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Dashboards Vs. Scorecards: Deciding Between Operations & Strategy

You’ll often see dashboards and scorecards compared to one another—but there are some major differences that set these two solutions apart.

Ted, Founder and Managing Partner at ClearPoint, has over 25 years of experience working with organizations to improve their performance management and strategy execution processes.

Dashboards and scorecards are both used to help you run your company smoothly and efficiently—but they have very different purposes. Simply put, a dashboard is better for managing operations, and a scorecard is better for managing strategy.

You may be thinking, “But my situation isn’t black and white—I need to manage operations and strategy... now what?”

That’s an excellent and simple question with a complex answer. To help get to the bottom of it, we’ll give several examples of when it may be best to lean toward a dashboard and when it may be best to lean toward a scorecard. We’ll also look at the overlap between these two solutions, and determine what kind of changes you may want to consider if your situation isn’t clearly defined.

Dashboards

A dashboard is largely used as a business intelligence tool that helps you visualize large sets of data. It may be beneficial to you if want to understand how your organization is performing on a specific issue or at a particular time or see the trends your organization is excelling at. It probably isn’t ideal if you need to make changes to your processes or if your processes aren’t repeatable.

Here are a few examples of times when a dashboard would work very well in your organization:

  • You need to track the efficiency of production and error rates in your manufacturing facility.
  • You need to track how many inbound calls your call centers get every hour.
  • You need to monitor safety and instances of injury in a factory.
  • You have to track the number of on-time arrivals and departures to and from your airport.

Bear in mind that if you want to have a successful management dashboard, you’ll need to have information that is easily fed from business intelligence solutions or data tracking applications to the dashboard. Entering this information by hand isn’t a viable long-term solution.

Scorecards

A scorecard is a framework used to align your strategy with your objectives. It could be beneficial to integrate at your organization if you need multiple points of control, need to perfect or sharpen your processes, or plan to revise your strategy. It isn’t ideal for automatic analysis, real-time updates, or viewing levels of detail.

If any of the following scenarios resonate with you or sound similar to your current situation, a scorecard may be ideal:

  • You need to determine whether or not you’re creating the right products, whether or not those products are keeping up with today’s trends, whether or not those products are profitable, and how all of those things tie into your strategy.
  • You need to strategize about which call center scripts are and are not working and how that could lead to a better customer experience.
  • You need to determine what your management team is doing to learn from and improve upon your training and employee satisfaction.
  • You need to look at how having better safety standards in place would drive a more profitable manufacturing environment.

Remember that a scorecard tracks the management knowledge of what is currently happening in your organization. It also takes into consideration the assumptions of why you think the measures are important and how they’re helping you achieve a broader strategy.

The Overlap Between Dashboards & Scorecards

As we previously mentioned, a dashboard is better for managing operations, and a scorecard is better for managing strategy. But if you picture them as a Venn diagram, there is indeed some overlap. You could call these overlapping sections “strategic dashboards” or “operational scorecards”—and yes, you could create these with some basic modifications!

A strategic dashboard may comprise of a small, concise set of measures that represent the strategy of the organization as a whole. You could create a simple one-page view of these key strategic measures, while still maintaining the ability to drill down and analyze the results.

An operational scorecard would offer tactical goals instead of strategic goals; it would consist of short-term goals, projects, and measures for those projects, instead of measures for your overall strategy. You might use an operational scorecard to manage multiple projects going on at the same time. It may add context to your dashboard and might look more like a scorecard, but it would have more of a short-term focus.

Ask Yourself These 2 Questions

If you’ve made it this far and still feel a little fuzzy about whether a dashboard or a scorecard would be ideal for your company, take a step back and ask yourself this:

1.“Do I need to review something on a monthly or quarterly basis, or do I need live or regularly-updated data available for review?”

If you need data immediately, think dashboard. If you can examine the results of what you’re monitoring monthly, think scorecard. But if you think there may be a need for a little of both, ask yourself this:

2. “Can one of these solutions be modified to fit my needs?”

If so, select the solution that supports your primary need.

To Sum It All Up

Here’s how I think about it:

When we run into people who are trying to do weekly reports and are constantly updating their information because they want it as close as possible to live, they’re definitely dashboard people. (And they can provide context to create a strategic dashboard to some degree, but they’d still want live, current data.)

The people who need to see where they’re going, understand the big picture, and ensure they’re pushing themselves in the right direction are more likely scorecard people.

Remember, a dashboard helps you visualize large sets of data and showcase your company's progress on a project or goal. A scorecard helps you align your strategy with your objectives and highlights how your organization is working towards your strategy.

Once you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to measure, you should be able to sort through scorecarding and dashboarding solutions and think more clearly about the hybrid space in the middle.

A Final Thought

Some time ago, we spoke with Stephen Stone, now a Senior Manager at Ernst & Young LLP, about his thoughts on dashboarding and scorecarding. He told us a piece of advice that is important to keep in mind: Don’t end up implementing a $250,000 solution for a $25,000 problem. Scorecards and dashboards are both important strategic tools, but they have very different applications—so it’s important to be sure you understand the problem your organization is facing before deciding on the best fix. If you select hurriedly or incorrectly, you could end up costing your organization in a big way and dealing with quite a headache.

Dashboards Vs. Scorecards: Deciding Between Operations & Strategy