples can guide you and spark ideas on how to structure your own dashboards. However you choose to proceed, keep these points in mind:
There’s much more to learn about the power of dashboards. Explore how ClearPoint makes reporting easy with dashboards and scorecards that update themselves.