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Buyer's Guide

by Daniel Harris,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: March 16, 2017

As more companies realize the benefits of implementing business intelligence software, there has been an increase in the number of vendors offering dashboard software. Dashboard solutions provide a visual overview of organizations' data and analytics in an interactive dashboard that displays key performance metrics (KPIs) in various charts, graphs and animations. These visuals help illustrate business trends and insights so users can better understand company performance and make faster, more informed and accurate decisions. 

Before deciding on the right dashboard software for your organization, however, it's important to understand more about what it is and the benefits it can provide. To that end, we've put together this helpful guide that breaks down everything you need to know.

Here's what we'll cover:

What Is Dashboard Software?
Common Features of Dashboard Software
Benefits of Dashboard Software Applications
What Type of Buyer Are You?

What Is Dashboard Software?

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are useful metrics for companies to benchmark progress. But without visibility into these metrics, fires may be burning without any signs of smoke or alarms to alert you to the problem. Dashboard software connects data from throughout the organization, consolidates that information into digestible visualizations and helps decision-makers come to more intelligent conclusions.

Of the hundreds of conversations we’ve had with buyers, there are several recurring themes we hear during our calls. Most buyers are typically using homegrown solutions, disparate analytics tools with limited connectivity or even spreadsheet programs such as Microsoft Excel.

Common reasons these buyers are researching dashboard software include:

  • The organization has outgrown its existing reporting technology and is looking for something more advanced and flexible.
  • Current reporting systems cannot successfully compute the amount of data the organization collections.
  • Existing analytics technology has become slow, cumbersome and inaccurate to the point that using it has become a chore.
  • Regular reporting has become tedious, and the organization would prefer automatic, real-time reporting.
  • Business users need access to analytics and reports, but the current technology is only usable by IT staff.

There are a number of applications on the market with a wide range of features, functionality and prices that can successfully address the above pain points. This guide will help explain the benefits that can be realized with dashboard software, the top features and functionality offered and common buyer scenarios to be aware of.

Birst BI Dashboard Software Screenshot

An example of the retail revenue dashboard from Birst

Common Features of Dashboard Software

KPI visibility Allows users to access key performance metrics from a single dashboard. Also gives them the ability to create department-specific dashboards, or create reports for executives so they can access the most important metrics instantly.
Interactive dashboards Enables users to quickly create new dashboards and reports from a set of regular data sources. You can also define how users can click on any metric to drill-down further for additional information.
Timeframe comparison Gives the ability to compare key metrics over time so users can quickly identify trends and areas for improvement.
Customizable permissions Enables the definition of multiple permission levels to customize which dashboards and reports different employees can access.
Alerts and notifications Alerts can be configured to notify users of immediate changes in performance. These notifications can be sent to an email address, or notify users directly within the application.
Web accessibility Many BI dashboards are Web-based, meaning they are accessible from any device with a Web browser. Users can log in from anywhere to access their dashboards and reports.
Native mobile apps As smartphone and tablet devices have increased in both popularity and functionality, vendors have invested in the development of beautiful, fast mobile apps. Many vendors now offer native solutions for Apple iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
Data integration Dashboard users can pull data from their own database, other business applications or a variety of other sources. The dashboard then becomes a central analytical tool for the entire organization.

Benefits of Dashboard Software Applications

Dashboard software offers organizations a host of benefits. The top three benefits that can be realized with dashboard software applications include:

Increased visibility of key metrics. Interactive reports and scorecards mean users can quickly slice-and-dice data in interesting ways. Anyone with access to the dashboard software can review historical KPIs to inform future decisions.

Customizable reports (without IT assistance). In the past, IT professionals were likely the only team members with technical capability to build new, customized analytics reports. Today, dashboard solutions make it easy for less-technical workers to build powerful reports tailored to their needs.

Real-time access to data. Data can be integrated from a variety of sources, providing dashboard users access to key business metrics in real time. Dashboard software users only need to log-in and select a few parameters to quickly obtain up-to-date analytics. And once a new dashboard is built, the report will update in real-time, reducing the time spent crunching numbers and leaving more time for the analyst to analyze trends.

What Type of Buyer Are You?

As you begin your research for a new dashboard software solution, it's important to know what type of buyer you are so you can make the best decision for your organization. Consider if you fall into any of the following categories, as these different buyer types will require specific functionality in their dashboard applications.

Department managers and business users. Many dashboard software providers offer pre-built, department-specific scorecards and reports to help business users quickly find the most important metrics. These dashboard applications are often built into or built on top of popular customer relationship management (CRM), human resources (HR) suites and many other business applications.

Corporate executives. Executives need the ability to track KPIs from a bird’s-eye view, but should still be able to drill-down and investigate specific metrics. These buyers will often need dashboards that can be highly customized, with a back-end infrastructure that can support data integration from a large number of systems and databases.

Software vendors. Analytics functionality is a common feature in many business software applications. Vendors can choose to embed dashboard software directly within its own application, or provide the functionality via another means, such as a custom portal. Customer service solution vendor Zendesk, for example, offers dashboard functionality by embedding the GoodData business intelligence platform.

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